For the first time in my life, I fulfilled my civic duty acting as a standby juror.

At the end of last week, I drove to the suburbs to report for jury duty at the Cook County court. Unexpectedly, the day turned out to be interesting and a welcome break from my normal routine. Lately, I’ve been so busy with work and my crazy schedule. The jolt out of my usual environment gave me some space to take a good look at the world around me.

The things I learned from my day of jury duty:

1. The county court website warned that “jurors may not bring cameras, walkmans or radios.” Smart phones and mp3 players seem to be readily permitted. I wonder if their rule will be updated when their nomenclature is.

2. Vending machine coffee is not trashy-good like Little Debbie treats. It’s just not good at all. Though watching the cup drop down and hearing the machine whir and clunk as it fills your cup is somewhat satisfying, the drink it produces is not.

3. A jury duty waiting room as a great place to catch up on 2 year old gossip via 2010 US Weekly issues.

4. There IS still a payphone left in the world. It’s located in the jury duty snack room.

5. Daytime tv is bad. Really bad.

6. The provided quiet rooms at jury duty might be the best thing that ever happened to your work productivity, especially if you need to get some writing done.

7. Vending machine candy bars cost $.90 these days. And, I have been so spoiled by my great fortune to work with Vosges Haut-Chocolat for many years that lesser bars no longer tastes like chocolate to me.

7. The county court attorneys do not look like the lawyers in the movies.

8. Even brides getting married at the court desire a white dress and a bouquet.

9. The $17.20 I was paid for the day more than covered the cost of my lunch, which thanks to Rick Bayless, was one of the best sandwiches I had ever eaten in my life. (pictured above: Cochinita Pibil Torta from Frontera Fresco. Roasted pulled pork with garlic-achiote, black beans, pickled red onions, served with haberno hot sauce.)