As if there wasn’t already enough happening this week, I had jury duty. Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy to serve, to do my part. I’ve served before and found the experience fascinating. This time, though, all I could think of was everything that wouldn’t get done.
Catherine was convinced I’d come home with stories right out of “Law & Order“; instead, the day wound up being a terrific comment on human nature — stellar people-watching (yes, middle-aged man with the mustache, I saw you picking your nose; everyone else likely did, too) and a kind of anthropological quest.
We arrived at the Stamford Courthouse at 8:30 — well most of us did. I was amazed that at 9:30, a few stragglers were still coming in. Really?
I’d not been in the new-ish building before and was impressed. Also impressive were the security measures. Both times I went through, I had to turn out my pockets, lift my pant legs to show the tops of my shoes and walk through the metal detector. My purse was so thoroughly searched, I think the guard counted the spare change at the bottom. Even the pages of my book were fanned.
Wearing expressions that were a cross between expectation and resignation, we all settled in. There were easily 100-125 of us, people of all ages, races and, it seemed, walks of life. Some of us conducted what business we could, others took up their newspapers, books or magazines, and then a whole other group settled in with one of Mr. Jobs’ inventions.
The “Today” show kept us company, and I learned what I could wear to various holiday functions; what gifts I still had time to buy; that Gen Y is color-blind, thanks to the proliferation of media showing all kinds of culture; what it’s like to sell Christmas trees on the streets of New York; and that the remains of the prostitute police had been searching for on Long Island had been found.
We watched a video explaining our potential role as jurors and had a 20-minute visit from one of the judges who explained there were five juries to seat.
All that was left was the waiting.
I got back to my calls and emails, and played a bit of Klondike on my iPod. When it became clear that I would continue to lose, I Iooked up to find a fascinating sight. Although many of us continued to pursue solitary interests, others had begun to organize themselves.
There was a knitting circle in the front row — complete with the long, medical stories women tend to share, even with strangers.
In the kitchenette, a group of men had formed a coffee klatch.
The hallway resembled an SRO bar, with men and women standing around gabbing.
Little groups of folks in this row and that talked among themselves.
In the center of it all with a growing circle of empty seats around her was one poor woman who was coughing her head off. Thankfully, she was excused early on. I just hope she didn’t have swine flu.
Meanwhile, people were called and sent back to the room or sent home. We watched them come and go with interest and a growing sense of boredom.
Before lunch, I was sworn with a group of about 20 others and told they’d start interviewing us at 2. Heading back from that quick run home, I was surprised to see someone roaming the halls in green fleece pajama pants, with monkeys on them. Wasn’t there something in the paperwork about proper attire? I had, after all, donned a jacket and shoes with a heel. Could I have just stayed in my PJs?
Returning to the jury room, I smiled to see that those of left took the same seats and resumed waiting. Person after person in my group was called, and many of them returned with slips of paper that earned them a word of congratulations from the clerk.
Meanwhile, a huge group that hadn’t been sworn yet was sent home en masse. Now I was one of just 13 people in the room. By 4 pm, it was just me and two others. Finally, we were excused.
My service counts, but driving away I couldn’t help but think that all I had to show for the day was brain fog and a numb rear end.
Hell, I could have gotten that at home.