Greetings from floor 17 of Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago. It's a lovely room with sickly fluorescent lighting and an interior that belongs in a Smithsonian exhibit entitled "American Office DĂ©cor Of The Early 1960s." The only change in this room has seen since the day Kennedy was shot is people's clothing.

As a virgin (potential) juror and a huge fan of Law & Order (I interviewed Kathryn Erbe the other day), I have to admit I'm pretty fascinated by the whole process, though I know it will bear absolutely no resemblance to the show. For one thing, I'm stuck in civil court. Instead of deciding whether a reality-show producer is guilty of negligent homicide for making a cast member face the man who molested her a child, I'll only get some crap like whether a grocery store is responsible for a woman slipping on its floor. Was the "WET FLOOR" sign really clear enough? Did its man-slipping icon sufficiently convey the potential danger?

For government class in high school my junior year, we went to the Harris County courthouse (which sends more criminals to death row than any other county–ah, Texas) to watch our judicial system in action. As students, we were just glad to be out of the classroom and turned loose on downtown Houston on a weekday. I wandered from court to court–family, criminal, civil–with my similarly smart-alecky friends, snickering to ourselves, and undoubtedly annoying court personnel. (Some of our classmates were not only expelled from one courtroom for being disruptive, but also thrown into a holding cell.)

The courtroom of the notorious Ted Poe came closest to what I see now on Law & Order. My friends and I nicknamed him "the Terminator" for is swift, brutal, and usually outspoken delivery of judicial vengeance. There was a guy who was in for like his fifth DWI or something, and Poe reamed him, yelling, "You're a menace to society! You've drawn the wrong judge for this!" The guy who was charged with licking a 7-year-old girl's anus was a dead man walking.

There will be nothing like that here today, though–just a lot of sitting around in a hideous building that looks like Mies Van der Rohe took a big dump in downtown Chicago. The courtrooms, from what I can tell, look pretty similar to this dreary waiting area. There's no chance of sitting in one of Law & Order's camera-friendly courtrooms, with their rich wood, giant windows, and perfect light.

Of course, I knew all of this before I arrived. I've learned my lessons over the years about that kind of thing.

The movie Space Camp? As a graduate of Space Academy Level I, I can assure that was total bullshit. In middle school, movies like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Some Kind Of Wonderful, Better Off Dead, and, er, Gleaming The Cube filled my impressionable head with false images of high school. My experience hewed closer Rushmore (filmed at one of my high school's rivals) or Dead Poets Society, just without the boarding-school part or the charismatic teacher who taught us all to love poetry and seize the day.

College was the same way. My crazy dormmates didn't create some high-tech ice so we could skate and sled in the hallway Ă  la Real Genius. I couldn't have been less interested in joining a fraternity, so there weren't any Animal House-esque shenanigans, either.

Parenthood was on a couple of weeks ago. As a Ron Howard film, it's inherently sappy, but I still crack up every time Tom Hulce introduces his young son: "Everybody, this is my son, Cool." Anyway, Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen are supposed to be like 37 in that film. Of course Steve Martin has always looked older than he is, but no way were he and Steenburgen only seven years older than I am now in that movie. Please, God, they couldn't have been.

I know not to measure my experiences up to such things, but it still happens. Walking here this morning, a part of me hoped some Law & Order-type experience awaited me. No dice.

Holy shit, they're actually calling my group now. Gotta go.

Three minutes later:

So they took us into a room, told us they had some cancellations and released us with a check for $17.20 each.

No wonder Law & Order: Trial By Jury got canceled.