Thursday, February 5, 2009
Yesterday, I had jury duty.
Wait, let me back up.
I've always loved courtroomy, lawyerly, trially stuff. Love a good John Grisham book. My wife and I used to watch The Practice faithfully every week. Some of my favorite movie moments range from Jack Nicholson saying, "You can't handle the truth!" in A Few Good Men to the dude who plays Kramer telling a juror when he asks her name, "And may I remind you, you are under oath!" in Trial and Error.
And so it only made sense that I've always, always, always wanted to be called to jury duty. I mean, come on, that's half the reason I'm registered to vote! And yet, here I was, little sad James, having been eighteen since 1990 and never getting that vital piece of mail.
Until a few weeks ago. Yes, it came. A green piece of cardstock, offically naming me juror for the United States of America. I was to call a special telephone number on an encrypted line meant only for me on the eve of January 30th to get my top secret instructions. I put the sacred paper in my planner, marked the date, began to prepare myself by watching reruns of Perry Mason, Matlock and Murder, She Wrote.
My wife had to endure days and days of my lame pronouncements and jokes. Things like this:
"Maybe I'll stand up in the middle of a witness's testimony and yell, 'I hereby declare this a mistrial!' and then just tell 'em I was joshin' around, keep going."
"No matter what everyone else on the jury thinks, I'm gonna take the opposite opinion so we can drag the trial out and get on the news and make headlines all over the world and then I'll let it slip that I happen to be an author and we'll get all kinds of free publicity and then they'll have to call in an alternate for me because I'll be so famous and we'll buy a mountain in Colorado and build a JK Rowling/Enya castle on it."
"I hope they call me as the foreman. I think I'll use a British accent to help my chances."
You get the idea. Yes, I was excited. Yes, I thought through every little thing to make sure I got selected from the jury pool to actually serve on the jury. Yes, I hoped for a really big case. Yes, I'm an idiot.
The day came. January 30th. I was to call the secret number after 5:00 pm Mountain Standard Time. The world was ready for James Dashner, Juror Number 34264.
Yeah, I forgot to call.
So, Monday morning, I'm driving over to Barnes and Noble to do some writing. Stop by the Post Office, run some errands. Make a few phone calls. Check my email. Pull out my planner and...
HOLY CRAP! I forgot to call the freaking telephone number! It says right here on the letter that I will be sent to jail for 30 days and be forced to pay a fine of one thousand US Dollars. Not to mention the fact I may have lost my one chance in life to stand up and say, "Your Honor, we find the defendant..." then pause for a very long time and look around the room and make lots of dramatic faces before saying, "Guilty as charged! Buuuuuuuuuurn her!"
I call the number. Yes, I was supposed to report. I leave a message, profusely apologizing and begging them not to send me to jail. I drive downtown to the courthouse. It's noon, people. I was supposed to be there at 8:30. I'm scared.
The lady in charge looks at me like I'm an idiot. "Come on Wednesday," she says. Whew, no jail. I'm spared having to bunk up with Jack the Ripper, eating that grey mush on toast, and scratching lines for each day on the wall with my fingernails.
So I went yesterday, reporting 35 minutes early. The lady wasn't impressed and told me to go in the big room with everyone else and sit down. I did. Here's the great part: Despite being on the verge of having my name called and becoming perhaps the most important person to serve the halls of justice in a hundred years, I whipped out my laptop anyway and completed 1,000 words on Book 3 of The 13th Reality while I waited. Talk about multi-tasking under duress.
Bailiff Snow finally came and called my name along with 20 or so other people. I went into the courtroom. The case was underage drinking and assaulting a police officer by a girl who looked like she was about ten years old.
We were told it would be a one day trial. My heart sank. No murders, no decapitations, no armed robberies of banks. Instead, underage drinking. A girl slapping a cop on the shoulder. Dang.
In the end, I didn't even get chosen to be one of the six jurors. I was out of the courtroom and eating sushi in self-pity by noon. Can you say anti-climactic?
Well, anyway. Like they say, real life is not like the movies, and I had to learn the hard way. Maybe next time I'll try the American Idol strategy and dress up like a pink bunny and hop into the courtroom singing the anthem to SpongeBob. At least then I might get on TV. I might even get my own trial! Hey......
Posted by James Dashner at 8:50 AM