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    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    Jury Duty

    No sooner do I step foot in Texas but they haul me into a court room for jury duty. Actually, I was summoned months ago while in Vietnam, but obviously I'm not going to fly back to Texas for three hours of civic duty...so I postponed it. I wonder what I could have done had I stayed longer in Vietnam??

    Anyway, I was actually excitied to go to jury duty this morning. My wife and mother thought I was crazy, but they predicted it, because of my fascination for all things legal and political (yet I am not going to law school...).

    Harris county jury duty consists of two parts: dumb & boring, cool & interesting. Unfortunately, all I will tell you about is the dumb and boring side. I showed up at the courthouse downtown this morning at 7am--a good hour early--thanks to waking up at 5:30am and driving on already crowded highways for an hour. From 7am to 8am, I sat in a large room, reading a book on real estate, and watching the various and sundry people enter the room to take a seat like me. Continuously, in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese, a tv told us that we can not serve on a jury if we are criminals, and there are many reasons to exempt. Don't forget to exempt! But excercise your civic duty and waive the exemption....but don't forget to exempt! But exercise your civic duty and waive the exemption....but don't ... (you get the picture).

    I could have exercised my exemption (student) because I am in med school now, but I wanted to get picked. So I sat there, reading, staring at weird people, remarking at how truly multicultural my county is (and how even MORE varied all their backgrounds must be), looking at the old guy's dandruff in front of me, and generally trying not to sleep (since I stayed up last night watching Kiba until 2:00am).

    At 8am, for the next hour, they waited for stragglers and picked up our papers saying who we are, what ethnicity we are, what we do for work, who our favorite baseball player is, what we ate for breakfast, and where we were on the night of Nov. 25, 1976--you know, the standard info that lawyers need to weed out the good jurors and pick the ones biased in their favor.

    Finally, a nice lady with a monotone voice got on the loudspeaker and announced where we would all be headed.

    "Will the forty people with numbers one thousand one to twelve hundred forty nine please go downstairs to my right to the orange waiting area? Court 4 needs twelve jurors. Numbers one-zero-zero-one to one-two-four-nine, please go down the stairs to the right to the orange waiting area."

    However, my grandiose dreams of furthering the democratic ideal and rule of law were shattered when a nice cop in a southern drawl got on the PA and announced:

    "Sorry, y'all. All courts are currently filled with jurors. You must stay here and wait to see if any additional juries are needed. We will turn on the televisions. If y'all don't want ta watch tv, y'all can head outside for a smoke or to the snack room where the tv will be on but muted. If nobody comes in a reasonable amount of time, ya'll are free to leave. By reasonable, I mean 11:15am."

    I looked at the clock; it read 10:00am. "Man, I'm in for the long haul," I thought. At that moment my hopes were dashed. My number was 3795 and they barely got to the 2000s. I would spend my whole morning reading a real estate book in a large cold room behind an old man with dandruff...*sniff*

    At 11:15am, the cop came in again and released us, and it felt like elementary school again, fighting the kids through the hall to recess. Everyone young and old bolted for the doors and the elevators. Remarkably, nobody died. Merging into the long car line trying to leave the parking garage, I inched my way to the ticket-taking-lady-guard-person. I handed her my ticket and my credit card.

    No go. Evidently, even in 2006, someone (namely Harris County) still doesn't use debit or credit cards--only cash or checks. Aren't checks being phased out everywhere else because of processing fees? Am I dreaming of the 1980s? What do I do, m'am? I have no cash or checks. What? You've never met someone from the future? Well, pleased to meet you too.

    So I had to park at the exit (after going through the arm-guard-thingie, and "on my honor" go back into the courthouse, find an atm, get cash, walk back to her stall, pay her, find my car, and leave. At least I felt I did the right thing and paid instead of just driving off. Oh wait, I feel used because they called me to jury duty and then make me pay $5.50 to sit and read a real estate book in a large cold room behind an old man with dandruff....

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