Monday, September 13, 2010

Jury Duty

Receiving my first jury summons in many years produced excitement and trepidation. On Day One, one-and-a-half hours of orientation intensifies both parts of this sense of adventure. On one hand, what if I have to answer an embarrassing personal question in the courtroom? What if a lawyer's line of questioning railroads me into giving an impression I don't believe to be true? What if I forget the instructions? On the other hand, what if I get to contribute to a fair verdict for someone? Wouldn't it be great to serve the only country in the world that gives its citizens the option to be tried by a jury of their peers? So I sit in a room with 350 other potential jurors waiting to be called.

It's a pleasant room with a band of windows to view clouds skittering across a blue sky and green trees bending in the wind. Just under the windows is a counter with 24 free Wi-Fi stations, all occupied by jurors' laptops. I sit behind all this electronic activity in one of the long rows of chairs with a book about George Washington. The guy in front of me studies a bunch of stapled pages entitled "Grading, Drainage, and Stormwater Management." A man down my row seems to be napping hunched over his lap. One girl at her computer stretches her arms upward; her charcoal-gray sweater sleeves cover her hands. When those hands then grab her long brown hair, their nails are neon coral; her fingers expertly twirl her hair into a bun. Another girl at a computer wears a black-and-white floral blouse that looks like flocked wallpaper. She rakes her fingers through shoulder-length, straight black hair. The room is mostly quiet except for occasional cell phone talkers whose conversations are identical: I'm stuck here on jury duty and hope I don't get picked.

The patriotic part of me feels sad that avoiding jury duty seems to be such a universal sentiment. What wimps we are, sitting here with our flip-flops and laptops during our air-conditioned, inspiring "jury duty boot camp," while soldiers serving our country brave sandstorms and suicide bombers. I think briefly how fortunate we are to be able to serve in this relatively risk-free way. Then I think about my fears again. I'm not quite to the point where I'd say I hope I don't get picked, but I can see it from here.

Wallpaper-Shirt rakes her hair out to the side three times in a row. Drainage Guy disappears for a while. After pushing my bangs out of my eyes at least 17 times, I put down my book and get up to stretch my legs in an aisle. Neon-Nailed Beautician loosely braids her tresses. Napper vigorously rubs the heels of both hands in his eyes, yawns, and stretches his legs and arms forward. More gently ringing phones, more eagerness to get out of here.

This scenario repeats in various forms for several hours. About noon, we are released for the day and as it turns out, for the the week. I am both relieved and disappointed.

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