August 6, 2014.
I wake up at four twenty-three A.M.
I wanted to get up at six for my eight o’clock appearance at the Santa Monica courthouse, but well… I have this CD clock radio that is currently set for six-thirty, and I do not know how to change it. (Even though I was the one who originally set it for six-thirty. The lesson being that with machines, if my involvement with their operations is not ongoing, I immediately forget how they work. It’s like former acquaintances who reappears and you can no longer remember their names. I stare blankly at the acquaintances. I stare blankly at the clock radio.)
So I woke up at four twenty-three to be sure I’d be awake at six, instead of when the alarm went off, which was – and apparently always will be – six-thirty. (By the way, my CD “Wake-Up” music is the iconic late 60’s theme song from Hockey Night In Canada. It’s like Foster Hewitt, waking me up. A reference that will be lost on virtually everyone who is reading this.)
I meditate. I shower. I get dressed. I eat breakfast and read the paper.
Everything’s normal. Except, when I’m finished my habitual routine,
I have Jury Duty.
I leave the house as seven-thirty for my ten-minute walk to the courthouse for my eight o’clock appointment, figuring I’ll be at the head of the line to get in when the courthouse doors open. I show up…
And there are a hundred people in front of me, all, apparently, with a similar idea.
I get in, I go through “Security”, I take the elevator to the Third Floor “Jury Assembly Room.” My preference is always the stairs, but there is a sign indicating there aren't any, making me wonder how claustrophobics like myself get to the Third Floor.
“We hoist them up through the window.”
There is probably another way they deal with that.
I arrive at the “Jury Assembly Room” I check in, and I immediately head for the Men’s Room. And not for the last time. My “Anxiety-Bladder-Connection” is such that I make five subsequent visits that morning.
We are invited to listen to an explanatory audiotape, which is incongruously offered with what sounds distinctly like an Hawaiian musical accompaniment, all muffled drums and slack-key guitar.
The audiotape’s message is that Jury Duty is rewarding and satisfying. We are reassured that, as long as you can understand English, Jury Duty service is beyond nobody’s capacity. No particular legal training is necessary. A successful Jury Duty experience is primarily a matter of everyday common sense.
This reassurance does the opposite of reassuring me. I really stink at everyday common sense.
The Jury Pool is then informed that there are two trials scheduled for that day. A list of names is read off. These people will form the Jury Panel for the first trial, which is about to begin.
The name “Earl Pomerantz” is not included in the list. My sensitive bladder immediately calms down.
The first trial’s jury panel departs, leaving the rest of us, who will make up the jury panel for the second trial. There may be a couple of “Lucky Duck” extras left over, but that is unlikely to be me. I never win anything. You know those games at the county fair or some such where they say, “Everybody’s a winner”? – I can barely win there!
What they really ought to say is, “Everybody’s a winner…eventually.” But there were times when it got late, and we had to go home.
The “Jury Assembly Room” is “meat locker” freezing. I inquire about the sub-thermal temperature, and am informed that that’s because it’s summer. Apparently, there is a thermostat for the “Jury Assembly Room.” But it is calibrated in seasons.
There is, however, a patio off the side of the Assembly Room. I go outside to warm up. Such is the nature of Santa Monica Jury Duty – “‘Patio Friendly’, and two blocks from the ocean.”
I sit down outside, opening the book I had brought along for the expected wait. “An entire day of enforced boredom”, observes a fellow Jury Pool candidate. “Let’s hope so”, I laconically reply.
I hear the “scuttlebutt” that there may not actually be a second trial. The information is electric, prison inmates hearing, “We’re getting turkey on Thanksgiving!” I try not to get over-excited. Random rumors can easily be wrong.
Re-thinking things, it occurs to me that it might overall have been better to have been selected for the first Jury Panel, because if it turns out that there is a second trial scheduled later that day, it is unlikely to begin until the following day. Meaning, for me, at least one extra day of Jury Duty!
Count on me to spot the potential rain cloud in an ostensible silver lining.
Finally, it is announced that, since there will be no action until the afternoon at the earliest, we are temporarily dismissed, and instructed to report back and one-thirty.
I check my Swiss Army Pocket Watch, which I never use (that or any other watch) except on trips when I am required to be someplace at a specific time. It says,“Ten-fifteen.”
I could hardly believe it. It felt like I had been there a year.
Down in the lobby, I catch sight of an institutional wall clock. The clock reads: “Eleven-fifteen.” It was then that I realized that the last time I used it, my Swiss Army Pocket Watch had been – and was still set – an hour behind.
No wonder it felt so long. I had been sitting there an hour longer than I thought. Turns out, I had not gone to the Men’s Room six times in one hour; I had gone to the Men’s Room six times in two hours. Making me half as nervous as I had previously believed.
After a quick restaurant lunch, I decided to go home for a while and rest. It is there that I make a strategic mistake:
I watch the concluding minutes of a Law & Order: SVU.
It is one of my favorite episodes, in which a believed murdered Assistant District Attorney returns from “Witness Protection” to testify against her assailant. An eight year-old boy who was shot by the same person also musters the moxie to come forward.
Why was my watching this a mistake? Because, “What if the trial they put me on is like that one?”
CONVICTED DANGEROUS DEFENDANT (TO JURY MEMBERS, AS HE IS HAULED AWAY): “I know where you live!”
CONVICTED DANGEROUS DEFENDANT: “Not now. But I can find out!”
I do not mean to prolong the suspense here – SPOILER ALERT: There actually isn’t any. But this is getting overly long. So with your permission, I shall conclude this gripping narrative tomorrow.