Ok, so Tuesday I got called in for jury duty. I actually didn’t mind the thought of serving on a jury as long as it didn’t last for longer than a week or so and didn’t traumatize me for life (somehow I don’t think part of my civil service should include me being exposed to lots of gorey evidence or nightmare inducing images). For a lot of my life I was really interested in being an attourney, so the idea of doing jury duty was more appealing to me than it is to most people.

A friend of mine who had jury duty a few months ago suggested that I take the metro to the courthouse downtown and I decided that would be an excellent idea! So I looked up the metro schedule from the North Hollywood station (because there is more free parking there than at Universal City) and planned to leave my house around 810am as to get on the train by 850am at the latest. That should have given me PLENTY of time to park, get my ticket and get on the train. Key word here is “SHOULD”…

In reality, I got to the metro station around 825am. No problem, still plently of time. Then I drove up and down all the rows, anxiety mounting at every turn…There was no more free parking…Not one spot in the whole lot. Although half the lot was empty, those spots were reserved for ‘paid permits’ …WHAT?! I didn’t know anything about that. And seeing as all the free spots were full and most of the permit spots were empty, I took that to mean that most of the other people who were taking the metro didn’t know what this whole “paid permit” thing was about either. So I drove around for like 10 or 15 minutes.

By this point I’m sweating. My heart is pounding and I’m thinking of all the worst case scenarios…Will I get arrested? Will I get a $350 fine? I don’t know… It doesn’t say on the summons what happens if you don’t show, or if you’re late…It is after 840 am and it is too late to try and catch the freeway to drive downtown myself and get parked at the Disney music hall AND walkt to the courthouse by 930am. Then I see the signs on the street parking curbs outside the station. 10 hour parking. Perfect! I pull around and put my car into one of the spots…The meter says “25 cents per hour for the first 2 hours, then $1 gets 10 hours” or something equally confusing and unclear…So I pull out the change from my pocket that I’d brought with me to get snacks out of the vending machines (thanks Lauren!) and started shoving it into the parking meter…Nickels and dimes, nickels and dimes…way more than a dollar…and it still says “1:37”. Excuse me?! I throw my hands up and get back into my car chanting, “WhaddoIdo?WhaddoIdo?!?!!?!” Then I stop to think.

I drive down the street and find a friendly neighborhood liquor mart. I ask the guy at the counter if he can help me if I buy a bottle of water. He says yes, he’ll give me quarters and I quickly pay for my water with a $5 and get $2 back in quarters and then the rest in ones. I jump into my car like I’m in some kind of random heist movie and fly out of the parking lot. As I cruise back around the corner to the street parking meters I see the one I’d started to pay now has a minivan in front of it. Great…So I pull up in front of a different meter across the street. When I get out to feed this meter I read the little sticker on the inside of the glass and it says: “$1 per hour for the first 3 hours or $4 for 10 hours”. You’ve got to be kidding me. I only have $2.75 in change and Mr. Minivan is parked in my spot that I already fed $1.50 into. Oh my word.

So I get BACK into my car (no I am not making this up) and drive BACK over to the friendly neighborhood liquor mart. I again jump out of the car and run up to the counter (fortunately, no one else was in the store. Now that I think about it, that would have really messed things up, or maybe made me less convincing in my desperation). I tell the guy , ‘Look, the meter says $4 for 10 hours. I’m already extremely late and I have nowhere else to go. Can you please give me $2 in quarters?!” He is (lucky for me) a good Samaritain sent by God to help me out of this mess and he agrees. He calmly puts the quarters in my hand and wishes me good luck. I thank him and get back into my car.

After parking my car at a 3rd meter, putting in my $4 and praying that is hits
“10:00” with the last quarter (which it did) I ran into the metro station and up to the ticketing kiosk. I followed the promptings and selected a one way ticket. Then I put in my credit card. The machine didn’t like it. I put it in again. Still no luck. I try a different card and then it finally says ,’processing your request, please wait while I print your ticket’. And I wait. For like a whole minute, which is excruciating when you’re buying your ticket at the time you should be getting off the train downtown. It was 9:05 am. The next eastbound train pulled up as I ran down the stairs and I got on. Then I sat there. For 10 more minutes. I had JUST missed the last train and apparently this one was early, or waiting just to increase my anxiety. I don’t really know. I just sat there in my chair rocking back and forth, looking at the clock saying “Come on! Come on!” to myself like a crazy person.

I realize at this point I am definitely going to be late. If the train had left at 905am I might have been able to run down into the courthouse by 930am, or only been like 5 minutes late. But no. Leaving at 915am was defintely not going to get me to court by 930am. Crap. Again, my brain starts considering all the bad things that might happen. Fines, jail, deportation. I don’t know. It doesn’t say on the summons what happens to you! That’s almost worse, not knowing. I sit on the train and I feel nervous and sick for the entire 22 minute trip. Not even listening to “This American Life” on my ipod can calm me down. I am a wreck.

When the train finally pulls into the Central Station I run up to the street and walk toward the court house. Once I get there I look at my watch, 9:47am. ACK! Seriously?! I step through security and ask the guards where to go. I take the elevator upstairs, go to my ‘reporting room’ and check in at the front desk. I don’t say anything, I just get in line, give the registration lady my pass and…that’s all…She has me take my juror badge off the front of my summons and slide it into a plastic case that gets pinned to the front of my shirt and I sit down. No remarks of ‘you’re late’ or ‘you’re fired’ or ‘you owe me five hundread bucks young lady’. I just sit down and wait.

I feel a mixture of unbelievable relief and confusion. If I didn’t need to be here til 10am, why did they call me at 930am? “This is SO like doing background work,” I think. I start to evaluate my fellow jurors in terms of ‘wardrobe’ and what ‘roles’ at the courthouse they would be ‘booked’ to play. I decide that my friend Lauren was right in her recommendation. She said, ” Dress up in really nice business attire, do your makeup and hair, speak clearly and concisely and be as intelligent as possible. Then they’ll release you.” I ended up not being called in for questioning even, but based on the people who came back, I think she was right.

I was especially glad that I didn’t get called in for jury selection on the case that they announced beforehand was anticipated to last approximately 90 days. Ninety DAYS people! Who can afford to serve on a jury for 90 days?! That’s insane. I was sure it was some kind of gorey murder trial or similarly disturbing case, and was relieved when they finished calling the panel and I was still in my seat.

After several hours of waiting my heart stopped racing and I started to chuckle. The first clear idea I had? “Wow, I need to remember that sense of intense desperation that I felt this morning for the next time I need to replicate it in a scene for my acting class. I mean I NEEDED those quarters. My life DEPENDED on those quarters. I knew what my intention was, I communicated it clearly and directly to the liquor mart dude and he responded. Hm. Interesting.” In that moment, I broke down my communication to it’s simplest form. I didn’t care about whether or not the liquor mart guy thought I was nuts (which he probably did) . I didn’t judge myself for being so upfront or direct. I didn’t try to nicely dance around my request like I normally do. I just asked, with a great amount of conviction, for what I wanted. For quarters.

At the end of the day I got my jury release form, hopped back on the metro and went home. On the way out of the courthouse I saw a sign that said something to the affect of ,” Make your jury service easier. Use Jury Link! The metro system helps to make your service fast and efficient.” And all I could think was, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”