The first letter informing me that I'd been selected for jury duty came in the summer of 2009. My two-week period of service was set for September. The fact that my wife and I had just gotten married and would soon be closing on a house was the excuse that got my jury duty bumped back to January. Let's also say that I was happy to postpone it because I didn't want to miss my favorite band, the Arctic Monkeys, in Columbus, Ohio. I tried to get out of it altogether, but those attempts — phone calls, letters, listing "investigative reporter" as my profession —were unsuccessful. Jury duty is like an STD that's impossible to get rid of.
On Jan. 4, 2010, a couple hundred potential jurors and I showed up at downtown's Jefferson County Judicial Center. Each day, you bring a little piece of paper that came in the mail. An employee scans it to make sure you're not skipping out. This also gets you your $12 a day, which in my case came out to about $4 an hour. (Quick note: After shelling out money for parking and lunch, it's feasible that you might end up actually paying money out of your own pocket to be a juror.) We sat around for a while, then a woman who delivered daily instructions came to a podium in the front of the windowless room. "Happy New Year," she said into a microphone. "Grooooooooooan," we collectively replied.
A couple of TVs were in the room, but all they had on were chef Emeril Laggase or HGTV. (They can't show news channels that could potentially air information about an upcoming trial.) With what I found to be unreliable internet access, I spent my time reading instead of catching up on my job as a magazine writer. One day I brought in a "GQ" with a topless Rihanna on its cover. "That's offensive," a lady beside me said. "Sorry," I replied. Then we continued sitting next to each other in silence for two more hours. Awkward.
Here's the thing: I was actually kind of excited to be a juror on a high-profile drug cartel case, or something of the sort. Over the entire two-week period, however, my name never once — not once! — got called. Each afternoon, the woman I told you about would come to the mic and read off names. Not all of these people wound up on a trial, but at least they got to see another step in the vetting process. Not me. I just got to sit there and listen to Emeril shout, "BAM!" I'd leave every day at about noon — others had to return after lunch — and showed up the following morning by 9. I started to think something was wrong with me when my name never left the woman's lips.
On my last day, I asked the lady what was up. "You're sure you checked in?" she asked.
"Every day," I said. She checked the computer.
"Yep, you sure did," she said.
"So even though I never got called, I'll still get paid?" I asked.
"That's right," she said.
A check for about $90 came a month later. Not a huge chunk of change but the easiest money I've ever made.