With my DC Comics “Wonder Woman” tote stocked full of granola bars, pop tarts, Snickers Bars, books, crossword puzzles and a nice comfy sweater, I turned the photo side of the bag towards my body, hiding my secret identity from the public. Given my druthers, I’d much rather have spent the day sleeping in late, but as the Injustice League of America (aka the court system of Los Angeles) had summoned me to appear, I had no choice but to do their bidding (under extreme duress at threats of a $1500 fine, a bench warrant and STILL forced to serve their evil purposes).
Catching the #4 Metro eastbound to downtown at 6:24am, I yawned miserably and prayed for Death to arrive swiftly. But spying the young lady in glasses boarding the bus a few stops further, I recognized the doe-eyed terror of a first time Juror showing her Summons to the Bus Driver. “Don’t worry, I’ll call out when we get to the courthouse” he assured her as she sat cringing fearfully on the front seat. And catching her attention, I held up my paperwork in a sympathetic effort to put her more at ease – a small act of kindness which made her smile as she released her white-knuckle grip on her own tote bag; her secret identity momentarily exposed as Tim Burton’s “Jack Skellington”. (Awesome!)Sleep-riding in a zombie-like state for the next forty minutes, I was startled to hear the driver announce our arrival to the Injustice League; but grateful that Skellington might make the day pass more quickly, we hopped off the bus and compared notes. To her credit, she had confirmed her courthouse address (different than mine), which according to Mr. Police Officer on the street, was actually two city blocks behind me.
Yes friends, little did I know it at the time (as is always the case, and hence the name), but I was about to endure one of my infamous “Little Did She Know…” days.Making room on the bench outside of the Juror Assembly room at 7:45am, I watched in awe as an impeccably dressed African-American gentleman (maybe 85?) shuffled his way towards me as he gently brushed a bit of lint off of his brown velvet suit jacket, sporting a Halloween orange shirt underneath, a pumpkin-colored satin tie and matching satin pocket square. And elegantly raising his immaculately pressed and creased trousers to take a seat, I caught a glimpse of his Dior man-stockings. (Nice touch!)
Bored out of my mind later during the lengthy orientation of how to fill out a government form, and rolling my eyes as the guest-speaking Judge of the day rallied the troops with spirited prattle of all the celebrities he’s had in his Jury Box, I once again prayed for Death to arrive swiftly as Judge Dickwad cheerily recommended we all “grab our autograph books, and keep our eyes open!”But pulling out BITE ME: A Love Story (a hilarious novel by Christopher Moore), I donned my cozy sweater, attached my Juror ID badge and attempted to make the best of a crappy situation by occasionally laughing out loud – much to the chagrin of the throngs of disagreeable people reporting to the window to either claim financial hardship (denied), medical illness (no note from a doctor? Denied), or inability to speak English (do you have a green card? Yes! Denied.)
Yet all the while, the patient elderly man (whom despite the opportunity to be dismissed from serving past the age of 70), remained calmly seated, waiting contentedly to fulfill his lawful duties as a civic-minded citizen.Belly beginning to rumble a half hour before our scheduled lunch break at 12:00 – 1:30 (who knew that sedentary tedium and ennui could burn away a high caloric banana-nut muffin and bottle of apple juice so quickly?), I perked up at the electronic hiss of an Assembly Room announcement. “Hello my friends, and thank you again for your patience. As you know, we are one of the largest courthouses in the LA district, and as such, we are occasionally asked by smaller courts to provide some of our overflow of potential Jurors. This is not our decision, but a specific request from a Judge. I’ll be calling two groups of names; the first group to be transferred to a separate venue just east of our current location. When I call your name, please respond with a loud “here” or “yes””.
Closing my eyes and once again praying for Death to arrive swiftly, I steadied myself hoping that the momentary pause after a couple dozen names over the speakers meant that they had completed their list. But as The Universe just LOVES its wicked sense of humor, I listened to the next twenty wretched souls tossed under the proverbial bus, which happened to include the elderly gentleman (whose name I learned was Solomon!), as well as me.“We have a yellow piece of paper for each of you, detailing driving directions from here to the East Los Angeles County Municipal Court. You are released for lunch at this time, but you MUST report to that facility by no later than 1:30pm. For those of you taking public transportation, we recommend the Gold Line at Union Station, which will drop you off directly at East Civic Center Way which is located 8.16 miles away.”
WTF???In a massive Occupy Assembly Room demonstration, we, the huddled masses, began protesting, as many of us had indeed taken a bus to drag our weary asses down there in the first place, and was there not some sort of air-conditioned shuttle van equipped to haul us to this other fresh new hell hole? “I’m sorry people, but we do not provide such a service. It is up to each individual to make certain that they appear before the court at their scheduled time. However, please know that if you are dismissed from the case over there, you needn’t report back here, as your Jury Duty will be deemed completed.”
Well, fat little comfort THAT was!“Excuse me” I approached the window, as a desperate group of little old ladies moved away in a wasp-like swarm to demand a ride from a hapless young woman who had just pulled out her car keys. “I have no sense of direction” I apologized to the court lady at the desk, pulling out my map of the greater downtown area. “If you could just mark an “X” at where we are now, and an “X” at Union Station, I’d really, really appreciate it!” I smiled earnestly.
“Just make a right on Temple, and a left on Alameda. It’s only a couple of blocks away” she dismissed me with all due governmental lack of empathy, as I scribbled directions on my ever-so-important yellow piece of crap-shit-mind-fuckery document of transfer.Having exited the Federal Building the same way that I had entered, I looked around in bewilderment as to where in the world I might be, what with the early morning bus mishap. And spotting a professionally dressed woman with some sort of legal photo credentials hanging around her neck, I stopped her to ask if I was headed in the correct direction.
“Union Station? Hmm… Well, that’s Temple Street over there…” she pointed, looking at my hand-written notations, “or did you want to take the subway?” she asked.Decidedly NOT wanting to get lost underground in a tunnel, I asked how far away my destination on foot would be.
“It’s only a couple of blocks away” she smiled. “And the good news is, it’s all downhill from here” she added pleasantly.Oh, truer words were never spoken!!!
>>><<<Having peeled of my comfy sweater in the oppressive heat and unusual humidity after walking “a couple of blocks away”, and stuffing it into my Wonder Woman tote, I continued to conceal my new secret identity by stashing my Juror ID in my purse. I’d already walked for about ten minutes, and yet saw no signs for this elusive Union Station; however I’d not taken into account that a downtown Los Angeles city block (which might encompass an enormous Federal building) is ridiculously, IMPROPORTIONATELY LARGER than a casual stroll in my home city of West Hollywood. And spying a lone soul in a suit and tie walking hurriedly with a briefcase on the sidewalk, I asked if I might be anywhere near Union Station.
“Yeah, that’s just a couple of blocks away” he nodded over his shoulder before scuttling off.And standing there alone, completely disoriented, I could feel my anxiety beginning to bubble to the surface.
But what the hell… I’d come this far. After all, I’ve been through worse!And walking another ten minutes, I happened to see a man in a hutch at a parking facility. “Am I even REMOTELY close to Union Station?” I wilted, clutching his arm for support.
“Yes you are!” he laughed, patting my hand. “See that street light? Cross at the intersection, and Union Station will be on your right side. It’s just…”“Let me guess” I chimed in wearily, “a couple of blocks away” we spoke in unison.
With a total of twenty-five minutes of walking mercilessly – and some final advice from a homeless man sifting through trash who took the time to stop listening to his iPod ear buds in order to point me in the right direction (NO JOKE!) – I nearly collapsed at the glorious sight of the historical landmark.Clasping my purse and Wonder Woman tote as a security comfort, I hate to admit that I was suffering from a full-blown, hard-core Panic Attack. I was completely disoriented! And I still had to fulfill my obligations to the Injustice League! Oh, if EVER I doubted my personal selection of a Super Hero identity during therapy with my Life Coach five years ago when I needed to find my inner strength, all doubt was removed in that moment! I had truly become a Wonder Woman; my pea-brain spinning out of control with such questions as “I WONDER if I’m ever going to be able to survive this day. I WONDER what the hell a Gold Line is. I WONDER if I’ll ever find my way home again!!!” (etc. etc. etc…)
And trembling like a junkie fresh off of heroine needles, I stumbled towards the doors, taking note of the cab stand outside, praying that if Death didn’t arrive swiftly, perhaps a taxi could!>>><<<
12:15pm.Whilst I may have no sense of geographical direction, The Universe (which apparently derives more pleasure from Ultimate Power and Manipulation as opposed to the schadenfreude concept of enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others) finally took an ounce of pity on me and my pathetic predicament.
I was shaky. I was sweating. I was feeling terribly scared, alone and tiny in the world. But glancing to my left for no discernible reason whatsoever, I saw an oasis…Was I hallucinating? Perhaps. Was I experiencing a full mental breakdown? Could be. But walking into the air conditioned coolness of the room, I spied what could only have been an imaginary Angel; sent from the Heavens to provide me with some desperately needed wisdom and guidance.
“What can I get ya?” the smiling bartender wanted to know. And fixing me up with a glass of voddy and tonic (I’m sooo not a day drinker, but this was an emergency!); I proceeded to pick his brain as to just what I needed to know in order to accomplish my tasks at least for one day.As it turns out, the Gold Line is actually a train (mostly above ground!) and one of the newest and nicest of the Metro lines! And as the Red Line begins and ends at Union Station, if I bought a five dollar all-day pass I could not only hop on that all the way into Hollywood at Santa Monica Blvd. and Vermont, but the pass would even cover any bus rides home from that point! Oh, this wondering Wander Woman finally had an exit strategy!!!
Arriving on the platform to embark on my first train journey in LA, I approached a kind-looking soul of a (maybe Polish?) gentleman, and “wondered” if he might know just how often the trains ran. “Depends” he sighed, “but not too long in between” he smiled, as he pointed at the approaching transportation. And taking the seat next to him, he asked where I was headed as I once again pulled out my ever-so-important yellow piece of crap-shit-mind-fuckery document. “If you look up there, you’ll see all the stations where it stops” he informed me, pointing out that my departure would be at the seventh on the map. “I have to leave before you, but I wish you good luck!” he smiled – yet another Angel sent to guide me.Eventually arriving at my final destination, I disembarked in complete confusion once again. And walking yet another city block (where the hell was Death?), I eventually happened upon a teenaged Latina/Latino hand-holding duo of Angels who were kind enough to spread their wings and point me back towards the area of where I needed to be (duh, exactly where the train had stopped at a cross street!)
And making it through the security check with TWO WHOLE MINUTES to spare, the elevator doors opened with a “ding” as Solomon and 38 of my fellow jurors (all of whom seemed significantly more calm and less haggard than I was) looked up at me casually as I finished scarfing down a mushy half-melted Snickers Bar.A half hour later of waiting, waiting, waiting, and staring sadly out of my Unjust Cage of Despair like a wounded shelter puppy, my ears perked up once again as the Bailiff exited the courtroom to take roll call and give us each a number to be placed in our clip-on ID pouch. “Perhaps things are finally looking up” I dared to dream, accepting the assigned #25 badge. After all, if they only needed twelve people, perhaps I was on the cusp of the third round! But told to form a single file line in numeric order (all the way to the left in order to leave the corridor open), we stood abandoned for yet another fifteen minutes – the only two signs of life being #23 turning around and whispering “Why do I feel like WE are in a police line-up?” (which made me laugh with a snort!); and the familiar “ding” of the elevator as a beady-eyed, slimy-looking man in a suit strode past us without so much as a glance as he strode officiously into the courtroom.
I believe yet ten more minutes finally elapsed until the Bailiff once again appeared, presumably to escort us inside and begin the dreary preliminary process of voir dire (where both defense and prosecution have the right to ask questions before agreeing to empanel anyone), when out of the blue, she made the following announcement: “Jurors 1 through 40, at this time, the Court would like to thank you for your service. As soon as you return your Juror ID tags, you may consider your service completed and you will receive a document in the mail in a few days. Thank you again on behalf of the Superior Court System of Los Angeles.”“WOO-HOO!!!” I shouted jubilantly, unable to control my fists which were raised high and pumping the air like an Olympic athlete who just won the Gold Medal. “Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!” I slobbered all over the Bailiff as I turned in my badge and raced for the elevator, holding the door for as many of my fellow crime-fighters as could fit in the box. And squeezing in next to me, I made room once again for Solomon who for the first time opened his mouth to speak.
“Where’s the complaint desk?” he wanted to know. “I wanted to SERVE!”“Nowhere near me!” I laughed, punching the first floor button repeatedly.
Oh, I was FREE! Oh, I was off the hook for at least another year! Oh, shit… I was still LOST IN THE ‘HOOD!!! With all of my previous extremely fretful traipsing about prior to finding the courthouse (the exit was different from the security entrance), I’d completely neglected to remember how I’d gotten there from the train station in the first place! And wandering around for a few more blocks somewhere in East LA (anxiety starting to bubble up again) I nearly burst into happy tears at the sight of the Metro sign straight ahead. I was finally on the path to get home!But climbing the ramp to the train station, I stood in utter bewilderment for the gazillionth time. Gold Line? Check. But northbound or southbound??? I thought I was EAST!!!
Seconds away from suffering a psychotic meltdown, I hung my head wearily and prayed once again for Death to arrive swiftly. How much more could The Universe bleed my lily-white ass in one day?But clutching my Wonder Woman tote, I decided that my chances were fifty-fifty on the train. In fact (I stood up resolutely), if The Universe wished to continue to bandy my lily-white ass all over the Great State of California like a cat and mouse game, then BRING IT ON.
“Helluva day, hunh?” a lady with salt and pepper hair commented to me, attempting to negotiate the acceptance of a crinkly dollar bill into the ticket machine. “I still can’t believe that the courts are allowed to reassign us like that” she added petulantly. “If you ask me, THAT’S criminal!” she laughed, finally receiving a printed boarding pass. “Are you headed back to Union Station?”“Theoretically” I sighed, “If I can figure out which train to take…”
“Believe me, I understand” she giggled. “I got on the Gold Line and thought I HAD to be going the wrong way, because I was in a seat that was riding backward! But you eventually get the hang of it. This way.”>>>><<<
With yet one more Angel by my side (aka “Michelle”), we eventually walked into Union Station to wander a bit more until we found the Red Line. And tickets in hand (no one even bothers to check?) we slid into seats together where I discovered that I was actually on my very first subway ride COMPLETELY UNDERGROUND.OMG!!! And EEK!!! (And whatever other expletives came to mind!!!)
Continually checking the map as my earlier Polish gentleman had pointed out, I arose for my detrainment into Hollywood; and shaking Michelle’s hand, I thanked her for her companionship as well as her wonderful sense of humor. “Let’s NEVER do this again!” we laughed as she whole-heartedly agreed!And departing the station from the wrong side (big surprise), I asked a pedestrian if I might be anywhere near Santa Monica Blvd.
“That’s it behind you” she smiled as I turned around in a circle, triumphantly baring my secret identity and tote to the world.Hopping the #4 Metro bus with a small herd of migrant workers (pushy, pushy, pushy!), I plopped down next to a lady clad in hospital-type scrubs and Croc shoes, and thanked God for getting me safely through this day. I was exhausted. I was mentally drained of all thought. And I was absolutely, positively STARVING!
So eying the familiar stop at SMB and La Brea, I did the only thing that seemed appropriate to cap off my adventures.“What can I get ya?” the cheerful lady wearing a Baja Fresh visor wanted to know. And stuffing my face with a plate of black bean and cheese nachos, fingers dripping with sour cream and guacamole (yes, I practically BATHED in hand sanitizer after getting off the bus!), I beamed in delight at all that I’d been able to accomplish. In fact, there were really only a few tasks left which I felt I needed to tackle:
1. Stop for emergency extra bottle of vodka, as there was no way in hell I was going to leave home again for at LEAST four days.
2. Complete the walk home (sooo done with the huddled masses and that SMELL!).
3. Shut, lock and deadbolt the door inside my bat cave whilst peeling off all clothing that had come into contact with said huddled masses and toss directly into laundry basket.
4. Pour the strongest voddy cocktail I could swallow without gagging.
5. CALL MY MOMMY AND DADDY!!!
Reassured that should I ever find myself in such an awful predicament again, my parents would indeed in a HEARTBEAT pay for any and all taxi rides; but also applauded for my skill, bravery and ability to muddle through a difficult situation – several of which would have completely broken my spirit five years ago – I embraced my achievements with all due Universal gratitude.As a button to the closure of my amazing adventure, I felt that perhaps it might be therapeutic to run the events of the day past my friend and Life Coach Ellie Mae (who had actually given me the Wonder Woman tote on my last birthday!). Surely, I’d be admonished for my weakness at resorting to a cocktail at 12:30 in the middle of the afternoon; certainly she would counsel me that had I accepted my mental distress, breathed through it and learned to just embrace the anxiety, I wouldn’t have sunk to such a low level; and without a doubt, she would challenge me to push my boundaries yet one step further on this harrowing day. But listening patiently to my lengthy tale, you could have knocked me over with a feather when she finally spoke the following sage words of advice:
“Oh Penny, I swear to GOD, at ANY given moment during your day, I would have lied down on the sidewalk, called 911 and complained of chest pains!!!” :DStill a little sore from the stress and power-walking but extraordinarily grateful that the ordeal is over, and sending out a huge THANK YOU to every Angel that crossed my path,
~Lily-white-assed Mistress of the Metro, “Wander Woman” Penny