Living in the city, few occasions warrant a trip to the suburbs. In fact, many urban dwellers are oblivious to the fact that Chicago is not an island in itself. Everything is right out their front door, and even Target isn’t that far. Every once in a while, however, one such occasion pops up that requires a Metra trip, a journey that no doubt can take the urban dweller out of his or her comfort zone. One such occasion for me a few months ago was jury duty.
I had never received a jury summons in my years as a registered voter. And when my call of duty arrived in the mail one day, I naturally assumed I’d be spending a day downtown. “Wait, no. That says ‘Rolling Meadows.’ Where the hell is Rolling Meadows?…Anyone?”
Planes, trains and automobiles
Like most other kids who move to the city, my husband (then fiancé) and I downsized our cars, leaving us with one vehicle. I drive probably once a month, but it never fails that when I do need the car, the husband has to work. Which always trumps my need. So I did a little research and learned that it would take planes, trains and automobiles to the suburbs. It would all be part of the adventure, I decided.
Running late on the date of my civic duty, I took a cab to the Metra stop. The cab driver didn’t even know where the Metra picked up, but thankfully, I vaguely knew its whereabouts due to my last-minute research. The minutes on the clock inched closer and closer to my departure time. I knew that if I missed the train, I’d have to wait another hour and I’d be terribly late. I was sweating as I made it to the platform, only to discover the train was running behind. Thankfully.
Once on board, I relaxed in my cushy seat, enjoying a lack of urine and sweat smells that I’ve grown accustomed to on the CTA. I waited to be served champagne, but then I remembered that I really wasn’t traveling first class on a train through France. Damn. That would have been nice.
When the train arrived at my destination, I stepped outside to see a barrel of smoke rolling off the train car behind me. The generator had given out, leaving the train stranded with a pack of angry commuters. I spared myself from hearing the cursing and phone calls to the office; I had a bus to catch in 40 minutes. Yep, a 40-minute wait for a seven-minute bus trip. I politely asked a bus driver who was stopped at a stoplight (I hate it when people do this) and asked if this was the right bus. The right bus, yes, but traveling in the wrong direction. I was told to wait by the man (it was a woman) on the bench across the street. Once I got there, I looked around. No sign. I asked the woman if this was the bus stop. Yes. Apparently, Pace bus stops don’t have signs. How the hell are you supposed to know where to pick up the bus if you’re from out of town?
Having loads of time to kill, I made chitchat with the woman on the bench. She was a young professional who lived and worked in the area. She told me her apartment, where she worked and we even complained about the cost of living and sales tax. She told me it was as expensive, if not more to live, in Arlington Heights. It was nice, but I didn’t get it. I’m a city snob. The bus finally arrived a few minutes shy of 9 am. It also was a vast improvement over CTA buses with clean, soft seats and TV monitors that displayed the local weather.
After making yet another friend on the bus, a dude who actually worked at the courthouse, we arrived. I imagined myself in an English Court white wig declaring, “We the jury have found the defendant…” as I opened the door. The courthouse wasn’t as glamorous as I had imagined. It looked and smelled outdated. After completing a security process that puts the airport’s to shame, I arrived at the jury assembly room. I took my seat, and a 20-year old video came on that explained my role as a juror. And that, my friend, was the high point of being a juror.
The Waiting Game
I waited. And waited. And waited some more. I tried to actually get some work done, feeling guilty that I already had to take a day off at my new job. No internet connection and no cell phone usage allowed. So I waited some more.
At 11:30, the jury supervisor announced that we’d get a two-hour lunch break. There was no restaurant on premises but there was one at the Arlington Park race track across the street. Or you could drive somewhere. The thought of eating lunch with bookies and poor souls gambling their savings away made me feel depressed, so I headed to a McDonald’s that my bus friend told me about a half-mile away. As I finished my meal, the sky looked ominous. I decided to make a break for it before the rain began. Except that it starting pouring moment I stepped out. I grasped my busted umbrella for dear life and kept walking, cradling my brand new laptop like a baby. By the time I reached Arlington Park, where I could have eaten lunch with the bookies, I was soaked. I stopped for a respite. My hair and dress were drenched, and my umbrella was practically useless, thanks to the wind. I finally made it back to the courthouse with time to spare, and I felt self-conscious and uncomfortably wet as I walked back in the room. I was the only one who had been caught in the rain, possibly the only one without a car or common sense.
The next hour and a half flew by. I finally finished, The Great Gatsby, a book any English major like myself should be embarrassed that they hadn’t read. And, finally, we could go home.
As I left the courthouse, the sun was out (go figure), and the temperature was perfect. At least the day wasn’t a waste—I received $17.20 for my troubles. And my adventure to the suburbs wasn’t even a comparable to the trek that a dog-sledding dude I met had made. If he could fly all the way from Alaska for jury duty, I guess I could manage a trip to the suburbs.