Monday, February 06, 2006

Jury Duty

Shortly before Christmas, I recieved a notice about reporting for jury duty. I didn't read the whole thing through and about 3 weeks ago,I got a notice reminding me to report for jury duty. I was supposed to fill out the original notice and mail it back. Postage was on the return postcard. I forgot to send it back , but I had made note and notified my manager and the person above her that I would be required to serve jury duty. Then , last week, I got another notice saying that I may not have to serve but that I could find out by calling the number on the card after 3 pm the day before I was scheduled to serve. I called and my presence would be required. Somehow, my manager thought I said I would not be going and they didn't schedule anyone to cover for me. They got someone and it turned out someone else was also working, it just wasn't on the schedule. Yes, I felt bad about the work situation but I wanted to get the civic duty out of the way.
I had to be there by 8 am. Preferably before 8. I had to decide whether or not to drive to the commuter parking lot or take the bus. Which bus would I need to take to get there on time ? Apparently the 6:37 bus. The driver didn't even bother to turn the lights on. When I got on , he lit it up. This was a different bus from the one I usually take. This went all the way to Harvard Square instead of Alewife station. Still, it only took about 20 minutes to get from my house to the square. I had a token. Made the transfer to the green line . The trolley discharged everybody at the next stop and the one after that took me all the way to the end of the line.
Some guy sat down next to me and when we got to the last stop , he stood up , like a gentleman to let me out ahead of him. However, I had a tote bag with my lunch and reading materials and I had trouble getting my bag out from where it was stuck under the seat in front of me. He's standing there smiling and people are backing up behind him to get off the trolley and I 'm getting self conscious and irritated ( what else is new) . Finally, I jerk my bag free and scamper off the bus as quickly as possible.
I arrived at the court house about 7:40. Went through the metal detector and up to the 5th floor. I was concerned they might pull me over because I had a spoon and a pair of safety scissors in my lunch bag. I got right through.
When I got to the 5th floor, there was already a line. When I almost got through the door , I looked at the form in my hand and realized I hadn't filled it out. I got out of line and filled it out.
I was "Impanelled" as 11-1. I hadn't looked closely and thought that it was 1-11 had thought that was a good number . As it turned out my number was a good number.
They have you sit down and wait until they're sure everyone is there. Then they bring you into a court room, referred to as the "Main Assembly " room. Everyone is trying to maintain their own personal space and so, a lot of people will be standing along the walls. The Court officer will have none of that and every body is encouraged to move toward the middle of the bench row to allow for everyone to be seated. The guy makes a speech basically saying that your civic duty is necessary to the smooth running of our governemnt and basically if you aren't where you're supposed to be when they call your panel you will be fined. However, you probably won't be needed but you have to stay until they say it's okay for you to leave. If you leave without authorization, you will be fined and /or jailed or both. Then they show you a movie about the process. I was amazed at how many of the judges in the video had speech impediments. It's almost as if you study hard because you can't speak well and, eventually, you'll end up as a judge. After the movie , they called a couple of panels to line up in the hall. They called every one's name that was supposed to be there and off they went. I fell asleep in the back of the "Main Assembly Room".
Throughout the process, I was in Air plane passenger mode. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone, else I would be saddled with a new best friend for the duration of my stay. There was a "Ladies" lounge that I went to because it was nice and quite and I wouldn't be in teh line of any men's wayward attentions. I had to leave the Lounge beause two women kept talking in low voices - I couldn't really hear what they were saying , it was just loud enough to be really distracting. Unlike a work situation, I could get up and leave. I didn't have to listen to their empty yammering. Also, I felt that I was being tracked by a couple of guys. I remember reading an article in Cosmo one time advocating jury duty as a great place to pick up guys. That may be true and I may have missed a golden opportunity , but my relationship is still wheezing along. And by "Relationship" I mean I speak with a straight man once a week . . .
They called a couple more panels and then we were "broken" for lunch. I ate my lunch in the lobby where the elevators were and there was the smallest concentration of jurors. I had called my manager at the first break and the lunch, just to let her know where I was. I didn't want to spend my money in the cafeteria. I packed a nutritious lunch.
After lunch, they brought us back in and released us. I wasn't called to serve. This was the third time in my life I had been called to jury duty. Roughly once a decade since I registered to vote. I was glad to perform my civic responsibility. I'm glad I didn't get called . I was afraid I would say something like "I have a problem with 'you' people". Which is a catch all phrase and could be used to offend just about any demographic.
I'm sure I have neglected something from my experience, but I feel like I covered the basics.
Carpe Diem !


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