What Happens When You Serve as an Alternate Juror
1. You finally come to terms with the fact that you’re not a good liar. You were an okay enough liar to get off the three-week-long medical malpractice suit, but you can’t figure out a good excuse to get off a civil case involving a 12-year-old being hit by a car (he’s fine, everyone) while crossing in the middle of the street.
2. You start having a week of bad luck. It begins when jury selection takes two days to complete, and continues when you are chosen last as an alternate, have to make an emergency call to a doctor to get your birth control refilled, and lose your wallet in a cab after the NYC ‘Pinup.
3. In an act of desperation to find something besides McDonald’s to eat during the court lunch break, you trust ordering a fried flounder sandwich from a deli three blocks from the courthouse. It is surprisingly incredible.
4. You eat the sandwich next to an 80-year-old man who is wearing a fedora and eating an entire pound cake with his bare hands.
5. You entertain the idea of marrying this man.
6. You become very familiar with the subway system, and realize that for all the bitching people do about delays and fare hikes, it is surprisingly easy to get to Jamaica, Queens.
7. You realize you have more sympathy for old men than you do ineloquent teenage boys.
8. You become very opinionated about the inefficiency of the New York justice system, which stretches a three-witness civil case over an entire week. This involves the judge telling you to show up at 9:30 and not starting the trial until 11 a.m., coming back from lunch at 2 p.m. and not starting the trial again until 3, and budget cuts making the courthouse close at 4.
9. You want to scream out that you used to live down the street from where the accident happened, so clearly you are the most qualified when it comes to judging who was being negligent.
10. You want to scream at the plaintiff’s lawyer for not understanding how the traffic works at the scene of the accident (or maybe he’s just trying to confuse the jury, but you obviously know what’s up).
11. You resist the urge to tell all the other jurors about the plaintiff’s lawyer’s mistake, as the judge has forbidden you from talking about the trial.
12. You realize just how opinionated you are. As an alternate you are forced to sit in on the entire trial, but when it comes time for deliberation you are whisked away to the courthouse library to read while everyone else gets to actually decide the fate of the defendant. You feel you’ll throw an actual fit if they come to a verdict you don’t agree with.
13. You start feeling powerless. You are burdened with the information of this trial and can’t do anything with it. You start wishing for one of the other jurors to fall ill.
14. You start judging the other jurors. One of them keeps farting during the trial. Another mumbles so much you can never hear what she’s saying. You want to tell someone that clearly these people aren’t fit to determine the fate of the defendant.
15. You wonder if one of the other lawyers you see around would bring on an ageism suit for you, because you’re positive the only reason you’re an alternate is because you’re the youngest one there. Okay, you know it’s because you were interviewed last, but maybe they set it up that way because they’re all ageist.
16. You try to flirt with the lawyers, just to see if you can.
17. You can’t.
18. You run out of reading material in the courthouse library, finishing three comic books, a romance novel, a copy of Bon Appetit and a book about Boss Tweed, so you start flipping through law books.
19. You hope the court officer will notice what you’re doing, and comment on how intelligent you seem, and then tell you that you should be in there instead of that farting woman.
20. You notice your court officer could easily be played by Steve Buscemi.
21. You are whisked into the courtroom when the rest of the jury announces their verdict. They give one you agree with, but no one looks to you for approval while you sit in the back of the courtroom. You take this personally.
22. The judge thanks you for your service, and you nearly scream “WHAT SERVICE?! YOU JUST HAD ME SIT IN A LIBRARY FOR HOURS WHEN I COULD HAVE BEEN MAKING IMPORTANT DECISIONS!”
23. You wonder what it’s like to be held in contempt of court.
24. As you’re leaving the courthouse for the last time, a guy calls you and says he found your wallet in a cab. Things start looking up.
Jaya Saxena can’t be the only person playing the Law & Order BUNG-BUNG noise in her head constantly during jury duty, right?
Photo by Nancy Hochmuth, via Shutterstock