tee-hee. “duty.”

So, I’m not the person who updates my profile on IMDB.com. What’s interesting to me is that somebody does. Someone put in my birthdate, this website, the name of my husband (getting our anniversary incorrect, but still…) I find it fascinating. I know it’s not my mother, because she has no idea what the words “Television Without Pity” mean in that order. I’ve got no point to this little paragraph other than it struck me as odd.

People seem pretty concerned about me lately. The emails have changed from, “Hey, what’s up? I miss you!” to “I know you’re busy, but I also worry you might be dead.”

I’ll be sitting at my computer and stee will say, “You need to do something to handle all your stress.” Apparently I’ve been sitting around with a stressed look on my face.

It’s not just stress; I’ve been a bit out of step. This year has been a bit of an adjustment for me, for many reasons, and sometimes I’m all still sorting it out in my head. I’m sorry if I haven’t been emailing you back or calling you enough. Know that I’m thinking about you; I’m still juggling this new schedule, the workload, and trying to get it all right.

I lost a necklace. It’s one I’ve been wearing a lot lately, keeping it in my pocket when I wasn’t able to wear it. It became a bit of a lucky charm over the past couple of months. But Saturday morning I couldn’t find it. I was worried it fell out of my pocket the night before. I searched all the pockets of all my jeans, looked in all of my purses, felt around in my car, but it was gone. And it’s just a silly little medallion, but it was another distraction, missing something that had been there.

I’ve had jury duty coming up. I had postponed it back when I was working on the Mencia show, and with the new laws, you can’t postpone again. You also can’t give any kind of excuse where your job gets you out of jury duty. Now, I take my civic responsibilities seriously. I vote. I pay taxes. I give to charity. I am a good civilian. Please let me schedule my jury duty, and I will serve a whole week if you want. I’ll do it gladly. But telling me I’ve got to be downtown first thing in the morning when I’m supposed to be at this job where I’m still considered to be proving myself with every day? Please, Justice System, cut a staff writer a little slack.

I pulled out my summons on Tuesday afternoon to figure out when I’m supposed to call. This is when I saw the date.

I was supposed to be in court on Monday. Past tense. Missed it. Didn’t show. Juror Number Me? Fucked up.

The summons boldly states that failure to appear means a $1500 fine and possible jail time immediately assigned the day you don’t arrive. I picture a judge banging his gavel, shaking his head, saying my name with disgust.

I call stee. “I’ll come visit you in jail,” he says. “I’ll even bring a cake.” Then he frantically whispers into the phone, “But don’t eat the cake because I’m going to put a knife in it and I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”

I call the courthouse. The way this jury duty (tee-hee! “duty”) system works is that you call in the night before to find out if your group number is requested at the courthouse the next morning. I’ve been lucky — my group number wasn’t called on Monday or Tuesday.

“So we’ve been giving you credit,” the operator says to me. “You have two choices. I can reschedule your week of service completely, or you can take your chances and finish out the rest of the week.”

“My chances?”

“Yeah. If they don’t need you tomorrow, Thursday or Friday, then you’ve served your week and you don’t have to do it again for a year.”

Three days versus Five. I tell her I’ll keep serving the week. She gives me a number to call that evening to find out if I’ve got jury duty in the morning.

And you know, of course I did.

I tell my co-workers that I’ve got to be downtown in the morning. Everybody’s got a story about Jury Duty. I get a lot of advice about how not to get picked, but that basically I was screwed. I’d have to show up for court, and I’d have to sit in a room for a while, and hopefully I wouldn’t be asked to serve on a jury for seven working days.

I joke, “I’m just going to walk up to the judge and say, ‘Here are the races I hate, in no particular order.’”

Andy has the best one. “Just say, ‘Hey, Your Honor, if I guess who did it and I’m right — do I get extra drink tickets?’”

Someone suggests I don’t lie, but still try and look like someone who shouldn’t serve on a jury.

I could do that.

“Don’t get picked for trial,” was the only request. “If you can’t get back here by noon, and we have every faith that you will get yourself sent home within three hours, then just don’t have to serve on a trial. We need you here.”

I get home late after the taping and search my closet for inappropriateness. As I’m pawing through skirts, I find my necklace. I kiss it and put it on. The fact that I’m so relieved over finding a necklace shows that I’ve been a bit emotional and raw lately. I’ve got to get a grip.

I get up at six in the morning. I line my eyes in black. I pull my hair high into two punk-girl pigtails. I’m in fishnets, giant Crispin Glover shoes, a plaid kilt kind of thing, and my “America Is Scary” t-shirt. I look like someone who has no business deciding someone else’s fate. I pack a gym bag (so confident I’ll be kicked out that I’ll have time to hit the gym on my way to the 12:15 table read), pack my work stuff, and totter to the car in my enormous shoes.

It takes almost an hour to get downtown. I find the parking garage, which is nowhere near the courthouse. I’m standing outside my car, holding my summons, trying to orient myself. Three other people are doing the same thing. It is quickly determined that two of them are going to completely different buildings. But one is headed where I’m headed. This is how I meet Patrick.

We’re walking toward the building talking about nothing when I suddenly have to tell Patrick that this isn’t what I look like every day. Patrick pulls out the airline ticket he bought that morning. We all have different ways to do this.

You know it’s not a good sign when the waiting room has tables covered in puzzles. There are so many people, and while I look the craziest, I don’t necessarily look the least responsible.

“Pam, there’s a guy in an Oxygen mask. They’re not letting him go home. Why would they let you go home?”

“I have to be at the table read at noon.”

“I hate to disappoint you, but you are going to be sitting at that table right there, at noon. And at two. And four. You’d better call somebody.”

We sit through a two-hour orientation (that includes a lovely description of the museum, located nearby, which also happens to be closed that day), where we try and scheme our way out of jury duty. It does not happen. The woman at the microphone tells us she’s honored to bring a celebrity to the stand. Judge Wapner.

But uh, it’s Judge Wapner’s son, Judge Wapner. Only in LA, my friends.

Two-hour orientation is followed by a half-hour break for breakfast. Seriously. It’s now almost ten and there hasn’t been anybody called into trial. I’ve been up forever, my feet are killing me, I look a fool, and soon we’re going to be on a lunch break. There should be a more efficient way.

Patrick and I walk forever, seemingly uphill both ways, for breakfast. We tell the stories about our backgrounds that everyone always asks. We pick up on our similarities, and ask many questions about our differences. I’m very happy to have met Patrick.

We sit for a couple of hours, plotting our lunch, talking computers, and making fun of the woman sitting behind us, who periodically makes loud cell phone calls where she berates the myriad of people working for her. Patrick’s fluent in German, and helps me answer some of my German fanmail on my computer. We try to figure out how to make sure we get on the same jury. They call a list — neither of us are on it. We figure we’re free for lunch.

They have another list. And this time, I’m on it. Damn.

We’re told we have an hour and a half for lunch. Honestly, this place is like one giant break room. So many breaks. Why are so many of us here? Patrick and I decide to enjoy the last of our time together with a good lunch. We walk to the Mark Taper Forum, find Pinot Grill and look over the menu. This is when we both realize, at the same time, that we are going to have some wine. It’s our civic duty. This is when both of us think, “Not a glass; the bottle.” We didn’t say it at first, I don’t remember which one of us did, but soon the bottle was in our hands. The bartender looks at us and asks, “Jury Duty?”

I nod.

“They’ll still pick you,” he says. “I’ve got people coming here every day, ordering double martinis. Doesn’t work. But it’s still a good idea.”

So there we are, drinking wine and eating salmon, fulfilling our civic duties. And yes, I feel slightly guilty for not being at work, for not eating in the sad-ass cafeteria the building provided. But also? Fuck it. We talk about writing, families, school, moving, Los Angeles. We give each other advice. We talk in that way strangers can do when you know your time together is seemingly finite.

My scalp is sunburned.

We head back to the courthouse. We have to take two different elevators. We say goodbyes.

I clomp over to my courtroom. It is empty. “They dismissed the jury,” someone says.

I walk inside to find a bailiff. “Are you the missing juror?” he asks with a bit of a stern warning. I’m about fifteen minutes late for court. (The bartender gave us a free extra glass before we left!)

“I am. I’m sorry.”

“Go back to the waiting room. We’re not going to use a jury today.”

I head back to the waiting room. Patrick smiles. “I was looking around, trying to find someone else I could talk to, and there’s nobody. Look at them.”

I look around. “You’re right. It’s just me.”

The next couple of hours fly by because of the wine, the conversation, the ridiculousness of it all. We talk about relationships and how lucky we were to run into each other in the parking lot. “I cannot believe how much fun this stupid day was.”

“Seriously, you made all of this so much less horrible.”

He gives me directions to the highway and I head to work. I call stee and tell him about my day.

He snorts. “You went to jury duty and ended up on a date.”

Everyone at work appreciates my jury duty outfit. My feet hurt today and my head’s a little sunburned, but I’m very lucky I wasn’t picked for a trial, that I didn’t get busted for forgetting to call in the past two days, and that I bumped into someone in the morning who made being a good citizen a lot more fun than it’s supposed to be.

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