I got called for jury duty when I was nineteen years old. I was terrified. All I knew about jury duty was what I had learned from watching “Twelve Angry Men” a few years earlier, so I drove downtown on my first morning all ready to play Henry Fonda’s character in real life and save some poor unfortunate soul from a wrongful conviction.
Jury duty is, of course, much less glamorous than that. And, far more intimidating when you’re nineteen and, (amazingly), end up actually sitting on a jury on a real court case.
After my first two days listening to the trial I was pretty tired, and afraid that I would fall asleep and do something horribly embarrassing like snore while a witness was testifying. So the next day I brought a bottle of Coke with me for the caffeine (I don’t drink coffee), which at the time seemed like a great plan.
It was, however, the opposite of a great plan. It was a terrible plan. It was a terribly, horribly, awful plan, because Coke possesses the ability to do something that coffee cannot do. Coke can store up anger and hostility and release it without warning at the most inopportune moments.
I had been in the courthouse for about ten minutes when it exploded on me. And by “exploded” I mean there was Coke everywhere, all over me, all over my chair, my khakhi pants, everything. And, may I remind you, Coke is brown and sticky. And it smells funny when it’s covering your clothes, and basically becoming your new identity.
It took me a few seconds to comprehend what had happened, and in that time an official government person stopped in to the deliberation room to let the jury know that we needed to be in the courtroom in ten minutes.
Ten minutes is not enough time to clean Coke off of one’s entire body, nor is it enough time for Coke to dry into one’s clothes.
To their credit, the real adults on the jury did their best to hide their smiles and be sympathetic, but there was nothing to be done. I was going to have to go into the trial looking like I’d just peed myself. And I did. I sat there, immersed in Coke, and took notes and listened to evidence, and did my juror thing. No one said a word about it the rest of the day, including me. I was too sticky to be able to form coherent sentences.
My fellow jurors spent the rest of the week making jokes about carbonation, and cautioning everyone who opened a beverage to do so over the sink. And though the trial was certainly exciting, I’d be wiling to bet that the verdict isn’t what anybody remembers about that week.
Needless to say, if I ever have jury duty again, I’ll be bringing a change of clothes.