Soooooo......I get that mail. The summons to be part of a grand jury for the county I now live in. The day arrives when I must go in and see if in fact I will be selected by a judge to sit 2 days a week for 9 weeks and along with 22 other people vote on what cases will go to trial.
For weeks many have tried to give me all the reasons that worked for them to get 'off' of the jury duty. Of course as luck would have it this happens soon after I no longer have a car. I spend a week trying to get the quickest commute to a court house in a town I have not been to.
The bus luckily stops at the corner from where I live - a quiet simple little town. I wake up as I usually do for work and take my time getting ready. I am a bit slow since my leg for the last 3 days has taken to just dragging about. The pain a remembrance of the week when I had that falls at the end of winter.
I stand outside and wait for the bus that is scheduled to show up at 8:00, it is 8:34 when it does show up. A rather large African American driver opens the door and smiles. I ask how much and whether my normal bus pass can be used. He says yes and asks where I intend to stop. I tell him the cross streets, he looks me up and down and says 'Good Luck'.
I walk further into the bus which is completely empty (baffling me as to why it was so late). I watch out the filthy window to see the many houses -large beautiful houses. Once we leave my town and enter the next the view changes. After the first liquor store, you get the notion that perhaps salons and liquor stores have all decided to hang together. There were 2 per block. The passengers that boarded nearly every block seemed to digress in clothing and mannerism the farther we went.
I got up and moved to the end of the bus, somehow I felt that if guns and knives were suddenly flinging through the air, I would be safer in the back.
I had no idea I lived near so many Mexicans. Almost every restaurant had the same look large filthy sign that stated Mexican type food and doors barely hanging on hinges. There were signs on boarded windows alerting that bills could be paid there as well. The bus noise went from hushed talking to boom box sounding MP3 players. No one seemed to own a belt as they preferred their pants falling to their knees, men and women alike. Although Latina, we know we are not from the same race and therefore the stare downs begin.
Note to self: wear depends next time.
After a while I sat in the back in a fetal position, watching the landscape degrade with each block to the dimensions of hell. I wondered why they don't send SWAT teams to pick up jurors if this is the condition of the city where the main county court resides.
I thought: If I'm lucky a drive by shooting will end this quickly for me.
The driver announces the cross street I am to get off. I walk to the front where the chatter stops with each steps and eyes are on me. (I mean really?? I'm THAT different?) The door opens and the heat and humidity embraces me in a Tango that had no music.
I take one step out of the three and turn around. The driver has the mega-watt smile and says 'that's right, this is the stop, walk 3 blocks that way.' He points and all I see is a sea of more salons, liquor stores, adult entertainment sports bar and an occasional market.
I finally descent the bus and it takes off. That driver is not stupid. If gangs are hard to find, it amazes me, as this really seems like Gang Central. I hold my purse close to me, hold my head up high and begin my prayers (might as well make this a religious experience).
As I reach the court house I stop and just stare. The outer part of the building seems new. It is polished, granite, tall, intimidating yet beautiful. Completely surrounded by shrubs and greenery so fresh you can smell its growth. A Muslim taking care of the few weeds that dared to grow was whistling (I thought that wasn't aloud).
I look around and am amazed, this block is literally the only clean, beautiful and well protected (all the cops I didn't see throughout the ride were here, like soldiers waiting on Caesars command). I squared my shoulders and went up the stairs. The entrance is blocked with the same device you see at the airport and you must empty your pockets and leave your purse on the conveyor belt. Of course, I pass through the path and sirens go off. I am searched with a wand that I would swear wasn't even on. I am told to go to the 3rd floor and I enter the building further. At this point I realize they had wasted their entire renovations budget on the outside because the inside was a DUMP.
The juror waiting room looks like a miniature auditorium, the coffee machines were mostly broken and I swear the milk machine had a rubber nipple and a lever. (I think it was one of the first machines made to imitate a cow).
I get some coffee, desperate for the caffeine as I am still in denial and swear I must be asleep and therefore seeing things worse than they really were. Not a chance.
An HOUR later we are ushered into long corridors, stairways that do not end (I guess the elevators are for the elite only), a few elderly were pretty much crawling up the stairs, 3 flights, my leg gave up and it just dragged behind. I didn't care; I was hoping the lack of oxygen I felt would just kill me and end this misery once and for all. A court room where a judge speaks until I feel like I am in a coma is so small I am sure King Tuts sarcophagus is larger. We are sitting so close in short pews that I am sure I can name all the different soaps used.
No matter the attempts this judge couldn't care less, unless you were dying, taking care of someone that is dying or a criminal, you would do your civil duty. I believe it to be a hostage situation or even a step prior to prison. I mean, you have no choice, you are threaten with contempt aka; prison and are pretty much treated as though you haven't the right to your first amendment.
We are then ushered back to the corridors where we descend, we just keep going down, and mildew odor greets you. Grand Jury is held in the basement. I KID YOU NOT. We are then told the riot act. The friendly smiles the clerks had before were replaced with impatience and curt replies. Forms are handed out and we are then told that we had better get used to our surroundings.
That's like telling Americans to give up their freedom. Oh wait, that is exactly what it is.
We are finally released and left to find our own way out of that maze of hell. I finally found a ladies room since potty breaks isn’t even allowed. The bathroom was dim, damp and just NASTY.
I walk through Gang Central, get to the bus stop and 1.5 hours later the bus arrives and I'll be damned if the same driver isn't the one picking me up. The bus is packed, but that one seat in the back was empty. A fine seat to crawl on, get into a fetal position and cry, wondering what you did to the Lord to constantly receive these punishments.
Once I get home I stand under the hot shower until my flesh steams on its own. I am too tired and disgusted to walk the 25 minute walk to the nearest liquor store and get some wine or VODKA. I thought of all the liquor stores I had seen in the other town and lost the need for booze.
I laid down on the futon and just stared at the ceiling thinking......I really need to get the FUCK out of here.
I am sentenced to 9 weeks, two days a week.