Thursday, September 20, 2012

In which I perform my civic duty. (Heh, doody.)

I have warned readers of this blog before that should I ever be left idle, my mind will meander and so, consequently will whatever I write in here. I had jury duty (doody) all last week and the previous Friday. There are few things more idle than jury duty or at least the very beginning stages of it.
I had been talking to my coworkers, friends and family members about their previous experiences with jury duty and what I could expect if I was chosen or what had gotten people out of it. It wasn't so much that I didn't want to serve as a juror but more that I was concerned it would interrupt my plans for Tuesday, September 11 that I had carefully constructed with my sister, as I do nearly every year. However, I honestly believed that I would go in on Friday, they would ask me a bunch of questions and I'd either get chosen and told to report back at another time for a trial to start or I'd get super lucky and be summarily dismissed and set free to roam and perform my other civic duty: spending my money on businesses. The courthouses are located very close to the shopping outlets out here so in all honesty, I just wanted to drive out there and shop and then not have to be summoned for another six years. (Also, who thought of that time span in between being called for duty? Six years seems a bit random.) As it turns out, neither of my well prepared scenarios was the case.

The thing about things like jury duty is that no one explains to you what will happen. My general impression upon first arriving at the courthouse was mass confusion and aggravation. There are lots of arrows pointing everyone to the enormous waiting room and two civil servants at desk that looks suspiciously like a judge's bench and expressions that look suspiciously sullen and bored that are supposed to serve as guidelines. Even after talking to people prior to getting called in, I was still really unsure as to what to expect. So one of the people who queued up behind me started saying "I had BEST not be called back for more than today. I am not missing my business meeting!!" He was adamant. I thought it was weird that he used the term "business meeting" and frankly, it made him sound like he was making it up. "I need to attend a place where men in business suits will sit around a table and point at a pie chart!!" He also said "They can arrest me. Let them try to find me." This was even before we entered the main doors and he really just set the scene for the rest of the day. One very young looking hipster looked positively terrified of what awaited on the other side of the door. He shakily asked me for the time and said quickly "I've never done this before have you?" I don't have any idea why, but it carried the same sort of awkward as the beginning of a one night stand. Not that I'd know anything about that of course.

The other thing I noticed was that no one makes eye contact with you. The two people who were giving out instructions and answering questions at the front of the room kept their heads down for the most part. When I asked one of them "Do you call people individually or in groups?" She didn't even raise her head and said "Groups." Okay, then. I got there around 9:30 in the morning and maybe it was all the uncertainty of the morning but by the time they called my name around 11:30, I was positive my stomach lining was digesting itself, so pressing was my peckishness. We were gathered in a group and led "backstage" by one very, very attractive looking lawyer. Despite the easy on eyes vibe of this, I was mentally preparing to present myself in every unflattering light without overdoing it just so I could be seen as unfit for jury duty or at the very least just so I could get in and out quickly and get to the shoving of food into my mouth. They took us into a small room that belied its size by actually fitting about 30 people inside. Attracto, Esq. left the room only to return with no less than four hundred other lawyers. I instantly became aware that there was a small tiger in my stomach and so did everyone else in the room when it growled in anger. This was going to take forever.

The lawyer for the plaintiff in this medical malpractice suit explained to us that this was a pre-selection selection. The nature of the case was such that there were, and I'm not sure if this is the correct legal term for it so bear with me, an assload of defendants including an entire hospital. Also, as a result of said assload, the trial would potentially take about six to eight weeks. Um, no thank you. So essentially they asked all of the potential jurors if they thought they might have any "hardship" that would keep them from attending such a long trial. They did not specify what would qualify as a hardship so I automatically knew it would be impossible for me to invent one. Still, having resigned myself to having to return for actual jury selection did nothing to either make me less hungry nor less annoyed that nearly 3/4 of the room raised their hands, necessitating us all to sit in silence as each one was pulled out of the room to tell their story. This took an hour. After it was all done, the lawyers returned en masse to tell us to report back the following Tuesday. That happened to utterly bum me out since I had planned on spending the day with my sister.

Given no other option, I returned on Tuesday morning. My sister came out to visit anyway and borrowed my car to go outlet shopping while I sat in a windowless jury room falsely hoping for early release and inwardly sobbing at what a waste of time it all felt. The morning was spent without my name being called until it was lunchtime and I met my sister for some sub par food over which I complained loudly about how I had to go back for more sitting.

Because that is what jury duty is: sitting. If you aren't sitting in a huge windowless room pumped full of recycled air and a grumpy mass of humanity then you are sitting in a tiny courtroom that recalls the phrase "it is so much bigger on tv" and you are listening to your fellow potential jurors being asked seemingly random and out of context questions. I do admit that the my more curious side enjoyed hearing about other people's lives/hobbies/past law suits filed against parents but I could have read a short story as opposed to sitting in a court room for four days. Ah well, it is what it is. It all ended with me not being called at all. There were three of us left in the room and the last girl to be interviewed got selected as the final alternate. I don't have to return there for another six years, much to my utter and very deep relief. Now that I consider it, "Deep Relief" would be an excellent title to a short film about the jury duty selection process. I'll write the script; who will make the film version? Please make sure Salma Hayek is available to play me. If not, Sofia Vergara is a close second.

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