Thursday, July 17, 2014

Jury Doodie

"All jurors, please report..." the recording droned. All. As in, standbys, high numbers, low numbers, rescheduled -- the whole shmegegge. And we did. All at once. Converging on the top deck of the parking garage like locusts in Egypt. I don't think locusts know how to drive in reverse either. After assuming the role of the jerk that zips past everyone, and takes the first spot available, and actually makes it in a single back-up (primarily because I am not on the phone), and doesn't cause a complete bottleneck doing it, and actually follows the directions the guard is spouting off as we walk by (once again, primarily because I am not on the phone), and holds the door as if I am not the only person remaining on Earth, and forms a line away from the revolving door, so people coming in don't get taken out by it, and completely empties my pockets as I was instructed to do the first time (primarily because I am not on the phone), I find my way to the jury lounge. ("Are you looking for 118?" another juror asks. "Yes," I reply. "Well, all these rooms here are 'G's.'" "Oh, OK. That means we're on the Ground Floor; we have to go up one," I reply. "Do you think that's what it is?" she says. We were not off to a great start.)

By my estimate, the jury lounge must accommodate four hundred jurors, and still they brought out the plastic chairs usually found in hospital cafeterias. These they placed around the perimeter and in any vacant spot they could find. Worldwide, canned sardines were Tweeting about their elbow room. #jurylounge  There's never a Fire Marshall when you need one. During orientation, they actually mentioned the possibility of evacuating in the event of an emergency. "Court officer will lead you...stay calm...listen for instructions...orderly fashion..." I thought, these people will stampede like charged cattle! You obviously haven't seen what goes on atop the parking garage!

I chose a seemingly benign older gentleman by which to sit. I've never had much luck with jury duty. On one occasion I ran into an old neighbor who assumed we could just "pick up where we left off," despite not having seen one another in about twenty years. Once you've talked about the neighbors on the other side of you, and the ones across the street, and the one on the street behind you, and reminisced about the big flood of 1971, your relationship has pretty much fizzled like a damp Fourth of July sparkler. On another occasion, it was a guy I'd barely known who figured we'd share a foxhole and "keep all the other weirdos at bay." He was the type of weirdo I was trying to keep away; I'm not quite sure what his plan was. So, this quiet, unassuming gentleman looked good for the duration. Two seats to my left was a woman, probably in her late thirties, early forties with a perfect pedicure, great hair, a cheery coral skirt and adorable strappy sandals. We could probably not kill one another before lunch. That is, until Chadds Ford housewife came and eased herself between us. In all fairness, though, to CFH (that's Chadds Ford Hou-- you get the picture), she didn't chat, she didn't complain, she didn't ask stupid questions -- and just for the record, there is such a thing as a stupid question; spend any amount of time with the public en masse, you'll know I'm right! But, it seemed as though this wasn't going to be one of those agonizing, mentally exhausting days, where you spend most of the day trying to decide between suicide and homicide.

As Kelly and Michael chatted it up in the background and Rachael Ray assaulted my common sense, I sat there praying that, after two changes of clothes and countless handwashings, no one could smell the clinging aftermath of Tinkerbell's early morning altercation with a skunk. Although, I'm pretty sure it was more of a first round knockout than anything else. But, you know Emily Post's perfume guidelines: "Do not over apply. If you can smell it, others can smell it." Oh, and could I smell it. I began to feel sorry for Benign Guy beside me. At some point, he even scooted his chair a bit away from me.

So, it was time for the questionnaire. This is a tool used by attorneys to eliminate possible jurors in the initial process. Sixteen questions, and I've watched Academy Awards that crush this operation in brevity. The nice part, the part I took completely for granted at the time, was that no one had any questions. Perhaps this was because the judge who was reviewing the questions beat the life out of them until there was absolutely no room for speculation. Perhaps this was because inquiring minds had not yet finished their coffees. But the best was yet to come.

After the questionnaires were completed and passed to the left of the row, a la grade school, the judge gave a little talk on our responsibilities as jurors, what we could expect for our next several hours as county chattel, the fabulous remuneration we would receive, and the needs of the court specific to the day. "If you have any concerns for hardship regarding a case for which you have been chosen, the sitting judge will handle them before voir dire. I cannot answer specific questions about hardship because I do not know how long a specific case will take and how long your services will be required." And that, Folks, was the opening of the floodgates and the liberation of the torrent:

"I'm scheduled to travel on Saturday. Do you think that will be an issue?"

"I have a doctor's appointment this week? Do you think I should reschedule?"

"Will we be home for Christmas?" OK, I made that one up, but c'mon Folks! What part of "I do not know" or "I cannot say" is so beyond the grasp of simple adult reason? How is this man to determine your circumstances four days from now, when he cannot even say you will be selected fifteen minutes from now?

I have to say, God, in His mercy scheduled me for jury duty at exactly the right time. My voice is such that in no way could I be heard or understood by anyone, had I offered even one of the thoughts that were running through my mind throughout the day. Thank God! It would have been a disaster had I been able to speak.

And, as God would have it, we were all -- each and every one of us -- dismissed immediately after lunch. Another judge came in and apologized for wasting our time. He talked about a "perfect storm" of events which caused jury selection to go from a possible three hundred jurors needed, to zero. Waste my time. Storm away! I didn't look back. I was already planning my escape from the parking garage.

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