I have been summoned to jury duty twice before, but I always got dismissed over the phone without even having to appear at the court house. This week, I was not so lucky. Here's what I learned.
- You can be late. I completely forgot to call the jury duty number until 8:43 a.m., at which time I found out I was expected at the court house at 8:30 a.m. Yet nobody seemed to mind when I showed up at 9 a.m. (Yes, I did get dressed in under 3 minutes. Luckily, the supposed "dress code" is very loose.)
- You can work on a laptop in the waiting area. I'd always heard that they won't let you do other activities at jury duty, but when I arrived in the waiting room there were desks, power outlets, and even wireless/wired access points. The front desk had a handy sheet with all the instructions for logging on to the court house's network. Unfortunately, I'd brought none of the necessary equipment and was forced to read Under the Tuscan Sun, a book I hate more and more with each passing page.
- You can make friends in the waiting room. When I realized my book was not going to sustain me, I switched to a seat near someone with a newspaper. He also had 3 printed crosswords (Washington Post Wed-Fri). He took pity on me and gave me the Thursday puzzle. Now he's my friendster.
- It's really easy to get dismissed. Of the 75 or so people in our court room, the only people who didn't get dismissed were those 10-15 who expressed interest in serving on a six-week class-action banking trial. I guess one thing they don't tell you about that "jury of your peers" is that your peers are actually insane.
- You should find out your job's jury duty policy before you get to the court house. You'll be asked to state what that policy is, and if, like me, you don't know the policy, the judge will tell you to go call and find out, reminding you (perhaps sensing your desire to just make something up) that you are UNDER OATH.
- There a reason they don't show jury selection on TV. Because, despite all these fascinating facts I unearthed in the process, jury duty is indeed as boring as you've always heard it was.