Skip to main content

Things I learned on jury duty

Fellow citizens, this week I did something we all dread and complain about: I served in the jury pool in my county's Superior Court. I did not get selected to a jury, but it was touch-and-go close for a while. The experience was not excruciating -- in fact, it was fairly interesting to be inside the justice system -- but I tell you what, I don't really want to do it too often.

I learned a some important things, however, from my few hours hanging around in The Pool. Take notes now because you won't be able to look at this on your smartphone when you're called to serve...nor will you be able to text or call or e-mail me. For a whole day. Because cell phones are not allowed. (I know, right? That got your're freaking out already.)

If I'd only worn this outfit,
I know I'd have been picked.
(1) The #1 most critical aspect of jury duty is parking. No joke. When you receive the summons, you'll notice the mention of parking and paying for parking at least twice on each side of the paper. Then when you call for instructions on the night before your service, you will hear at least four times that you are responsible for paying for parking AND you will hear at least twice that you should park under the big white sign that's spelled P-A-R-K. You think I'm kidding, but nope: They spell it out for you. Twice. P-A-R-K. It reminded me of Tom Cullen, my favorite character in The Stand: Yep, P-A-R-K, that spells jury!

    (Also, I got lost in the parking lot for 10 minutes after we were dismissed. I'm not sure if it's because (a) I was having some sort of low-blood sugar episode that made me extra dumb, (b) I was really so excited to be out of there that I didn't pay attention to where I got off the elevator, or (c) parking is really the most critical aspect of jury duty, and I did not take it seriously enough.)

(2) There's a smart ass (or two) in every crowd. When the court employee is giving instructions at the front of a room of 250 people, and she asks, "Does anyone have any other questions?" then you yell "Was that an interception or a touchdown in last night's game?" we are not amused. (Also, without fail someone asks a question about parking. See point 1 above.)

(3) Daytime television sucks. As do vending machines (see point 6 below). But the whole room rejoices when some over-enthusiastic ding-dong with a mullet and a too-tight t-shirt wins a matching set of dirt bikes on "The Price Is Right."

(4) There will never be a TV show centered on jury selection. The process is not riveting. In fact, it's tedious and boring and you'd better bring a book to read, even if you're called into a trial room for the weeding-out process. There is nothing but sitting and waiting, standing in line, shuffling from one place to a the next, then sitting and waiting some more. (However, as I write this, I'm thinking about the potential for a sitcom called "The Pool" that centers on the jury room. Oh, yeah, it's coming to me now!)

(5) Prepare for an emotional roller coaster...before you even get selected to a trial. You'll run the gamut of feelings on whether or not you want to serve on a jury: anxiety, patriotism, insecurity, annoyance, self-righteousness, gratitude that you're on the jury side and not on the defendant side of the room. We all believe our regular daytime routines are way more important than this jury stuff...until we realize that someone else's rights may at any minute be sitting in our hands, that many lives -- not just the defendant, but his family, friends, neighbors -- will be affected by the decisions that we make in that room. That's heavy. Some thoughts that went through my head, also were verbalized by many of those around me, while sitting in the courtroom awaiting the "random selection" of jurors' names: Oh, I hope I don't get picked, and I can't possibly miss another day of work tomorrow...please don't pick me!  Jeez, this is kind interesting...pick me, come on!. Oh man, I'm so bored and hungry...and why are there no clocks in here?! Please just let me go home! Come on, pick me, man...I really want to hear this case! Noooo, don't pick my name as an alternate, oh my God, please no, I want to get out of here.

(6) Bring snacks. Do not be fooled by the line on the summons that states "no food or drink is permitted in the courtrooms." You may -- and better -- bring something to nosh on and tuck it in your pocket or purse. There are crappy vending machines that may or may not give you a snack when you put your $1.50 in there. There are not many breaks, and even on a break, there's nowhere nearby to go to get food. And lunch happens whenever there's a break in the jury selection process for whatever trial is underway; see point 4 above. By the time my particular trial's jury was selected, it was well after 1:30. I sat on a wooden bench surrounded by a symphony of loudly growling bellies, and I really worried at one point that the man next to me would start gnawing on my arm. And man, oh man, when we got back to the jury room, people were grouchy!

(7) Excuses are like buttholes; everybody's got them. And it's unlikely that your excuse for not being able to report to jury duty will actually get you out of going to jury duty because they've probably heard them all. (Believe me, over the years I have tried many, including childcare, work responsibilities, illness, paid vacation luck.) So you should just go. Really. It's important, and you'll be proud of yourself after. And you may learn some stuff. Or at least you'll get to watch "The Price Is Right" with a whole bunch of people you'd never interact with otherwise and will probably never see again. (Also, Drew Carey looks way different than I remember him. He's almost handsome these days. But let's keep that between us, mm-kay?)


Popular posts from this blog

Grace happens

Today Honey's roommate in room 364 at Maine Medical Center was discharged. Some other day I'll tell you about why Honey is in the hospital again, but this story is about the roommate because it's way more interesting. Let's call him Elton, because all I really know about him is he plays guitar in an Elton John tribute band and he's originally from the very northern part of England, bordering Scotland. (Or as Honey described it, "that place in England where the Roman Empire decided, nope, those Celts are crazy, and put up a wall.")

Elton was in room 364 before Honey arrived, and what struck me immediately, besides his delightful accent and soothing Liam-Neeson-esque voice, was his gentle, good-natured manner. He was going through heck from a botched surgery and compartment syndrome - pain and gore and fear of losing the use of his dominant hand - yet he spoke kindly and softly to every person who came into his room. Every time a nurse walked in, Elton gree…

Math lessons

I was really great at school as a kid...but I'm really lousy at school as a parent. And I was reminded once again of this while sitting at my son's conference yesterday.

Seventh grade has been hard on all of us. Beyond the obvious physical changes -- Happy has grown at least 5" since this summer and now looks me in the eye (yeah, remember I'm super tall!), his voice is weird, he can't get out of his own way -- we're all trying to navigate his ever-changing need for independence. His teachers want him to take more responsibility for his learning, which in theory sounds like a great plan for all kids at this age; they have to not only learn how to learn but also learn how to advocate for their learning.

In reality, though, when you're the world's most laid-back 12-almost-13-year-old who really only wants to listen to music, play drums, video games, and action figures, taking responsibility and advocating for your learning is not highest priority. In fact…

Happy curls?

I dreaded the passing of the peace each Sunday when I was a little girl. Every week the old church ladies would comment about my hair...
    "Shirley Temple curls!" they cooed; I didn't know who Shirley Temple was.
    "So soft!" they petted; I didn't want their wrinkly, gnarled fingers on my head.
    "I pay a lot of money to have hair like yours!" they exclaimed; I couldn't figure out why anyone would pay money for frizzy, fluffy, brillo-pad hair.

I hated my curls. I felt embarrassed by my hair -- it was short, kinky, cut badly -- quite different from the long straight hair my friends all wore at the time in my life when I just wanted to fit in. Oh, how I wanted a ponytail! Or a braid my hair on a Sunday morning with ribbons hanging down, that was a dream.

Today during the passing of the peace, I found myself next to one of the older ladies in our church. Every week I marvel at her elegance, the way the dresses, the slow and grace…