I just completed my third round of jury duty. Three times called. Three times dismissed. This time, however, I made it all the way to voir dire and sat in the jury box for the better part of an hour before the judge hit the eject button.
Mixed feelings tore at my insides. Part of me wanted to take part in this case, to hear the evidence, listen to the witnesses and deliberate with other jurors. Another darker, sadder part knew I would not be selected because the case at hand struck too close to home. I could not be a fair and impartial juror. The prosecution and defense batted me about like a toy mouse for a while and then tossed me to the curb.
It marked the end of a long day sitting on a plastic chair in a poorly ventilated waiting room, punctuated by multiple calls to line up in long hallways, march up and down staircases, and sit on hard wooden benches before returning to the hot room. But long days on plastic chairs in poorly ventilated rooms give me no choice but to people watch and jot down observations. Here are a few:
* The night before, I had to call the courthouse, type in my juror identification number, and wait for instructions. After the initial wheres and whens, came a list of dos and don’ts. Some of the don’ts: do not come to court in swimwear, exercise wear, hooded jackets or hats. I wondered for a moment why this was necessary to explain.
* Because of that list, I labored over what to wear. I put on dress pants, high heels, a sleeveless but conservative top and loosely draped a scarf around my neck. I worried that I was too casual. Ha! I cannot tell you how many folks showed up in shorts, tank tops, flip-flop sandals, work boots and hooded sweatshirts. There was even one heavily tattooed guy in one of those weight-lifter shirts that revealed most of the chest and huge tufts of body hair. I have no more wonder about the dress-code instructions.
* In spite of the various warnings on paperwork mailed to the home, on the recorded message, and posted clearly at the entrances advising against having cell phones with camera devices, people still tried to sneak them in and then feigned ignorance when confronted with it. “I didn’t even know it had a camera!”
* I am amazed at how elaborately some people packed their bags for the day of waiting. The snacks. The stacks of magazines. One woman had several plastic bags full of crafting materials and set up a mini-assembly line on her tabletop. Most of the folks I chatted with seemed hyped about getting seated on a jury.
*I watched more TV on this day than I have in the last quarter, including my first-ever Oprah episode. According to Oprah, my summer wardrobe sucks.
Well, she should see the rest of the folks in this room.