Where do you have the opportunity to watch a medieval reenactment of a trial by ordeal while the elderly gentleman stranger sitting beside you plucks out his own nose hairs one at a time? There is only one answer to that question. At jury duty.
As I mentioned briefly last week, I was recently called to duty by the state of New York. And now that you and I know each other quite well, it will come as no surprise to you that I FLIPPED OUT over the fact that THE GOVERNMENT decided on a whim to INVADE MY LIFE and tell me what to do. Because if I skipped said duty, a SHERIFF would show up at my apartment, pound loudly upon the door, and promptly lock me in a jail cell. And throw away the key. So you can imagine my terror when that brightly marked CERTIFIED LETTER was delivered to my mailbox.
Now, before you roll your eyeballs completely around in your head at my “over-reaction” – as my boy may have alluded – you should know that there is a reason for my innate fear of jury duty. Cue the doomsday music from the Bose surround sound.
You see, once upon a time I lived in Southern California in an overextended county known as San Bernardino where LA gangs are thriving and a little thing called family court keeps the attorneys well paid. Seeing it as a fun way to get out of work for an indeterminate amount of time, I pranced my way to the courthouse on a rainy Monday to step in line with the rest of those called in without a worry of what was to come. And it was only after sitting on a hard metal folding chair for six or so hours, getting yelled at by the robust and angry clerk while being stared at by the parts of society that make things colorful and being forced to use a port-a-potty in the PARKING LOT because the restrooms were backed up… that I realized jury duty was a trial in life. Literally and figuratively. And can I just say? That just because you put an imitation Monet painting printed on vinyl in your portable toilet does not make it classy. Enough said.
So. When this latest jury summons arrived in my sweaty little hands, I was more than slightly nervous that it would be a similar experience, only worse. Because this is New York where everything is bigger and faster and just a bit more frenetic.
The morning dawned and I made my way downtown to the location indicated on my summons. With a nervous breath, I walked through the revolving doors only to be greeted by a pair of smiling security guards. And not just fake smiling like the ladies selling homemade jewelry on the street outside of my apartment who are really just trying to nick a few dollars from me for a friendship bracelet that went out of style 23 years ago, but really smiling. As though I had made their day by showing up. In confusion, I stumbled my way into my assigned jury room where I was welcomed again with equal exuberance by the Clerk who would be presiding over jury duty that day.
Friends, meet Mr. Williams, the patron saint of Jury Clerks.
As I eased myself into an overly plush version of a deluxe folding chair, he picked up a microphone and started the day with a “Wwwwwwwwwelcome to jury duty, come on down!” that was filled with SUCH EXCITEMENT that I couldn’t help but grin. Maybe it would be a good day after all.
And you know what? It really was. Even when the most angry, bitter old woman I have ever encountered in my entire life decided to STAND UP AND SCOLD THE ENTIRE ROOM for not being quiet enough when Mr. Williams was carefully explaining how to darken the circle on our registration forms indicating the date for the fourth time in a row, bless his soul, he turned it into a joke that had everyone in the room laughing as said Angry Lady sat with her lips pressed into a firm line. Which only made me chortle louder.
In fact, I am not ashamed to admit that she kept me entirely entertained until the final bell rung dismissing us. Maybe it was her compulsive announcements throughout the day telling people to SHUT OFF YOUR CELL PHONE or STOP CHEWING SO LOUDLY or the best… GO BACK TO YOUR OWN COUNTRY. Oh yes she did. Call me crazy, but I have the feeling she would not have been the most – shall we say – impartial juror.
But I digress. As usual, I seem to have found myself on a tangent. But a tangent with a purpose. Because the most impressive part of the day was the incredible finesse Mr. Williams continually utilized in dealing with some of the most ridiculous people I have had the pleasure to encounter. And seeing as my job is to hire people with the utmost customer service skills, I found myself close to begging him to give up his career of over twenty years to come work for me.
Here is my card, Mr. Williams. Call me when the Angry Ladies of the world become too much to take. Hopefully your boss received my thank you letter. Thank you for your hosting skills and thank you that I do not have to see you again for six years.
Phew. I survived. Aren’t you proud?