Well it happened. After I finally got around to changing my voter registration from Chicago to Baltimore, I got nailed. Picked up by the courts. Thrown in the slammer. Left for dead. I got selected for jury duty. On a side note, I’ve been in Baltimore for about 20 months now, but still have my IL license. Other than the confused looks from bartenders, I don’t have too many issues.
Jury duty is one of those things that you hear about all the time, but it kind of feels like it never happens to you, unless you’re someone who gets selected for jury duty at a normal rate. This is where I was up until yesterday. So for those of you curious about just what goes on behind closed doors OR if you’ve never seen an episode of ‘The Wire,’ allow me to give you an in-depth behind the scenes look at what the REAL jury duty is like.
8:00AM. This is when Baltimore City tells you to arrive for jury duty. What they don’t tell you is that 1) If you don’t get there by 6:45, you’re probably not getting a seat close to the TV OR the door. Heck, I had to climb over 7 angry middle aged black guys just to find an open seat. Wish I had brought my grappling equipment! Grappling is such a fun word. I feel like there were a lot of grappling hooks around in TV shows and movies when we were kids, but they’ve sort of fell out of fashion. Now everyone wants a lightsaber or a 12 gauge. So I finally get to my seat, right at 8am, and wouldn’t you believe it, I don’t even get called up to register my attendance until about 10:30am, so for those of you who failed linear algebra, that’s two and a half hours of chilling right off the bat, which seemed cool at first until I realized these chairs were not going to be able to provide me with the lumbar support that I desire. I quickly realized that my boyish enthusiasm around missing a day of work was misplaced. The $15 they pay you is nice though. I’m going to invest that in my 403b and retire an extra day early.
10:45AM. I finally got to get up to stretch my legs for all of 10 minutes in order to check-in. Here’s another thing they don’t tell you about jury duty–They’ve got a guard in the room the whole time, and he does NOT like it when you stand up for any reason whatsoever. By 11:15 in the morning, my calves were so tight you could…Well whatever you do with tight things. I sat in front of the computer for a solid minute thinking of something funny to write. Sometimes the jokes just aren’t there. So a few more minutes pass, and we FINALLY got a movie on. It’s kind of absurd that everyone was there ready to go by 8:05-8:10am and they didn’t put a movie in until 11:30am.
11:30AM. ‘Hidden Figures’ was the movie of choice and I will argue that it is Baltimore City’s favorite movie. I’ve been to two separate ‘Movie in the Park’ type deals since moving here, and both times they’ve shown ‘Hidden Figures.’ Add to that the 2 times I saw it in theaters, and we’re now up to 5 times I’ve watched it. The only other movies around or above that count for me would be Spielberg/Lucas films, some of the classic John Hughes 80 films, ‘The Fugitive,’ and ‘Black Swan.’ Well, one scene from ‘Black Swan’ in particular. It’s around this time too that they start calling numbers to head to courtrooms to start the jury selection process. On this particular day, we were dealing with numbers 6000-7200 and I was number 6930, so tbh I really wasn’t expecting to get called. However, we were REALLY moving and grooving through the numbers early on, so I guess there was a lot of crime yesterday. I blame gentrification.
12:30PM. Lunch. I brought my lunch, a nice little ham and cheese and spinach sandwich with some cheese crackers and an apple (normally I’d be doing my chicken cabbage stir fry but I didn’t have gas for 6 days including last weekend, remember?). In hindsight, even if I’d brought my lunch, it would’ve been smart to use the hour to go walk around, maybe to the top of Fed Hill or something. Or to Hooters. I swear, I never remember there’s a Hooters in the Inner Harbor until my meal situation is all figured out. It’s behind the Ripley’s Believe it or Not so you can’t actually see it from the water. This is why I always forget. I’ve never been to Hooters. I’m not looking to go there to score some ladies, but I’d like to have the cultural experience. It’s the same reason I went to White Castle and Little Caesar’s on my 21st birthday. You don’t pickup ladies there either. Long story short, I continued to sit on my big white butt and I pulled up ‘The Office’ on my iPad (love that Netflix storage feature). Oh, here’s another important note: NO WIFI. This had me thinking, who are the real prisoners in the Baltimore City court system? Us or Them? Let that one sink in for awhile.
2:00PM. We start moving through numbers again, and we’re getting into the 6800s AKA I’m p sure I’m gonna get called at some point. Hey what’s the closest you’ve ever come to being arrested? Hmm I’m trying to think of mine. I should probably research some statute of limitations stuff before I disclose anything. I guess underage drinking? I wasn’t even that hardcore–I started drinking the fall of my sophomore year of college, about a year and a half before I turned 21. The craziest part about my drinking history is that that year of college, when I was 19-20, was by far the hardest I’ve gone in my life. It’s really been downhill from there. The spring of my senior year after I turned 21 was pretty fun and I drank casually a lot but wasn’t going that hard consistently per say. Otherwise, probably throwing stuff at the old McGaw Hall with some of my music friends before they demolished it. Hey, it was around Spring Training time and I think we were just hoping to get discovered.
3:00PM. My day of reckoning. Well, my time of reckoning. It finally happened. I, along with about 14 other jurors, got called into the courtroom. Now, here’s something they don’t tell you about juror selection. Both the prosecutor AND the defense attorney go through what is essentially a remake of when you’d be playing sports on the playground as a kid and the captains get to pick their teams one by one. This reminded me of that situation specifically because in both cases, I didn’t get picked. Ha! I’m kidding. I didn’t have friends as a kid.
So a jury has 12 people on it, with 3 alternates. Oddly enough, there was already a group of about 25 potential jurors in the courtroom who had arrived long before us. My group of 15 was more or less the backup group. And when it came time for the prosecutor and the defense attorney to make their picks, they didn’t even get to our group. So it really wasn’t that exciting. I feel like I didn’t watch all of those ‘Law & Order’ episodes for nothing. Also I still haven’t seen ‘Night Court.’ Is it worth watching? They did have one of those bailiffs though, like Byrd from ‘Judge Judy!’ I love that guy. Did you know that in 1996 when Judy Sheindlin got offered her own show, Byrd wrote her a congratulations letter (they had worked together in Manhattan in like the 80s I think) and she offered him the job on the spot? I should start doing that with people from college whom I worked with who are making it big now. I’m looking at you, Jaboukie. I bet he knows Justin Bartha.
4:00PM. We return back to the original room with the death chairs. ‘Hidden Figures’ had ended and ‘Spare Parts,’ a 2015 movie starring George Lopez and Marisa Tomei. The film itself seemed pretty average (not bad, just not a standout), but the true story is really incredible. You should go check it out.
4:15PM. We finally got released! I tell you what, it was only one day in jury duty, but I feel like I can really empathize with what inmates go through now. Bad chairs, can’t leave the room, don’t get any recreation time, and mainly movies you’ve already seen 5 times. That’s brutal! I definitely will not be committing a crime any time soon! I got scared straight!
Here is a fun photo of me as a free man. Thanks for reading! Big weekend ahead–Ryan Ligon and I will sit down to go through ALL 24 Oscars categories and make our picks, and on Sunday, my Oscars monologue will go LIVE and maybe viral? We’ll see! Also, Y/N on the buzzcut? I’m kind of tired of my current hair…