"Do you live in the city proper or one of the townships?" the girl asked me when I handed her the jury duty notice I had received in the mail. She had noticed the forwarding label from my old address to my new one. The town wasn't even the same, so I hoped I would be able to go home and get back to sleep. I was sick as hell, and 8:30 in the morning is only a couple of hours after I normally go to bed, so I was tired on top of feeling weak and snotty and coughing my lungs out. I told her what township I lived in, and she punched out a jury duty tag for me to pin to my shirt and handed me an official-looking certificate to hang on my wall to let people know I had done my civic duty. I sat down on one of the benches and settled in to spend the day there. I immediately realized I should have brought something to read.
I couldn't get comfortable. My body temperature was all fucked up from having a cold, and I was either too hot or too cold. I kept taking off my sweatshirt and putting it back on. The second time I pulled it back on, I realized the ends of my sleeves were crusty with my snot, and for the rest of the morning I would twist my sleeves around to try to conceal the gross looking patches.
Shortly after arriving, the lights were dimmed and we were shown a video about jury duty. I was surprised to learn that people were randomly selected from the pool of people who have drivers licenses, which surprised me, because I had thought that jury duty was a penalty for voting. After the video, the girl who had given everyone their civic duty certificates explained a little bit more about the process, and then told us to wait for it to start.
The old guy to my left was quiet and never said anything, for which I was grateful. The lady to my left was engaged in conversation with the guy on the opposite side of her. I tuned them out as they talked about school and crime. I hoped she wouldn't talk to me.
A guy with a big mustache and a Harley Davidson sweatshirt kept walking around the room, loudly talking to anybody who would listen about his Harley.
"Yeah, I ride a Harley! My friends ride Harleys, too!"
He was really intent on making sure absolutely everybody, even those who weren't at all interested, knew what kind of motorcycle he rode. It was hard to tune him out, because he was very loud. I avoided making eye contact, because I knew he would take that as an invitation to come tell me about his Harley, and make a hilarious joke that only he would laugh loudly about.
"No, man, I don't ride a horse. I've got a Harley!" I heard him say before letting out a big laugh to let everyone in the room know that it had been some kind of joke. Later, I heard him say, "He said vegetarian pizza, I said, what's the point?" before letting out another huge guffaw. He seemed like any number of redneck jackasses I had gone to high school with, and I imagined telling him I was gay if he tried to talk to me so he would leave me the hell alone.
I had been waiting silently for an hour or two before the lady on my left said anything to me.
"So what do you do?" she asked me suddenly.
"I'm currently unemployed," I told her.
"What did you do?"
"I filed medical records at the university."
"Oh, did you get laid off because they're switching to digital records?"
"No," I told her, "I quit."
She asked me if I knew the big boss of the medical records operation. "She used to be a therapist, like me," she said.
"Yeah," I said, "She should be fired, along with every other level of their grossly incompetent and bloated management."
"There's absolutely no quality control, and nobody cares. All but the smallest records have other peoples' information in them, and nobody does anything at all about it. It's pretty disgusting."
"Yes, that is disgusting," she said, her face reflecting her actual disgust, which made me happy, not because I wanted to disgust her, but because I think it's important that people know their sensitive health information is being grossly mishandled.
She stopped talking to me, and I hoped she wouldn't start again. She seemed nice enough, but I felt like shit and wished I could go to sleep. I ate some Dayquil that I had in my pocket and continued to wait silently for the jury selection process to begin.
It was only after several hours of waiting that the judge made his first appearance. He seemed like a jovial character, but I imagined he was probably actually a huge douchebag, like any of the popular "nice" teachers in high school. He told us that they were able to do plea bargains for most of the cases, but they still had some work to do before they might select juries. He had us vote on whether or not we wanted to break for lunch. I voted against it, because it would have meant staying longer, and I didn't have a car to go anywhere if we did break, anyway. Fortunately, most of the people seemed to be in favor of a shorter stay, so we got to continue sitting around, waiting, instead of breaking for lunch.
"So, what do you do if you don't work?" the lady on my left asked me.
"I play a lot of music and video games," I said.
"You sound like a college student."
"Yeah, it's a sweet life," I replied, "I hope to live like this forever."
"Do you think that's what people do?" she asked, "Do you think people are just hippies their whole lives?"
"Well, obviously not everyone," I said, "but if I can get away with it, I don't see why I shouldn't do what makes me happy and avoid what makes me unhappy."
She thought about what I said for a minute before asking, "What do you want to do? What do you like doing?"
"Well, playing music and video games," I said. "There's not a lot of money in it, but it's really a blast."
"I knew when I was 8 years old that I wanted to be a therapist," she told me, "I'm a hand therapist now. I solve problems for people. With their hands. I really enjoy it."
"It must be nice doing something you enjoy," I told her.
"What kind of music do you play?" she asked, changing the subject.
"Reggae," I said.
"What's reggae?" she asked. I immediately knew I should have said something else.
"Well," I said, "Um, it started in Jamaica. It's really mellow." I wanted to tell her the emphasis was on the off-beat, but figured it would be a waste of time.
"Who is a reggae artist I might know?"
"Well, Bob Marley isn't really one of my favorites, but he's the one that most people have heard of."
"I see. Who else is there?"
"Well, if you don't know Bob Marley, there really isn't anybody else I can name that you would know."
"Is it kind of rock and roll?" she asked.
"Um, yeah," I said, "It's rock and roll." It was accurate because reggae is another blues-based form of music. The blues, rock and roll, and reggae all rely heavily on the same three chords.
"Okay..." she said, "Is it bluesy?"
"Yeah, I'd say it was bluesy," I responded. It was the same goddamn question to me.
"So... reggae is like a bluesy sort of rock music?"
"Yeah," I said, satisfied enough.
"That sounds interesting," she said.
"Yeah," I said, "Reggae is good stuff." I made a mental note just to say "rock and roll" to begin with if I thought someone didn't know what reggae was (unless I thought they might come to an Assbutts show, in which case I might try to explain, or just tell them to come see).
The judge came out and told us that they had managed to do plea bargains for all of the cases, and that we could go home. Everybody applauded and then began shuffling out. We had been there for about four hours.
"See you next year!" the lady who was sitting next to me said.
"Yeah, see you," I replied.
I went outside to the locker where I had to lock my cel phone, and then called my ride. The guy who had been sitting on the opposite side of the lady next to me heard me on the phone and offered me a ride, since he had heard where I lived when I was talking to the lady. He gave me a ride, and then I immediately went back to sleep when I got home.
I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to experience the actual jury selection process. It certainly would have been more interesting than just sitting around for four hours.