Last Monday I reported for jury duty.
I have been summonsed more often than anyone I know, and I have no idea why. I can only assume that word has spread about all the episodes of L.A. Law I watched in the '80's, so I must be especially qualified.
Whatever the reason, I made the drive downtown last week, on an unusually frigid day. I navigated the freeways and the tall buildings and the one-way streets of downtown, affirming to myself that I will never, at heart, be a city girl. I managed a sloppy parking spot and, running late, I sprinted two blocks to the courthouse.
There was no need to rush; the long line of my fellow jurors-to-be wound around the side of the building as we waited (in the 25-degree weather) for Uncle Sam to funnel us through the metal detectors. A well-dressed evangelist with slicked-back hair handed us all tracts and shouted a sermon that ONLY GOD is our judge and jury. Behind me, a woman chattered into her cell phone. In front of me, a young man listened to an iPod. The waist of his pants hung at the middle of his thigh. I distracted myself from the cold by wondering how his waistband was resisting the call of gravity.
Finally in the building, we were herded to the basement. The corridors were endless and gray, and there was not a window in sight. I texted Hubs: I've found the end of the universe. At the end of a long line of about 400 jurors-to-be, I had plenty of time to stand and wait and grumble inwardly at how inconvenienced I was. Into my mind flashed a most excellent lecture I had given my ten year old the night before. You have to do your homework–it's not optional–so you might as well do it cheerfully and learn something. I stopped grumbling. Mostly.
The next several hours were a quiet blur of waiting, with hundreds, in a cave-like room that smelled of…well, caves. The occasional announcement over the loudspeaker reminded us what a fine and heroic thing we were doing, and by the way, please DO NOT sit on the floor or leave this room without express consent. We talked as we waited. I met, among others, a hospital cook, a church bookkeeper, a PTA president, and an unemployed welder. A single dad told me how proud he was of his son. A Vietnam veteran told me what it smelled like to unload body bags. A young stay-at-home mom wondered aloud how she would pay for childcare while she sat in a courthouse basement.
After several hours, my name was called. With a group of 40, I was sent to the criminal courtroom of Judge H. For the rest of the afternoon and into the next day, we answered six hours' worth of questions from the judge and attorneys. I have four children. My husband is in finance. Yes, I really respect police officers. No, I've never done illegal drugs. Yes, I've had a family member in prison. Yes, I've been on a jury before, and we acquitted (and, I'll confess, I allowed an exaggerated expression of sympathy to settle briefly on my face. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the prosecutor write a note next to my name). The defense attorney asked me how I could tell when one of my kids was lying. "Radar?" I offered. The defense attorney laughed, but he made a mark next to my name, too.
They weren't going to pick me. I knew it.
Except they did pick me.
:: (to be continued) ::