Thursday, December 31, 2009

If It Please the Court...and anyone else...

December 31, 2009

If It Please The Court…

Jury Duty. Doesn’t just seeing those two words in front of you provide a good case of the heebie-jeebies? Along with tax audit, test results, and license renewal. When I received my jury duty notice I felt like an accused defendant, instead of a prospective juror, but I was eager to report for duty…because I had to. The entire process began with my attempt at securing a parking space that didn’t sport spraypainted words like, “County Employee Only” or “Not For You.” At one point I procured what I thought was an extraordinary parking space -- under a tree, lots of room on either side, walking distance to the courthouse. As I utilized my handy automatic doorlock I happened to glance over and notice some writing on the cement block to which I had nicely lined up my front bumper. I am slightly nearsighted so some minor details escape my attention now and again. As I sashayed on over to take a closer look I noticed “jury commissioner” emblazoned on the marker. I moved my car. Immediately. Because I had to.
As I approached the courtroom I was faced with a line longer than the one for tickets to the “Kiss” Farewell Tour (XXIV). Usually, I don’t even wait in line for things I want, let alone jury duty, but I waited…because I had to. As the earth spun on its axis one more entire revolution I stood there. As luck would have it, I was sandwiched between a woman who had stopped by just to let everyone know she wasn’t able to perform her civic duty because she was sick with an extremely contagious case of something and a gentleman who was just darned excited to be there, even though his digestive problems usually kept him from such outings. Then the clock struck anticlimactic as I checked in with a woman who even pronounced my name correctly.
As I settled in for the wait with a new book I applauded myself for my foresight in packing such a wonderful time passer; however, while reading is a good idea in theory, the clerk’s nasty habit of calling out names every ten seconds put a damper on my enjoyment. Then it was time for a twenty-minute break when I scored a rich, frothy latté, the only problem being it took me nineteen minutes to get it. The bailiff took one look at my cup of latté goodness, shook his head “no” and I gulped down the entire contents in seconds, killing twenty thousand screaming tastebuds in the process. Because I had to.
Next, was the incredibly tedious task of watching the jury selection. The mostly washed masses sat attentively as the judge attempted to determine who was best suited for the job. Now the dance really began, commencing with the most painful question and answer sequence I had witnessed since the one that occurred when my father quizzed my first date about his intentions. This segment might have gone quicker, if not for the judge’s contentious question he asked of a woman with a philosophy degree: “Do you feel you can be a fair and impartial juror?” Hello, and break out the bedrolls. Not so simple when broken down and parsed out by a thinker. This was one complex little situation, at least when viewed from her perspective apparently, and we were forced to live that perspective for a good twenty minutes. I was starting to sweat, my jeans felt tight, and the plot of my book was uninspired. Finally, the judge put the woman out of our misery, telling her that it probably would be best if she took a pass on this particular proceeding. She was dismissed. I heard a collective sigh of relief waft through the courtroom and the air began to circulate again.
The next hour was even more excruciating as one juror after another was excused. I fantasized about hitting one of the attorneys in the back of the head with the wadded up gum wrappers I was accumulating. The real estate lady who everybody in town knew and respected was asked to step down. The zealous older man with whom I had shared line time got to stay. The woman who had proudly proclaimed her marriage to the sheriff barely got the chance to put her purse down when she was excused. As the process dragged on, I began to think that 12 jurors really were too many. I remembered that high school staple of a play, “Twelve Angry Men.” How about “Twelve Angry Men” and one very angry, and hostile middle-aged woman? Couldn’t we be just as efficient with another even number, like, eight? Finally, the last seat sat vacant. We all sat stock still, breathing became labored, if not non-existent. One of us would have to fill that seat and it felt as though it was the electric chair, rather than an opportunity for public service.
I heard a name called. Not a female name. Not me. It was a male name. They didn’t object to him, the way he dressed, what he had for breakfast, or his career choice. I stepped out into the sunshine a free woman. Unlike high school basketball, I was happy not to be chosen, and as I made my way out of the courthouse, I expressed my exhilaration by doing the touchdown dance in front of the bailiff. Because I had to.

Link to essay that ran on October 24, 2009

No comments:

Post a Comment