I spent last Monday morning in a dungeon with 229 other people. Fine, not technically a dungeon… it was the basement of a courthouse, which is very similar on a Monday morning where you are surrounded by sleepy souls, two coffee carafes and no cream.
Yup, I was beckoned for jury duty.
As tough as it is to get moving on a Monday in general, I made sure I got on the road to arrive on time so I wasn’t arrested. Once I got to the parking area it was pretty easy to figure out where to go… just follow the hoards of half-awake folks holding the same letter requesting our presence that I was clutching.
After passing through security where dangerous-looking women were stripped of their life-threatening knitting needles, we were shuffled to the basement like cattle and told to take a seat. Picture that game where there are five people and four chairs. Now multiply that by about 50. These were not the most comfortable seats. The few of us that had bonded considered a revolt when a latecomer was given a nice, comfy chair with arms.
I was fortunate enough to wrangle a seat next to a couple of folks with personalities, and we chatted amiably and joked a bit while we were standing (sitting, actually) by for some type of instruction. I compared the trip’s mileage with the young man next to me and discovered he is from the same area and happens to work in the produce department of a grocery store that I frequent. He even recognized me, which led me to those all-important, internal questions. Does he question the frequency with which I buy bananas? Has he heard me muttering about the cost of cantaloupe? Did I demand to know why they were out of shredded carrots? These things I pondered until I realized my glazed expression may have been frightening him.
My sister warned me to take snacks, lunch, and reading material. Naturally, I packed a notebook because you know I couldn’t help but use this experience as a writing exercise. There is something about being trapped in a windowless room with a couple hundred strangers that makes me just want to eat. My snacks were gone by 10 a.m., but I was hesitant to drink much water. The odds were slim to none that I would make it to one of only two restrooms on the same floor without having to battle at least 50 other women when they gave us a break.
Most of my morning was spent trying to disregard an almost visible cloud of odors floating through the room. It’s not anyone’s fault that I was picking these scents up. I happen to have a very sensitive sense of smell. Cigar smoke, stale coffee, cologne, and the faint scent of egg (possibly from the beard of another prospective juror) wafted by, causing me the tiniest bit of nausea, compounded by claustrophobia.
A film was shown about the workings of the court system and our civic duty. I believe we should be willing to serve. I just can’t promise I won’t find something humorous about the whole thing.
Of the list of 230 people who had been called for jury duty, my number was too high to be called on that particular day, so I was released around noon, along with at least 100 others. I may be back, since I am technically committed for the next month. On the bright side, this can only lead to more material.
Though I admit to hoping jury duty would have a weather cancellation – as did many others, I discovered that morning – the day had its interesting moments. As of the writing of this column, I remain in jury limbo until the weekend, when a recording will tell me whether I will be called back. I’m not worried.
I am more concerned about having to behave in the produce section of the grocery store from now on.
Update: Looks like I'll be heading back to the dungeon Tuesday morning. From the point of being chosen to a jury on I will be sworn to secrecy. It could be a long month.