The last time I had jury duty was in August 2003. I went to the courthouse in Manhattan and sat in the juror room for two days, but I was never called for a case and was dismissed after two days. After I arrived home, the power went out in my apartment. It was the beginning of the Northeast Blackout. Being summoned for service has eluded me since then. I did once get a summons from the court in Manhattan, but I was about to move to Queens so was ineligible to serve as a juror in New York County.
Starting jury service can provoke anxiety. It's an unfamiliar process since people only get called no more than once every four years. The level of stress and anxiety is probably on par with starting a new job. You're going to a new place. You're unfamiliar with the specifics of traveling to the courtroom. You're not even sure what door you're supposed to use and the security protocols.
My service in Queens was no less unfamiliar than starting a new job. First, I was a few minutes late in arriving at the courtroom. The E train was a breeze and whisked me from Long Island City to Kew Gardens in no time, but I left home too late to make it by 9:00 AM. Second, I couldn't find the door. It turns out that the entrance is on 82nd Ave., not Queens Blvd. Take the exit at the front of the Jamaica-bound train and walk east down Queens Blvd. Make the first left and the juror entrance will be opposite the retired red subway car that now serves as the Queens Tourist Office.
Because I was running late, I missed breakfast. Thankfully, they have vending machines and water coolers, dispensing cold and hot water. Had I known about the water cooler, I would have brought a bottle or mug to enjoy some beverages, although it might have been a bit much to bring an Aeropress and a portable grinder.
Someone told me that the juror waiting rooms have WiFi. Back in 2003, I had to entertain myself by reading the newspaper cover-to-cover and all of Don Delilio's Cosmopolis. But today, I brought my iPad and MacBook Pro because I am that big of a nerd.
The biggest distraction is that there at least eight flat-panel TV sets peppered around the juror room. They use them for the orientation video, but for most of the time, they're tuned to daytime television shows. The sound is turned up, making it difficult to tune them out. So far, I’ve heard Kelly Ripa and NYU Commencement speaker Michael Strahan do their morning happy-talk routine, Rachael Ray rhapsodize about hot dogs, in time for the Fourth, and about homeless dogs in need of a home. I'm bringing earplugs the next time I come.
And speaking of Independence Day, that's tomorrow. Although the court officers have repeated that we have to be here every weekday until the conclusion of our service, we should be off tomorrow. Right? I already planned a bike ride for tomorrow.