So back in 2008, after many years of living in this great country, I became a naturalized citizen. The swearing-in ceremony was in a federal courtroom, under the impassive gazes of judges from long ago whose portraits lined the walls. I got no miniature American flag, a wrong that was righted when a co-worker gave me one when I went to the office. I think I celebrated this occasion by going to IHOP.
Since then, I’ve been able to exercise some of the benefits of US citizenship. I have a US passport that permits me visa-free travel to more places than my Philippine passport ever could. I have voted in various elections.
There are also obligations to citizenship, one of which is serving on a jury. Something I’d been able to avoid the first two times I got a notice to appear for jury duty service.
- First notice – not a citzen yet! Illinois pulls names from the DMV and voter registration rolls. A simple call got me out of it.
- Second notice – my last name did not start with a letter in the range of names they needed.
- Third notice – FUCK.
So this is why I had to get to 26th and California by 9:30 on a hot Tuesday morning. Yesterday morning, in fact. I gave myself an extra 30 minutes to get there, and I ended up needing that time because CTA customer service is terrible and so is the construction going on at UIC.
The courthouse stands on the southwest corner of its intersection. Just north of it, across 26th, is a Popeye’s which multiple Yelp reviewers advised going to for lunch. They had even less pleasant things to say about the courthouse cafeteria. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Getting through the metal detector took no time at all, as the line for ladies was much shorter than the one for dudes. As a juror, my electronics (iPhone, Kindle) were permitted. I can’t imagine what I would have done if I couldn’t have brought either. Read an actual book? No thank you. All the books I have to read at home are crazy heavy, and I am a delicate flower to be carrying heavy things around in the heat.
I took the elevator to the third floor, where I turned in my notice and in return received a panel number and a juror ID number. If my panel number was called, I would line up with the other folks who had the same number, and a deputy sheriff would take us to a courtroom for selection. Until then, I could sit in this waiting room that looked like it belonged in a small regional airport.
What few tables there were had been occupied by prospective jurors who pulled up chairs and watched videos on laptops or tablets. Unseen vending machines whirred in far off corners while I looked for a spot to park myself.
A short video featuring remarks by Timothy C. Evans, the Chief Judge of the Cook County Circuit Court, and hosted (!) by Lester Holt, thanked us for our service, and then walked us through what we could expect. Here’s the video if you want to watch it now:
It’s amazing. Check out the crazy lady perms on the defendants.
While I waited, I fucked around on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. I searched the room for cute boys. I bought myself a soda and made a note of how many Honey Buns were in the vending machine when I got there (3) and how many were left when I was let go for the day (1). Most importantly, I made a note of the different ways people pronounced the word “juror”:
Also I launched Tinder once, screamed, then shut it down forever. It’s not like of the many designated areas for activities such as talking on the telephone and being quiet there was one for making out with a fellow juror.
On Twitter, Patrick and I went back and forth on who would be on NY and Chicago editions of Mount Rushmore. For New York, I had Grandmaster Flash, George Steinbrenner, and a dollar slice of pizza. For Chicago, I listed Harold Washington, Daniel Burnham, Koko Taylor, and Lou Malnati. Other folks weighed in and that made me so glad. I also remembered that Boondocks episode “The Trial of R. Kelly” and that made me happy because that shit’s hilarious.
Four different panels were called and thankfully none of them were mine. We broke for lunch at 12:00 and despite having a turkey and cheddar Lunchable in my bag, I took my chances with the cafeteria. The only thing I will say is that the space itself was very nice and clean, and its employees were polite and professional. As to the food — while it is true that I have never met a steam table I didn’t like, yesterday’s steamed turkey with stuffing and mixed vegetables was a test of my patience. I also may have challenged Lloyd Bentsen in the 1988 vice presidential debates after sampling a corn muffin. I tweeted:
I’ve made corn muffins, eaten corn muffins. Corn muffins are friends of mine. Weird cafeteria pasty, you’re no corn muffin. #juryduty
We got 90 minutes for lunch, so I was back in my seat at 1:30. Around 2:10, a very nice lady from the jury duty office got on the PA system and said as the judges had called for all the juries they needed, we were free to go. I was like this:
After that announcement, all that was left was to collect our $25 (in check form, with three signatures and everything) and then, finally, what to do with ourselves for the rest of the day.