My Day On Brooklyn Jury Duty. Tips & Survival Guide

I recently got the dreaded notice that I had been summoned to Brooklyn jury duty. Sadly, I missed the El Chapo jury selection by a few weeks, because I could totally have been bribed for good Mexican drugs.

Doing your civic duty isn’t easy, so here are some survival tips that I wish I had known before arriving.

  1. Your call time is the ungodly hour of 8:30AM. Don’t arrive too early. They didn’t even take juror cards until 9:45 AM. If you run late no one will notice. I promise.
  2. If you don’t have time to eat breakfast, pack or buy one on the way. You’ll be stuck in there till at least 1PM. Also bring a bottle of water. You can take this all inside past security with you as long as you don’t have a glass bottle. There is no water fountain or cooler in the holding rooms.
  3. Everyone automatically sat in the biggest holding room on the second floor. Being the rebel that I am, I ventured into the smaller empty rooms off to the side. One room has cubicles and plugs so you can use your laptop or charge your phone. I was the only one sitting there all morning and it was private & relaxing. I enjoyed my secluded nirvana until around 11:30AM when an annoying lady came in, started talking to herself, dropping Skittles everywhere, then passed out snoring. The juror instructions, intro video and names called get piped into these side rooms, so don’t worry about missing anything.
  4. There are vending machines by the bathrooms. Bring the equal amount of $1 bills that you would to a strip club, so you can buy coffee and snacks to keep you alive.
  5. What was going on upstairs? Is there a jail cell up there or something? I kept hearing random men yelling and pounding from above. I decided the sounds could also be the ghosts of past jurors who died waiting to be called.
  6. Since I had not been called for the voir dire (jury selection process) yet, I was dismissed for lunch at 12:45 PM and told to return at 2PM. Up until that moment I had thought Voir Dire was an appetizer. This is your big opportunity to blow that $40 check you’ll be getting on lunch, but mostly booze. How the hell else are you supposed to survive this awful tedious process? I personally slugged two overpriced Magaritas at Rocco’s down the street, but there are plenty of other good options nearby.
  7. I returned my pristine private cubicle area around 1:55PM to find it almost completely full of people, with a slew of Fast Food wrappers everywhere! There was only one seat left. What the fuck!? This was a significantly unexpected disappointment. I would now have to spend the remaining three hours waiting to be called smelling McChickens and BO. There were also food wrappers strewn all over the seats in the other rooms. Apparently Brooklyn Courts don’t employ day time cleaners.
  8. Though the lunch return time was 2 P.M. no one was back to call more names until 3:40PM! They were clearly onto juror day drinking and wanted us to dry out. Again, if you come back a bit late from lunch it’s doubtful anyone would notice.
  9. Around 4 P.M. they started frantically calling the names of the remaining 70 people on the room. We were then taken into what looked like a classroom, where a court officer took attendance to make sure we had actually come back from lunch. Then he had everyone cram into an elevator to the 19th floor and barked at us to sit in the waiting area.
  10. We were then herded into a court room where the judge and lawyers were seated. The judge made a speech about how important civil service is while everyone who had just sat in a waiting room for 8 hours rolled their eyes at her. She swore us in and then said we all had to come back at 9:30 A.M. The crowd let out a collective groan. It seemed ridiculous that after a full day of waiting, they would make us spend a second one waiting for the selection process.
  • Outside the court room the court officer was giving people the phone number to call if you had a conflict you could not get out of for a second day. Be sure to get this number and the section of court you are in if you need to call out.
  1. Having several real reasons I could not make it the next day, (including a Dr. appt I had waited four months for), I called the provided number the next morning. They didn’t ask for an explanation and just said thank you for calling. I figured my name would be thrown back in the jury duty pool and i’d have to suffer all over again in a few months. Instead, a week later my “jury duty fulfilled” letter arrived in the mail. Thankfully, my nine hour day of waiting around was enough to complete my required service. I’m safe for six years.
  2. Jury duty sucks, everyone has to do it, blah blah blah, but there actually ARE many valid ways to be excused from service. If you have them (independent contractor with no employees, student, medical/mental health issues, etc.) be sure to email the court with proof before your date comes up. Not feeling like it isn’t a valid excuse. Don’t ever ignore a notice and not show up, because there is a high risk of having a bench warrant on your record.

Overall, the Brooklyn jury duty system is extremely dated and seems like it hasn’t changed since 1960. I am most shocked that with our current technology, that they haven’t come up with a faster and more modern way to deal with the selection process. Here’s hoping the system changes to a more efficient process, before I have to report again, but it seems doubtful.

 

 

 

I Wore A Black Dress On My Wedding Day, And I Don’t Regret It.

My wedding day was not the “ best day ever.” It was not as important to me as many of the other things I’ve achieved, and pales in comparison to the things I hope to achieve.

I was never a kid who dreamed of my wedding day, and as an adult never wanted one. I’m not a fan of PDA, so the idea of proclaiming my love in front of people felt like a nightmare. I did however always love the idea of the lifelong commitment of marriage. Unfortunately being married and a wedding go hand in hand. Nine years into the relationship with my partner, we decided to get engaged. The minute we started to share the news, it felt like a category 5 hurricane full of special day bullshit was headed straight toward me.

Within a week, I was swarmed with questions from friends and relatives. “When will you get married!?” “Where do think you’ll have it?” “What will you wear?” People seemed more excited about me getting married than any of the other important accomplishments I had made, which disturbed me. I was already barfing in my anti-bride mouth.

I was resenting the idea of a wedding more and more based on the high level of other peoples excitement. The very thought of being called a “Bride” actually made me sick to my stomach. I had spent my whole life dressing outrageously, so the thought of wearing white and looking like everyone else does on their wedding day especially made me want to run for the hills. I wanted to go to city hall and get the whole thing over with, but my fiancé wanted a celebration.

Another six months went by and we tried to plan the most non-traditional wedding possible. My rules were no flowers, white dress, aisle, photographer, bridesmaids, groomsmen, dancing, DJ, or wedding cake. None of that was very me. When reaching out to book restaurants if anyone replied by telling me about my special day, I instantly put the email in the trash.We ended up planning to do a private ceremony with six of our closest family members, followed by a dinner party for 35. My excitement about it was non existent. To me getting married isn’t an accomplishment or something to be congratulated for. Staying married is.

I finally realized I need to buy a dress as the date swiftly approached. When I went to a local gown store to find something fabulous for the day, (but not white), the shop owner asked about the occasion I was shopping for. I then made the huge mistake of telling her it was for my wedding. She pretty quickly turned from a normal person into a cartoon, with big green protruding dollar signs on her eyes.

Though I told her I was not looking for a white dress, she led me to an off-white, white dresses with black belts, cream and pink dress section. These were clearly the options for women who say they want to be unique, but don’t actually have the balls to stray too far from the beaten path. It’s surprising to me that in our modern era, so few women are willing to step outside of the box with their wedding day attire. I was about to become one of the rare few.

I quickly realized I was about to have to channel Miranda from Sex And The City: “I said no white, no ivory! Nothing that says ‘virgin’! The jig is up!” The shop worker seemed shocked. She looked at me in disbelief and said “So you reallllllly don’t want to wear a even a light color for your wedding??!!?!”

I was almost as shocked as she was that she was shocked.

Was I really the only women to stumble in the door who didn’t want an white/off white/pink/cream wedding dress!? I felt like I was living in the twilight zone. Were there really that few women like me, who don’t want to look like clones of every bride ever?

I eventually found a dark “special occasion” gown, which was a pretty beat up sample, but fit me like a glove. The shop worker told me “You’ll lose a lot of weight before your wedding, so expect to pay to get it taken in.” As someone who had recovered from an eating disorder, this advice was very triggering. I kept wondering why I was expected to lose a ton of weight before my wedding day. Was I not good enough as I was?

The first version of my wedding dress

The woman told me the dress cost $1,200 new, but agreed to sell it to me at $275.00, since I knew how to fix the many missing bugle beads and minor tears. It seemed like a great bargain, but I later found out the same dress sold new for about as much as I had paid.

Though I loved the dress, the idea of losing weight before my wedding kept tormenting me. The idea of planning a party that I didn’t really want was also tormenting me. I eventually zipped that dress in it’s bag, because it started to represent so much negativity to me. That gown had begun to feel like a living, breathing monster of a wedding day that I didn’t want or care about having.

To make a long story short, by the time two years went by we had planned and cancelled SIX different versions of a wedding. The sixth time around, we finally got close enough to a final wedding date to send paper invites. I had convinced myself to suck it up this time. But that didn’t last long. Two weeks later, we cancelled the entire wedding again. It was embarrassing, and not the ideal situation to find yourself in-especially after having hand wax sealed 22 envelopes. Unlike most people who cancel a wedding, I actually didn’t feel sad. I felt a huge sense of relief. I was absolutely done trying to plan a party I didn’t even want to show up at.

Despite our many failed attempts at planning a wedding, we still knew we loved each other & wanted to get married. The only real solution after that mess, was to elope and invite NO ONE. Though my fiancé had been initially against the idea, our two years of wedding planning hell and seeing how miserable it had made me changed his mind.

Four months went by, and I was booked to perform in Hong Kong. My fiancé suggested the idea of flying there to meet me & doing a self-uniting ceremony at my favorite place in the world-The Tian Tan Buddha. Upon flying home that week, we would go to City Hall and make things legal. No party, no people, no fuss. For the first time in awhile, I actually felt excited about getting married.

When our wedding day arrived in Hong Kong, I grabbed a simple black wrap dress out of my suitcase that cost around $30. It was a dress I felt good and comfortable in. I didn’t have to diet to fit into it. I did my own hair and makeup that morning, and we waited in line with the many other tourists to get to the Big Buddha. We documented the day with selfies and videos on our cell phones to share as a surprise video later. Once at the big Buddha, we found a quite spot & had a self-uniting ceremony where we exchanged our hand written vows, poems and rings. Though it was just the two of us, it felt very meaningful.

Later that night for dinner, I wore a slightly fancier black gown that I had designed and made myself, which had over 8,000 hand strung bugle beads. I took pride in wearing black the entire day and being the polar opposite of the traditional bride. No one even suspected that we had been married that day, due to the color I wore. I oddly enjoyed the lack of celebration.

Our Rogue DIY Wedding

We flew back to NYC the next day and did the legal part of our marriage at City Hall about five days later. I wore the same simple black dress that I had in Hong Kong. For this part we actually grabbed a random stranger at city hall to be our witness. The bare minimum legalities took about 25 seconds.

After eleven years together and planning and canceling six weddings, it felt amazing to finally be legally married. That evening when we finally surprised everyone we knew with the news, they were pretty shocked, considering our many failed wedding attempts. Looking back, I wouldn’t have done it any other way, both with eloping and my choice of bridal fashion.

I am forever proud of my choice to wear a black wedding dress. I hope that other women take my lead and stop subscribing to a bridal industry that promotes conformity instead of individuality.

If you are curious about our rogue wedding day-check out the video here.