It’s like detention for adults.
That’s how I felt as I sat in the Juror Assembly Room. There I was, in a room with people who were being held against their will. (Well, the majority of people feel this way anyway. No disrespect is intended to people who look upon jury duty with eagerness and enthusiasm.)
I had been summoned. The dreaded envelope arrived in the mail, taunting me with its contents. I understand that being a United States citizen comes with certain rights and certain obligations. I appreciate that and respect that. I understand that our justice system is dependent on citizens fulfilling their duties and obligations, which includes serving as a juror. Jury duty is just one of those things I don’t enjoy.
And being the somewhat-good-girl I am, I called in to report for jury duty. (I am much too afraid to pretend that I never received the summons in the mail). All clear all week, until a Friday morning in August. And sitting in a room, with a diverse group of people around me is like standing before an all-you-can-eat-buffet the day you’re breaking a fast. An overload of ideas, observations, thoughts for my writer brain to process.
Unlike high school detention, we didn’t have a specific assignment to complete as we sat in this room. So, I did something I never do. I sat. For hours. And read. And wrote. And worked on my lesson plan book. And thought. And waited. And anyone who knows me, knows that sitting is not something I do on a regular basis. At least not for hours. In fact, many people in that room seemed fidgety and ill-at-ease. Our days are high-speed, in every sense of the word, and these instructions are contrary to the behaviors and actions of most of our days.
I was passing the time the old-school way, meaning without any electronic devices. Other prospective jurors used their iPhones, iPads, and laptops to stay connected to the world beyond the four walls that held us captive. And how bizarre to think that not too long ago those devices didn’t exist. At all. Not too long ago, computers were so large they fit in rooms, and now they’re fitting in the palms of our hands.
Some changed seats to allow a better view of the television suspended in a front corner of the room. News show in the morning, soap operas in the early afternoon, talk shows in the later afternoon.
Others dozed off, some going so for as to serenade the rest of us with their snoring. Conversations were initiated between people sitting nearby, exchanging stories about prior jury duty experiences, lives outside the courthouse.
It didn’t make the situation any more pleasant when one of the clerks announced that Drew Barrymore had not only sat in the same room a few months earlier but had actually served as a juror on a trial. That’s fine and dandy. Celebrities are not immune to the random call of jury duty. After all, Jamie Lee Curtis and Ed Asner had their proud and happy pictures hanging on the walls, proof they had completed their jury duty service. But I’m not a celebrity. I’m a mom who was paying a babysitter to spend the day with my son while I sat in a room, waiting.
Unlike high school detention, we, perspective jurors had the benefits of age and wisdom (hopefully). We knew this uncomfortable, unfortunate situation wouldn’t go on forever. High school felt like it would. Felt like it would never end. Felt like we would never be free.
We all knew, sitting in that room, that whatever the fates had in store for us, this jury service would end - either later that day or in about a week.
I’ve really tried to be “glass-half-full” about jury duty. And as such, I could look at it as a brief time-out from my everyday life. I am given permission to slow down, sit, and read -virtually uninterrupted (until the next batch of names is called and instructed to report to a room on another floor). When I put it that way, jury duty doesn’t sound like such a terrible thing after all.
(Then again, in all fairness, I must disclose that I was never selected to be a part of a jury and my service was complete in that day, simply by reading my book).