Both of my children are finally in school full-time. But before I could get used to my newfound freedom, I had to fulfill my civic duty on a jury. I was originally called to serve in June, but who would have watched the kids? So I had to postpone to the time I had been looking forward to for as many years as I’ve had children.
I reported on Monday morning. I felt like theme dressing that day, so I went with 90’s era, complete with Doc Martens, and a flannel over a baby doll dress. I just knew my outfit would highlight my irresponsibility and complete lack of competency for a jury. If I still don’t know how to dress like an adult, I shouldn’t be asked to do anything that requires sitting still and listening to people talk for hours.
I arrived early because I was afraid of being late. I’m late for almost everything, and I was certain that being late for jury duty would result in humiliation on a grand scale.
After we all reported to the giant jury waiting room, we were provided with coffee and pastries that arrived in individual plastic baggies. I’ve never had an easier time rejecting a pastry. The greasy puddles on the inside of the plastic made it look like the pastries were working out just before they were stuffed in those baggies and they hadn’t had time to dry off their sweat.
Forty of us (myself included) were called to report to a courtroom for the selection process. They only needed 14, so I was sure I would be home in time for The View. Long story short, I somehow got selected to serve on the jury for a child abuse trial. Couldn’t they tell by looking at me that I’m not even responsible enough to run the self-cleaning cycle on my oven with feeling self-congratulatory for two weeks? I shouldn’t be allowed to decide anyone’s fate. Plus, I have little kids. And that information came out during the questioning process. No one wants to hear details about child abuse, but especially a mama with two little ones.
But I begrudgingly accepted my role, mostly because I was interested in how this whole jury duty thing really works. And because hearing a lot of people say they couldn’t serve because they needed to work, etc. made me feel like a jerk for wanting to do the same.
We reported to a tiny room where there was enough room for about 8 people, even though there were 14 of us. There was sharing-size bag of Reese’s Pieces on the desk, along with a tub of Trader Joe’s ginger snaps. FYI: one way to know that your catering sucked is when such meager offerings aren’t gone after 3 days of 14 people sitting at a freaking table. There was also coffee (no milk in sight) and room-temperature water. I did eat quite a few Reese’s Pieces, and I’m pretty sure they will remind me of child abuse now instead igniting fond memories of E.T., so I wish I had left them alone.
The first day it was 28 degrees in the jury room. Days 2 and 3 were closer to 107. I think I preferred the teeth-chattering cold to sweating next to strangers in a room with no open windows. It felt like a psychological trick, like maybe someone was watching us to see how we interacted under extreme temperatures with no hope of escape.
If you are ever called to jury duty, be sure to eat constipating foods. You cannot poop during jury duty. We had to go to the bathroom in groups, lest any one of us accidentally spoke to someone involved in the case. The situation was slightly better during deliberations when we were allowed to use the toilet across the hall from the jury room. But if anyone left the room, the case couldn’t be discussed until that person returned so every absence and reentry was noticed by everyone. That’s not conducive to comfortable pooping.
The trial was extremely emotional and stressful for me, and deliberations were probably a little worse. When it was finally over, I sobbed uncontrollably in front of the other jurors. By then 2 had been cut as alternates, so only eleven strangers witnessed my meltdown. I didn’t want anyone to notice or offer me a hug. A few folks (all men) asked “Are you okay?” It was nice, but then I wondered why no one was trying to hug me even though I didn’t want them to. They didn’t know I didn’t want them to, after all. So I decided they were all assholes. But really they weren’t. Well, that’s not true of everyone in the room. There were a few assholes. But most of them were really nice.
Then my friend Sharon came over with ice cream that night and let me rant about the flawed judicial system, and everything was a little better.
I don’t know if I’ll ever shake it off completely, but it’s over and I did my stupid civic duty. Next time I want better snacks, milk for my coffee, and ice for my water. And maybe a case about a nice little liquor store robbery where no one was harmed.