Jury Duty

Jury Duty

“Many people foolishly try to get out of jury duty. But jury duty is one of the best places to meet girls. Do not ever avoid jury duty. In this scenario, people wait most of the day and get bored. People feel trapped and need to talk to each other during jury duty. it is very easy to strike up a conversation with a girl during jury duty. Topics of conversation are unlimited and include the whole judicial system, how silly jury duty is, what type of case you want or don’t want to be a juror for, and trials you, your friends or your family have been jurors for.”

— The Guide to Picking up Girls, Gabe Fischbarg


January 8, 2014, 10 p.m.: as I ride sideways on the subway I realize that this day marks my twentieth anniversary as a resident of New York City. January 4, 1994, I stepped onto an Amtrak train in San Francisco. I curled up on a passenger seat next to a gay Australian artist, slept on the floor of the panorama car, discovered that drinking black coffee and smoking cigarettes make an excellent substitute for food, and that gay men and smokers are generally more interesting than everyone else.

Four days later, I walked through Penn Station carrying a cello and a suitcase. For better and worse, I was home.

I will celebrate my twenty year anniversary by drinking bloody mary’s while I am at jury duty the next morning. Furthermore, I will test and observe Gabe Fischbarg’s jury duty pick-up strategies from his legendary dating tome “The Guide to Picking Up Girls.”

January 9, 2014, 8:30 a.m.: I immediately encounter two main problems with my plans. First, there are no open bars between the subway and the courthouse that offer bloody mary’s to-go. Second, between the rain and my friends’ advice on how not to get chosen for a jury, I am dressed like a drowned, albeit sober, rat who walked who got stuck in Carmen Miranda’s closet.

I will tell them that I know many lawyers. That my good friend is a cop. That they’ve taught me not to trust either. I will take my stand, and with righteous indignation express my antipathy towards a system that is far from just. 

The line in the lobby is a crowded snake. The majestic marble and stone are made hideously ugly by an antique metal detector and a rickety x-ray machine set up on fold out card tables. The security people fulfill their duty, to treat those lowly enough to be required to pass through their inspection just a touch less than human.

My heart pounds as my belt buckle makes the rickety machine bing. I am developing a phobia against security measures. They take my camera. I start to cry.

As they howl, I will whisper: where is my country? What have you done with her? Where is she hidden. I’d like her back. She was not perfect. She stomped her feet like a petulant child, but she was kind. I miss her. Please give her back.

Crying in the faces the guardians and hounds of mediocrity might be my new favorite form of passive resistance.


January 9, 2014, 9:15 a.m.: The jury duty holding area is cleaner than I remember. Scattered amongst the sea of seats, no one speaks. Most are engaged in their devices, iphones, tablets, computers, all of which have cameras and photo capacity – which makes the hounds of mediocrity appear slightly confused and hugely ineffective per confiscating cameras and such.

A video narrated by Diane Sawyer and some guy who plays a lawyer plays on t.v. plays sin every corner of the room. The program repeats over and over how no one wants to be at jury duty. It lists all the reasons why jury duty sucks. Different interviews with real people confirm that under no circumstances, does anyone ever want to be on a jury.

Nowhere does the video mention that jury duty is an excellent place to lay rap and pick up girls. I fear that Gabe Fischbarg has led me astray.

January 9, 2014, 11:36 a.m.: I am called to duty, one of fifty potential jurors to be interviewed and possibly invited by law and lawyer to participate in the legal system. It’s a personal injury case. The details are sparse and two lawyer will mine for six souls out of our fifty who might be able withhold judgement in order to judge.

The first group of twelve is called to the jurors box. There’s the man who displays his Gore Vidal book on the bannister, a priest who tries to engage in a philosophical debate, the low talker who speaks in five different languages, though it’s impossible to hear her in any one of them, and the student actress who feigns a bad attitude badly. Looks like she needs a few more classes.

Everyone has a story. And they want to tell it. 

I will imply that I believe in fate and that I wonder if the accident wasn’t a culmination of bad decisions made by the plaintiff. I will question how we, the audience, with no real evidence, can assign blame. And I will ask how we are supposed to decide how much suffering in the plaintiff’s life was caused by the accident. People suffer every day. The Buddha called it a human condition.

And when they comment on my job, theatrical hair stylist, and ask me how their hair looks, I will say: that’s my favorite joke.

January 9, 2014: 2 p.m.:The hounds of mediocrity guard the entrance as I return from lunch. The afternoon guards are meaner than the morning crew. One makes me take off my belt and then barks with consternation when the metal detector still goes off. I point out the metal buttons on my jeans that sit right above my girl parts.

I threaten to take my pants off. I will thank them plainly for aiding the downward spiral of what was once the country I grew up in. I will hold up a mirror to show them who they really are. And I will tell them that they are better than this.

The tears do not come. I scowl instead.

January 10, 2014: 8:30 a.m.: It’s raining outside, a solid, cold, winter rain. The weather matches my mood.

I stand in metal detection line. I wait my turn to be fondled. I have de-metalized my outfit, but still expect the worst. The hounds of mediocrity are always hungry.

I will neither cry nor scowl. My will is broken. I will shuffle to the jury room and wait to tell my story and reason with the lawyers. I will tell the truth and they will see. Even though I am not wearing a bright pink dress today, I am still not jury material.

I’ll tell them how I witnessed a suicide by train when I moved to New York. How,  because of that, I see that blame is hypothetical. I know from my own experience that eyes don’t always see and minds bend fact. Stories change because we must change them to understand. Truth and fiction are sometimes worlds apart.

Gabe has let me down. On this rainy week at the tip of New York City, jury duty is not a place to lay rap or find a date. Those of us waiting to be interviewed for the jury bide our time sneaking glances at our phones while the frustrated lawyers truncate their sales pitch as they continue digging for jurors.

Oh, Gabe.

January 10, 2014, 12:30 p.m.: The last few of us are cut loose without our moments in the limelight. We never get to say our piece, though I practiced mine for days and under the clouds of sleep.

I run from the building, struggling to zip my coat as I walk. Down the steps I feel something missing.

My scarf.

The hounds ate my scarf.

I keep walking. I don’t look back.

January 10, 2014, 7:45 p.m.: Heavy heart, I confess at work that my mission to test Gabe Fischbarg’s theories on picking up girls at jury duty was a wash.

Sara comforts me with a shrug and smile.

You’re better off getting picked up at a supermarket, she says. Just make sure you have the right things in your cart.

“If you see a cute girl in the supermarket, be careful what you have in your cart… Don’t load up on Ring Dings, beer, and frozen sausages and expect the girl to instantly respeact you. Put some seven-grain bread, skim milk, and vegetables in your cart before you make your move.”

Gabe Fischbarg


1 thought on “Jury Duty

  1. This is not encouraging for potential future jury duty. Then again, I don’t think anything ever will be. The words strung together to create this story are so well put. Happy 20th!

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