Doing my (jury) duty
Monday, for the first time in my life since I have been eligible, I reported for jury duty. I’ve been excited for this ever since I received my summons a couple of weeks ago, and I know that makes me somewhat odd. Outside of voting I absolutely believe that jury service is the most important thing that an everyday citizen can do to ensure our system of government and justice remains strong. And no, none of what I just wrote is in anyway sarcastic or tongue in cheek. I do not belive that a jury summons is just something to ignore or figure out a way to get out of, except in the most dire of circumstances. And believe you me, if you were accused of a crime (breaking into my best Jack Nicholson here) you want me on that jury. You NEED me on that jury. (Unless you are guilty, because I’m pretty rational and rarely swayed by emotional appeals. In that case, you should fear me.) I’m usually not prone to too many waves of unbridled patriotism, but I do still believe it is the duty of everyone who lives here to play their part – a few days service are the lest we should all be prepared to give. I’m naive that way I guess.
(Totally unrelated aside. While I was waiting on Monday, my friend Paula mentioned on Facebook that she had been stuck on hold for a while listening to Baby It’s Cold Outside. Is it just me, or are the lyrics to that song really creepy? I mean, we’re listening to the beginnings of a possible sexual assault here, right? The guy in that song is about two seconds from slipping a roofie in her drink if she says no one more time. I can’t be the only one who thinks this. Oh, and if you, like Paula, used to associate that song with When Harry Met Sally and now it i ruined, then I apologize. Well, not really, it’s not that good of song or movie anyway. You know what else if creepy? The fact that Hermie the Elf in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer will PULL OUT ALL OF YOUR TEETH while you are passed out should you cross him or his friends.)
Sorry if I ruined Christmas for everyone. Back to the story.
I reported bright and early at the courthouse, found a comfy sport, pulled out my book, my Surface, a bottle of water, and settled in with great anticipation that my number would be called. One thing struck me right away: the courthouse here has a really nice setup for potential jurors. There’s wifi, plenty of space to plug in a laptop or charge a phone, convenient restrooms, and plenty of snacks available. There’s even a TV room and an “internet cafe” (that’s fast becoming such a dated term, isn’t it?). Despite all of that, and a staff that I thought was friendly and bent over backwards to keep everyone informed about what was going on, 90% of the people acted like they were being detained at the county jail and were being subjected to treatment that even Jack Bauer would find too harsh. Man, could we be a bigger group of spoiled brats?
Another thing that struck me was that there were a lot of people here, and the clerks seemed to intimate that there was a good chance that most of us would be needed today based on the potential caseload, and the juror orientation video had barely stopped before they were calling the first panel of 60 potential jurors. I was hopeful of being called, but no such luck. Two additional panels came and went, an still I remained. It was at this point I prepared myself mentally for being there for the long haul, and started to engage in my favorite sport in these situations, people watching.
Outside of airports and Disney, there may be no better place to people watch than a juror waiting room. I pulled out my trusty notebook and began to jot down notes about what I saw as I waited for my name to be called and made a rather sizable dent in GoT Book V. Here’s a few of the people that I saw throughout the day.
- Handfuls of annoyed businessmen/businesswomen, who were clearly being kept from doing important businessman/businesswoman things like “closing deals” and “making contacts.” These people are easily identified by their impatience, array of unnecessary gadgets, frequent cell phone calls and e-mails demanding “status” and constant badgering of court staff about how long they were going to have to be there. To these people I have only this to say. Go **** yourself. And I hope you all got called, were sequestered, and stripped searched by the bailiffs for your rudeness and the way you treated the staff.
- Twitchy guy in desperate need of a cigarette. You’ve seen him before of course, usually on airplanes or in a restaurant. Sorry, twitchy guy. Hope you enjoyed the 3 square foot smoking area they provided you outside.
- Stay at home mom who was clearly thrilled to have a day of peace and quiet with her Sudoku. It was the next best thing to a spa day, and she got $15 for her troubles. I spent a little time talking to her and felt very happy for her, and especially enjoyed the barely disguised glee that she showed when describing how her husband was left home to take care of the kids. I’m pretty sure she was hoping to get called for a week long trial.
- Failed crime novelist guy. He scared me just a bit, and was definitely going to be elected foreman of whatever jury he was called for. You get the feeling he watched CSI and Law and Order for two weeks straight in prep for today.
- Guy trying to hit on women. I salute your ingenuity and resourcefulness. It was a captive audience after all. I saw him later in the day, sitting alone in the corner and reading a six month old Sports Illustrated. No such luck, I guess.
- Retirees – lots of them – who try and strike up conversations with anyone within a 10 foot radius of them, regardless of the effort those people are putting into being left alone. This person ALWAYS sits next to me on an airplane.
- Headphones girl. By your purple Beats by Dre headphones I can tell mainly that you have terrible taste in headphones. I did enjoy it when they had to call you 3 times before you realized that was you, and then you had to spend another 5 minutes gathering up your stuff while the deputy casually brushed his hand over his revolver.
- Hacking cough guy. Enough said.
- Guy who didn’t bring anything to entertain himself with and was acting like a bored seven year old out clothes shopping with his mom.
- Lady who was mad that we aren’t provided lunch and that our stipend wasn’t paid immediately. I should mention that she was wearing approximately $5000 worth of jewelry and clicking furiously on an iphone 5. Happy Christmas to you, ma’am! Hope Santa brings you all the Lululemon you most assuredly knocked homeless children out of the way to ask for this Christmas.
- Sleeping guy. This guy fell asleep within 15 minutes of getting there (late) and was one of the first names called. It only took three people to wake him up when they figure out he was the missing juror they were calling. I’m sure he made a fantastic, attentive juror.
Well, as you can probably guess, I did not get called, and many of the folks above definitely did. A lot of cases apparently got settled or postponed because they had warned us we’d most likely be there all day, but we were released by 2:30 (though I’m pretty sure Sudoku lady stuck around for a few extra hours.) So there is a lesson to be learned here. DO NOT commit or be the victim of a crime, or party to a lawsuit. These folks above are the jury of your peers. Good luck with that! I won’t be eligible again for another year, but considering it took me 25 years to get my first summons, I’m not holding my breath. Finger crossed though.