When I got my jury duty summons in the mail, my immediate and almost obligatory reaction was a deep sigh followed by the thought of “why me?”. But then I remembered, I’ve always wanted to serve on a jury, not only as a patriot, but as a devoted admirer of free entertainment and nontraditional theater! Yey!
Little did I know, I was going to be amiss some very debatable drama of my own dealing with my love-life cycle, the constant tumultuous surprises of my day job, and the affairs of show business.
I’ve been struggling for the past week since the “success” of my last performance, trying to conceive and choreograph my next performance coming up this weekend. Once again, I have the egg before the chicken. I have all these thoughts, the stage with which to put it, but no time to rehearse and the impossible task of getting all my girls together at the same time in order to construct the piece. I’m trying to treat the whole experience like an experiment, to see if I can pull something off in a short period of time. I’m trying to be artful about it, but again I am plagued by my perfectionist tendencies.
I had to turn in the information for the program long before I did. Of most import was picking out the music. I went through my iPod list of songs I’ve been dying to choreograph, trying to focus on my initial idea of twins and sisters and siblings since I cast three girls with similar features and really wanted to play off of that. The twin thing faded before too long simply because I wanted to incorporate a lot of partnering (which takes a lot of trial and error in the studio) and work with costumes, so time wouldn’t allow for that. I kept to my siblings theme and was inspired by a visit from a friend last week.
My friend, Lori Kim, I’ve known longer than any other friend. We met in third grade and then again in seventh grade after I moved away and back again, far from one of the first excursions exemplifying my always nomadic life. It was love at first sight, in that tom boy meets effeminate boy kind of way. We were the coolest kids in the weirdest way and always made the most of our see-saw time together. I will never forget the red bandana.
Lori Kim is preceded by three sisters, all of whom I became close with in varying degrees of admiration. The eldest kind of stood apart from the group, but she was very much a big sister in every sense of the word. In between was Lani and Shiz, the Irish Twins, the latter of which was the peacemaker, the other, well, let’s just say she was always the fiery one. Lori Kim and Lani fought/fight a lot and Shiz is always there with the peace pipe. It all makes sense, Shiz being the Libra and Lani and Lori Kim having Leo in their charts.
I pretty much grew up with these three girls, and then as an adult, both Lani and Shiz were roommates of mine on more than one occasion. I’ve always had a pretty even flow as far as the temperament of our feelings towards each other are concerned. We have all seen the best and the worst of each other and I have been inspired by the three prominent, younger sisters for quite sometime.
My relationship with them has sparked some good ideas that I hope to convey in my next piece entitled “Montage of Three Sisters.” I want it to be simple and light, with a heavy but latent undertone of the viciousness of sibling rivalry. In order to exaggerate this, I am having one of the girls play the mature sister, another playing a more lighthearted one and the other playing the more neglected and sad one. I want it to be entertaining and funny-cut to: I just got a text from one of the girls and she states she can’t do the show on Saturday.
…So I just had to re-listen to the music and try to go back to the twin thing, still keeping in mind the sisters, and forward the new information off to the organizer in order to update the program that I hope hasn’t gone into production. I love show business!
As soon as I got to the Municipal Building downtown this morning, I knew I was in for a long, daunting, tedious and entertaining day. I couldn’t help but start my cruising immediately, there was every walk of life imaginable: guys in suits, guys in uniforms, scraggly guys, polished guys, criminals, nerds, doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs. The whole nine. Not twenty seconds into it and I had spotted “the one” (of the nerd variety of course).
I went through security, as nervous as usual, not because I was hoarding anything illegal or suspicious, it is just that I’m always worried about being that guy that has to go through the detection system twenty times until they finally realize what it is that is setting off the alarm, or that they will poke and prod my back with a big hard stick, or that I will be randomly selected for a thorough frisking. And I’m black.
Despite the long line and the chaotic order of it all, I was so happy to be there, people watching, experiencing something. So many faces, so many styles, so many different personalities.
The first line of many reminded me of an average day at the amusement park, the line stretched all the way down the hallway leading into the assembly room and it was the first time of many that I realized that the architecture of the building was specifically designed to cater to waiting for long periods of times and for large groups of people, but not in a good way. It was almost in an extermination camp kind of way. Still, I was happy to be there.
I was right behind an older gentleman who was urged by the woman taking the summons forms, “Sir, if you’re over 70, you’re not required to serve.” He replied, “I’m eighty-two, and I want to serve!”. A pang of delight struck my heart.
After sitting close but not too close to the nerd aforementioned (accidentally on purpose, of course), I sat straight up like a startled cat and watched as throngs of morning-weary denizens lined up near the entrance/exit of the large holding room, with its nondescript corporate seating and busts and paintings of judges that must have done something important in their lives at one point or another.
The woman in charge (don’t know her title) was awesome and had a very tightly run system going. She was so South Philly it was ridiculous, down to the voice, and she still in my mind remains one of the most vivid and vivacious characters of the day. I mean people. She had the short spikey blond hair, the freshly polished gold jewelry, the comfortable looking pumps with the chunky heel and she was nice but stern, as though she had seen more shit than any of us could ever put up with. She looked like she could make a mean lasagna. She acted like a mom, which a lot of us loved, for some reason, her authority brought a sense of comfort to the room no matter how many times she shouted “Turn off your cell phones!”. Sorry Ma.
My first mini anxiety attack came when they called two groups of jurors for criminal trials and then started calling names for civil cases. BOR-ING! I pouted a little bit, hoping my name wasn’t called. It wasn’t. Phew.
We were then asked (read: told) to watch a video regarding the juror questionnaire and sure enough I started giggling to myself once the cheesy eighties almost porn-like music started. It was definitely in need of an update. I learned from the video that judges don’t open their mouths when they speak. I also learned that if I didn’t know how to read, that video would have been quite helpful to me. I immediately wondered how many people had literacy issues in the room and if people were allowed to be dismissed based on that fact. Then a hot boy sat next to me and he was toting “A Brave New World” in his hand and everything became good and right again.
The video was interrupted by the first woman who took our forms initially and she announced that she wanted our attention, but didn’t say why. After an almost too long, anticlimactic pause, I heard (but couldn’t see) an enervated yet excited man come over the microphone. He introduced himself and greeted us with a “Good Morning” and we all responded like any good fourth grade class would, repeating the same unto him. Brotherly Love.
Moments into his speech, I could tell this was going to be a good one and I rubbernecked a little bit to get a glimpse of this fascinating creature. He was a small and stout older gentlemen with glasses half the size of his face and he was wearing his judge’s robe (do they have a name?). Actually, now that I think of it, he may have just been in suit and tie, but I guess I just pictured him in his robe thanks to the atmosphere. He started to go on about how if we were happy to be there that we won’t make good jurors, and immediately I wondered if he was talking about me. He said that he was proud of us and went on to explain that we have a very unique judicial system here in the states and that being put in a position where we are to make a fair judgment on someone is a difficult and important task. It opened my mind a little bit to the real reason I was there and I settled into the desire to be picked all the more enthusiastically. He made jokes about how we don’t get served coffee any more and about being awake so early and we gave him a round of applause when he was through as he took a bow. All I could think was “Pick me, pick me!”
Of course when they finally called my name I was in the delayed group and I knew that somebody was on Black People Time and that must’ve been the cause of it. God, I’m so judgmental, maybe I’m NOT a fit to be a juror.
When my group was finally called (after I took note of several fuzzy and sequined hats in the room) there was more hurry up and wait to be had. We had been offered a 15 minute break and of course, one or two people didn’t understand the concept and took more time than was allotted- B.P.T. As we lined up together I wondered what the jury would look like, which ones of my “peers” would be with me, deliberating over the case, discussing the facts, getting all up in people’s business…I wonder if I would make a friend with someone and have drinks with them after we determined someone’s fate. I wonder if I can be held in contempt of court for posting this on my blog. Hmm.
So we got upstairs to a holding area, and then another and we waited another half an hour as people complained about how they wanted to get back to their lives. I admit, it is a huge inconvenience to lose a day because someone broke the law, and as I looked around I thought to myself, “we all have jobs, we are the working class, we’re not your peers because we don’t commit crimes.” But hey, I didn’t make the judicial system.
When we finally made it into the other other room, the actual courtroom, I was amused by the signs that the judge had ordered someone to make instructing everyone that there is no eating, talking or sleeping in the courtroom. Such order. Everywhere order. More victims of B.P.T. arrived late well after we were sworn in and people shook their heads to themselves over and over again. The judge stated that he was about to apologize for the delay but made a joke that since everyone else was late, it was okay. Ha ha.
The whole thing seemed so orchestrated and awkward and it was starting to suck the excitement out of it. We found out that we were going to be dismissed for lunch not too long after we got down to business. There were some vehement sighs of frustration and disagreement and all of a sudden our fair judge got all TV personality on us and the humor and lightness was back. The long awaited reference to the show “CSI” finally came out, the judge reminding us that it’s not like on TV. As soon as I thought to myself that it was unnecessary to mention that, I looked around the room and realized there may have been a couple of people that needed to hear that. Pick me! Pick me!
Again, we had to hurry up and wait. It felt just like an audition. All these different people vying for the part, but in this case, mostly everyone was hoping that they would be dismissed.
We got a two hour break, courtesy of our fair judge who wanted to make sure we didn’t undergo anymore unnecessary waiting while they questioned the first group of potential jurors. When we got back from lunch, there was much waiting to be had, this time in this makeshift break room-ish place where I guess the deliberation happens. There was a dirty stained carpet and drop tile ceiling with a large table in the center with a moderately stunning view of the city out of a large window to the side of the room. To me, it didn’t seem like the most comfortable place to either ruin or save someone’s life.
By this time, everyone was agonizing about the waiting and hoping they wouldn’t get picked and I laughed to myself a little bit. Some people were taking longer than others, but there was still a steady slowness in general. Everyone had their theories and we started sharing stories of past experiences on jury selection experiences. I sat and looked at OK! Magazine, disgusted by the celebrity worship slash tabloid of it all, wishing I was rich and famous. I forgot for a moment that there is this culture out there that lives off of the lives Hollywood stars, and it is so intriguing and off-putting at the same time. I wondered if stars have to serve on jury duty, and I wondered why I wasn’t a star already. What am I doing with my life? What am I going to be?
It was finally my turn and I sat there nervous, just like a real audition, wanting to give them what they want while trying to be myself. The judge asked some questions and I gave my answers, and then I waited in the hallway until the court clerk came out and told me the news…
I was so disappointed. I wanted to cause a scene and run back into the courtroom exclaiming “Why!? It’s because I’m gay, isn’t it!?” I always have to be different, the token, never a lamb. Never a “peer”. Oh well, I guess I am bigger than all that.
So here I sit, deliberating over so many things. What the fuck am I going to do about this show, what choreography motif will I exploit, all that. Do I want to keep putting myself through this sweet hell of dance or do I want to stick to my writing? How do I become the star I want to be and keep myself from getting distracted by cute boys? Will I ever have a lucky break that will serve as a sponge for my creative juices and allow me to self-sustain for a change?
The good thing is, during all the waiting time granted to me today, I finally went back and re-visited the novel I most recently started. I had given a copy to one of my more literary friends who I could trust would be stringent in editing and confidential about the content. His notes were perfectly fair and he made a lot of silly comments that made me laugh out loud in many a quiet room today. From reading the pages I had time to read, I thought that so much of it is really really good. I am an amazing writer. I don’t know how I forgot or why I doubted myself, but something made me want to put that project away for a while and I can’t wait to jump back in. I think I need to devote more time to it before I totally lose sight of what I want it to be. Or do I dance and write plays to gain accolades? I don’t know the verdict.
Looking around the room, several people were reading. A couple of times I saw eyebrows raise and smiles and muffled laughs and heads shaking from side to side. That’s what I want, I want these people to be engulfed by my words. I think that’s the only decision I need to make.