jury duty

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I spent the entire day in jury duty. Or rather, I spent the entire day reading “Flight Behavior” while waiting to be called for voir dire. I waited with almost 200 other people. Right away, we were informed that there was no getting out alive from our respective summonses – too many cases. If one attorney or judge doesn’t want you on their jury, you’re not 100% dismissed. Rather, you’re sent back to the juror waiting room, which is extremely depressing, set as it is in an underground bunker with fluorescent lights, 70s-era red brick flooring, and low, perforated ceilings. The kind that has squares of what can only be described as ceiling tile about to rain down on your head. Where you wait and wait and wait. If that’s not justice in action, I don’t know what is.

As I write this, many of my peers – and truly, we are all united as peers, seeing as we live in the same county – are fast asleep on the table, puddles of drool collecting on their backpacks and messenger bags. The fools didn’t bring anything to read and don’t know downtown well enough to find the Barnes and Noble. I feel for them.

Catching up on sleep is something I’m always eager to do, but not in public. I was raised in big, east coast cities, for Pete’s sake. Remember that episode of “Girls” where Hannah falls asleep on the subway and awakens to find her purse stolen? That’s not a plot device. That’s reality.

Admittedly, I’ve had my fair share of catnaps in train stations, on busses, in airports, on subways. And each time, I awoke amazed to find my money belt still on, my headphones still attached to ears, and so forth. It’s always a relief to confirm that you don’t know everything. That sometimes people won’t steal your stuff, no matter how shiny it is or how vulnerable you appear.

So who are all these so-called peers slumbering at tables beside me? Most are in their forties or later, white, and look educated. Juries are supposedly chosen randomly based on voting registration and state IDs, but it seems like we’re all a little too similar for that explanation to bear weight. There is no one under the age of 30 in this room. No second generation Somali or Hmong youngsters. No one who looks like they vote conservative. The kind of people who have “Für Elise” as their ringtone. What, no Philip Glass? Minneapolis, I am deeply disappointed in you.

The last time I was called for jury duty was when I was living in Brooklyn. As I was packing up my meager belongings preparing for my cross-country move, I got the summons. “Ha ha!” my dumb, young self thought. “I’m moving! I’m totally getting out of this. I’m not even gonna be here.” I still don’t remember if I informed the court of this fact or not.

Jury duty catches up with all of us sooner or later. It’s the price we pay for living in America. Honestly, there are worse ways to spend your time. Anyone have any good book recommendations?

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