It’s a necessity of life in America. I had jury duty this week. If you’ve ever been through it you know what a microcosm it is of society. People from all walks of life, young and old, sitting in one room, waiting for the call to the courtroom.
We were to be at the courthouse promptly at 8 a.m. It was like going through airport security: put everything through the x-ray machine, take off your belt and shoes, walk through the scanner. Check in. Then find your way into the Jury Holding Room. Sit in uncomfortable chairs that are far too close together.
Everyone was silent. We all stayed to ourselves except one man in the corner who was speaking much too loudly to the lady next to him (there’s always one of those). The rest of us looked at our phones, read our books, or sat in silence. It was starting to get a little warm.
I can’t say that anyone was too excited to be there. That’s when the Clerk of the Court came in, gave us a few instructions, and then showed us a “rah rah” video. The video was designed to change our attitudes about being there. It explained the Constitution, and the process, and interviewed former jurors who had “fabulous” experiences. I must say it did get me a bit excited about the potentiality of being a juror myself.
But then a judge came in. She asked us all the qualifying questions to make sure we weren’t excluded from serving. Then she told us that the vast majority of us would never make it onto a jury (talk about foreshadowing).
The wait then began. It was another hour-and-a-half until the Clerk came in and read twenty names. I wasn’t one of them. Those people left. A little while later that process was repeated. My name still wasn’t called. So we sat another hour and they dismissed us for an hour-and-a-half lunch (life’s tough in this courtroom scene).
After lunch it was back through security again. It was another stay in the prison of the Jury Holding Room. We waited. And waited some more. And waited some more.
Here’s the interesting part. The longer we waited the more comfortable people got with each other. The later in the day it got, the louder the room. People began to talk and laugh. Small groups began to form.
The Clerk came back in at about 3:30 in the afternoon. She made an announcement that we were to hold tight. There were still two judges selecting panels. One man went forward and angrily shouted at the Clerk, saying that this whole process should be better and that we should all be allowed to go home. I felt sorry for the Clerk.
I have to say that at that point I was getting pretty impatient myself. Finally at almost five o’clock the Clerk came into the room and said we were all dismissed and our jury duty was complete. There was a cheer and a stampede for the door.
- Common experience forges relationships.
- Impatience brings out the worst in people.
- Sometimes civic duty is short and interesting, and sometimes it is long and boring.
- Freedom has its responsibilities.
- It’s good to be able to walk out of a courthouse and back into the freedom of society.
Have you ever had jury duty? Did you make it onto a jury? What’s your story?