On Monday I had my first experience with jury duty.
Actually, it was more like my second experience, or first experience deferred. I'd received a summons directing me to show up in the midst of my planned road trip time, with the date to be potentially recused by the judge 2 days after I was due to leave.
I wrote up a plea, saying I wasn't trying to get out of this, since as a writer I craved new experiences, complete with a dated google map route showing where I would be (I was wrong) on my jury duty date & took a copy to that local, so-exclusive hotspot, "The Jury Lounge." (Jurors Only) Would I even be admitted, as I was not yet a juror?
Heart pounding, I entered the sanctum & presented my case to the woman at the desk. "No problem," she said, as I began to present my case. "We'll just reschedule you."
"You don't need this?" I asked, indicating my carefully-crafted letter with all my reasons why I needed to be where I was going to be when I was going to be there & my clever map.
"No," she said.
I was disappointed. "At least look at my map," I said.
She dutifully looked at my map, agreed it was very clever, & rescheduled me for the ninth of July.
Monday. I showed up, as directed, at 8:45 a.m. Who am I kidding -- I was there by 8:30.
I wore layers, brought knee socks in case it was cooler than bare ankles preferred, brought a magazine & a bottle of water & some roasted almonds. I brought along my library books & movies to return, in case I got excused early.
Eventually the jury lounge filled up, every seat. I watched some home makeover shows on HGTV & read a few magazines from the massive pile. The woman in charge -- "just Beverly" -- (which was kind of cool, now that I think of it, in terms her leading us into the service of justice) showed us a video & administered an oath. There were tons of people & not that many Bibles so I held my left hand on my heart (my true Bible) as I raised my right hand & swore to uphold justice.
Then there was more waiting, more HGTV. We were instructed that we couldn't take food, water, books or magazines into the courtrooms, so I piled all of that under my chair. There were 2 trials needing jurors, a criminal case & a civil case. When they called the names of the potential jurors for the criminal case, mine was not among them. (Non-alphabetical, so you didn't know if you were going to be called until the last name was announced.) More waiting. Then the civil case. Name after name & then "Laurel Winter." I gave my verbal affirmation (you'd be amazed how many people forgot to do that, even though she repeated the name until you acknowledged your assignment) & joined the scramble to line up at the door.
She led us to a big elevator -- even so, there were 2 batches of us -- & we went to the 7th floor, where we were seated in the back of a large courtroom with lovely furnishings & bad acoustics & were introduced to the members of the court. The judge -- who looked a lot like a cardiologist friend of mine back in Minnesota -- told us some stuff, including that we were NOT to talk to the lawyers or plaintiff or defendant or indeed anyone but the bailiff & then they called off 12 names, mine not included. The judge told all of us still sitting in the chilly seats at the back (I put my knee socks on, & my long-sleeved shirt) to pay attention to what was said, because we could be called up in the event that some of those jurors were cut. The plaintiff's lawyer then instructed those in the box & questioned them. It was fun to hear how even in the questions & instructions he had begun to try the case. 5 jurors got sent away & 5 new names called. Not mine. A couple more of those were weeded out & then the defense attorney got to have his turn. He spoke up much more clearly than plaintiff's lawyer had, which I'm sure made a good impression. He spoke to every juror, at some length, but didn't get rid of any.
Then it was lunch time. We were told to be back by 5 minutes to 2. I went back to the jury lounge for my books & movies. The jurors who hadn't been called were lined up at the desk getting their "excuses from the court" slips for missing a morning's work. "Do you have to go back?" one of them asked me.
"I get to go back," I said.
Took the stuff back to library & went to the Jackson Underground Cafe, with every step down (for they are indeed underground) thinking "please let it be gazpacho" because I so love it (theirs is cilantro-free, because the proprietress feels the same way I do about cilantro) & it was!
Back well before 2 but then was told we were not going to be in the same courtroom, but rather on the 9th floor. Dilemma, because our nice big elevators only went up to 8. Milled around a little. Saw the lawyers & their charges & remember NOT to ask them where we were supposed to go. Went back down to the jury lounge. Eventually all of us got there, well after 2. Turns out the judge had told the bailiff that the jurors should go to the jury room on the 9th floor since the 7th floor jury room was being used by the grand jury, but he didn't mean for the entire trial to be moved, so he had to go back down to the 7th floor & collect his stuff. Then the lawyers approached the bench & the judge instructed all of us that if the lawyers appeared abrupt in not responding to "hey, do you know where we're supposed to go?" questions that they were just doing what they were supposed to do, which was not to talk to jurors.
One alternate's name was called. Guess who it wasn't. That's right. Me. So I got to go back to the jury lounge & get my magazine & my water & my almonds & find out that my check for $12 will be mailed to me. A good day's work. I considered having just Beverly write me a slip excusing me from working for myself that morning, but I knew I'd get at least a poem (& a really long blog post) out of it, so claiming to have not been working would have been a lie. Wouldn't want to perjure myself.
So, that's my dance. The jury duty shuffle.
235. Imagine being a juror, perhaps on a famous trial. (O.J. anyone? Or a glass of Watergate?) I suggest you bring your knee socks. But no hat. Hats are not allowed. Neither, I imagine, are hoodies.