January 30, 2006
52 Miles to Rockford

The radio comes on at 5:20 a.m. this morning and announces "snow and sleet in Rockford." Any other day I wouldn't have cared. But this is no ordinary day, as I am scheduled to appear for jury duty at 9 a.m. in a courthouse in the Western Suburbs or as I like to say, "far, far away."

Every other day I am a public transit commuter. I know the ins and outs of all the routes downtown and take the ease of commuting for granted, even if it means grumping about the foibles of the CTA now and then. After 10 years of this, I realize the extent to which urban living has made me un-American: I dread driving anywhere, especially to the suburbs. And yet that is exactly where I am going.

In preparation I listen to the traffic reports and try to decipher all the baffling jargon therein. It's always hard to tell, but to the best of my knowledge the Kennedy isn't shut down completely, or on fire, or anything that would lead me to regret taking it. So armed with CDs, maps, and a wing and a prayer, off I go.

The outbound drive looks scary at first--look at all those cars on the expressway! But a friendly person in a green Honda lets me in and I want to send him/her a Valentine. We are at a virtual crawl up to the tollbooth, at which point I suddenly remember I have an IPass. I dig it frantically out of the glove compartment and I'm sailing through! I love the IPass! I love the toll road! I love--oh crumbs, it's snowing. At the junction I pass a sign: 52 miles to Rockford.

Arriving after about an hour on the road, I feel deep relief and a slight adrenalin buzz. How do people survive this every day without going insane? I wonder, bowing my head and shuffling into the courthouse against the wind along with a line of other unwilling people.

Jury duty itself is uneventful. We are granted a two-hour lunch, a generous allowance by most standards, except I am stumped for where to go. It is still snowing, and there is not much around, except a giant racetrack, where there is nothing going on at all. There is very little to look at or do, so I walk part-way around the track to the next big intersection. It is not quite the edge of civilization, because there is a Burger King and a McDonald's, but these are not enough to keep me riveted for two hours. I walk back to the jury room and watch a local weatherman announce that the temperature will be "hoovering around 35 degrees." Indeed.

Later that afternoon we are dismissed without event, and I steel myself for the drive home. A nice lady in the courthouse has given me directions back to the highway. There's less traffic, so we can all actually drive the speed limit now, which is exciting.

I am careful to drive only a little faster than that, because I am suddenly an old lady in a 38-year-old body, and because I don't want to get stopped for speeding and have to go back to that courthouse. Apparently no one else worries about this, because all other drivers zip around me. Oh look, there's Ikea! I also notice that no one ever follows the posted speed limit in the IPass toll lanes, because when I slow down, the people behind me hit their horns in apoplectic fits. Oh look, there's O'Hare, and a giant airplane about to land on my car! By the time I reach Lawrence Avenue, normally a festival of slow buses, narrow lanes, and bad driving, I am ridiculously glad to be back in the city.

Making one final wrong-way turn into a one-way street in my neighborhood (where did that come from?), I note that it is still snowing. Back at home I check the weather: it has stopped snowing in Rockford.

More on this endlessly fascinating topic: Chicagoist takes on jury duty.

Posted at January 30, 2006 05:19 PM

Your writing here thrills me. Great story. Where did you eat--BK or McD's?

Posted by: Eve on January 30, 2006 08:13 PM

a) they are, in fact, insane.

b) no worries abt. CHI; avoid MID.

Posted by: mike on January 30, 2006 10:21 PM
Post a comment
Due to the proliferation of comment spam, I've had to close comments on this entry. If you would like to leave a comment, please use one of my recent entries. Thank you and sorry for any inconvenience caused.

Email Address:



Remember info?