July 1, 2007

I've tried to live in the moment, but it hasn't worked out. Too much pressure. I prefer to live for tomorrow. Or even better, the day after tomorrow.

It's in my nature to put things off, and few things in life are as enjoyable as the relief that comes from having got out of something I don't want to do. The euphoria people experience from completing a marathon, I get from cancelling a dental appointment.

But getting out of jury service is like death: unavoidable. I received the summons - I was expected to serve on one trial. It seemed as if I'd just completed jury service and already I was up for it again?

"Some people get called more often then others," my friend Michael said. Maybe I'm in the system as someone who thoroughly understands the concept of reasonable doubt. Next to my name it says: lives it daily.

A week later at 8.45am I showed up at the court in Lower Manhattan. An announcement was made that anyone who could not be available for the next two weeks should go to room 139. I and half the room got up. Waiting in line wondering if I'd be allowed to postpone, a woman tried to make small talk, but I wasn't interested. I didn't need to hear about how she'd booked her 25th-anniversary cruise and the tickets were non-refundable. I had my own problems: I had to go to Montana.

My name was called by Joyce, a woman with her own cubicle. "Why can't you serve?" she said. "Because," I paused, "I have to go to Montana." She raised her eyebrows. "What date do you want to come back?" she asked. I stared in disbelief. Nobody gets out of jury service because they have to go to Montana. She was chewing her gum, waiting for my answer. I thought she might like to be part of the decision.

Or even better, make it for me. Because the only thing I enjoy more than getting out of something I don't want to do is having someone make the decisions I don't want to make.

"What date would you suggest?" I asked. She shrugged. "Where will you be in September?" Now I was having a crisis. I had no idea where I'd be. This line of questioning was making me anxious. "How about October?" she offered. I thought of saying I had to be in Laos, but I didn't know that for sure.

Finally I said: "I can't get back to you, can I?" I knew then I had a serious problem: I was busy postponing a decision about when to postpone. So I took action. "November!" I said defiantly. "Put me down for November!" She continued chewing her gum. "Fine."

What was going on? That was too easy. I wondered if I'd performed my duty so well the last time I did service, there was a note to accommodate me as an act of gratitude.

During that trial I had turned the deliberations into a scene from 12 Angry Men. Or, in my case, "9 Angry Men, 2 Irritated Women and Me".

I decided it was probably best to leave before she changed her mind.

At 9.45am I found myself with the whole day ahead of me. I'd beaten the system; got a reprieve. But as soon as I got outside and descended the courthouse steps, the euphoria turned to regret. I should have got it over with. Finally, I have a definitive plan for the future. And what is it? Jury duty.