My first jury-duty postponement wasn’t hard—didn’t take documentation, just a phone call. The second proved more involved, but after screenshotting evidence of a booked flight (refunded when I canceled, 30 seconds later), I was set. Yes, I considered attempting the postponement hat trick when I received my third summons, for last Tuesday, but thought better of it.

Maybe it was my conscience telling me the right thing to do was serve. Maybe it was a deep sense of patriotism coaxing me to fulfill my civic duty. Or, just maybe, I wasn’t confident enough in my Photoshop skills to forge a medical excusal on Dr. Lewis’s letterhead.

After emerging from the Canal Street subway station, I saw the first of many reporters speaking into a camera lodged on a tripod. “No movement yet at Trump Towers,” she said as I walked by, “but in a matter of hours, the former president will make his way here, to Centre Street, where he’ll be fingerprinted and booked for his arraignment, a process in many ways similar to any ordinary defendant, though this is anything but ordinary.” My summons happened to be on the same day, and in the same place, that 34 felony charges against Donald Trump were going to be unveiled.

The masses of reporters, surrounded by gaffers, lighting equipment, and cameras, were rivaled only by the throngs of protesters huddling in their respective groups—Blacks for Trump and Women for Trump, among others I couldn’t make out as I made my way through the heavily barricaded entrance.

“Elevators are down the hall to the left,” said the armed officer after I cleared the metal-detector area. Two more of the estimated 35,000 on standby motioned me toward the elevator bank.

Room 1537 at 100 Centre Street is where happiness goes to hang itself. And I was ready, rope in hand, at nine A.M.

Double Duty

“Quiet down, everyone. And take a seat. My name is Rhonda, and I’ll be guiding you through the day.” She spoke with authority and a comforting air of annoyance, making it clear she was in the business of doing her spiel and leaving at five.

A woman in scrubs approached Rhonda but was stopped mid-stride. “Seats! I need everyone in their seats … now,” said Rhonda. “The time for questions about excusals and whatnot will come. Right now, I need y’all in your seats. I need your phones put away.” To Rhonda’s right hung a sign that read: ABSOLUTELY NO USE OF CELL PHONES PERMITTED. Rhonda then took a step to her left, revealing another sign that read: FREE Wi-Fi Access. Please enjoy!!!

“The only two items in your hands should be your juror summons and the questionnaire my colleague will be handing out momentarily. Please be sure to fill out all the bubbles on the questionnaire like on the S.A.T. We need them filled out real dark. No chicken scratches. This isn’t rocket-scientist stuff: Name, birth date, gender, and county where you live. While you fill them out, a couple updates given the unusual circumstances today.”

After she finished distributing the juror questionnaires, Rhonda’s colleague cracked open one of the 15th-floor windows. A gust of fresh spring air swept through the room, as did the intensifying clamor of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chants, punctuated by incoherent shouting through megaphones. The middle-aged woman in the seat next to me lowered her mask and whispered in my direction, “God help security today. We’ve seen this before. I’m just sayin’.”

Rhonda began again: “You will not, I repeat, not be permitted to leave the building today for obvious reasons. And no loitering in the hallways during breaks. Y’all will be allowed to venture downstairs to the little store in the lobby for lunch, where they got concessions.”

Room 1537 at 100 Centre Street is where happiness goes to hang itself. And I was ready, rope in hand, at nine A.M.

I remember passing the “little store” on my way in. It was an unmarked, unmanned alcove with two semi-stocked vending machines. “I ain’t been there before,” Rhonda continued, “but I know they got an assortment of beverages and nourishment.”

“Now everyone,” Rhonda said, clocking an older guy reading a newspaper. “Sir, eyes up. Please put the periodical down. The day’s gonna be extra slow as is with the hullabaloo, so please give me your attention so we can keep moving along. I need everyone to take their summons card like so, and remove parts C and D, C and D only, along the perforated edge. That’s all you’ll be needing today. Feel free to keep parts A and B as a souvenir.”

Rhonda’s colleague began collecting our parts C and D while Rhonda prepped the little lottery wheel for the juror-selection process. “Now’s time for a 15-minute video that’ll familiarize yourself with what to expect in the coming hours and days.” My takeaways from the video: civil and criminal trials are different; it is absolutely prohibited to share any information on a given trial over Myspace; jail time might be more tolerable than jury duty.

Warden Rhonda left the room after informing us we had a 10-minute break and were only permitted to use the bathrooms. The lady next to me removed her mask again, this time to sneeze and inform the guy seated behind her, “Well, I read this morning, he might be coming to this floor.”

“God help security today. We’ve seen this before. I’m just sayin’.”

I retreated to the men’s room to check my phone and wash the sneeze off me. “Let’s go, Brandon! Let’s fuckin’ go!” yelled someone on the street. I peered out the half-open bathroom window, and amid the growing tsunami of reporters, cameras, and protesters on street level, I made out a black banner with white type: Trump Always Lies. A good reminder to revisit the list of talking points I’d written in my Notes app in preparation for the selection process: “Sean Hannity is my godfather; Sean Hannity is my uncle; Sean Hannity is my cousin.”

I returned to my seat and checked the clock. Not even an hour had passed since jury duty began. The woman next to me, her mask now around her neck, was in a spirited whisper conversation—I caught the words “real asshole” and “Trump” and then “Trump is a real asshole.” The man behind me, his head propped on a stuffed backpack, began to snore. I contemplated whether I’d go with a Snickers and Doritos for lunch or a Milky Way and Fritos.

Rhonda re-entered the room and took her position behind the partition. “Ladies and gentlemen … your jury duty has come to an end,” she announced. “The powers that be have decided that for your safety and theirs, we will be adjourning all jurors today, immediately. On your way out, please pick up one of these papers showing proof of service. See you all in four years.”

The woman next to me packed her belongings. Then she snapped her mask back on her smiling face and declared to everyone within earshot: “Never thought I’d say this, but thank you, Donald Trump.”

Bill Keenan is the Chief Operating Officer for AIR MAIL and the author of two books, Odd Man Rush: A Harvard Kid’s Hockey Odyssey from Central Park to Somewhere in Sweden—With Stops Along the Way and Discussion Materials: Tales of a Rookie Wall Street Investment Banker