Jury service — civic duty, a hostage crisis or the world’s longest pap smear exam?
While the rest of the country was busy obsessing over the Boston Marathon bombings and busily assigning blame to all the wrong people, I was held hostage for the last two weeks. Against my will. I realize that’s pathetically redundant, but the extent to which I did not want to participate can’t be underemphasized.
Yes, I was picked for jury duty. Who in their right mind picks ME for a jury? I hate hate hate being confined or told what to do. Wasting time is torture to me. Every wasted minute is a toothpick shoved under my fingernails. I despise people who think I’m stupid enough to be manipulated, let alone those who are foolish enough to attempt it, and therefore am not a fan of lawyers. But most of all, I don’t play well with others, and I’m not one bit ashamed about that. It’s just my nature. I accept that. Some of us are meant to be team players. Others are meant to tell the team what to do. And make it snappy. It’s not a coach’s job to cooperate. It’s a coach’s job to keep the team on its toes.
This, therefore, is why I loathe being on committees or joining groups, unless I’m in charge. Groups are where drama, self-servitude and basic idiocy ferment into one, big everybody-just-shut-the-hell-up-before-I-Stooge-slap-you-all cocktail. The minute people start debating over whether the flyers should be on green paper or blue paper, I’m already simmering. Why? My time’s being wasted. (See toothpicks, above.) And, a jury is a group from hell: Total strangers with little in common, shoved together, forced to cooperate, and — AND — unanimously agree on something.
I’d always been excused from jury duty in the past. Columnists seem to be poison in the courtroom, and that’s just fine with me. But just for good measure, I wore a red shirt, because red means, “Stop! Back away slowly!” and also wore silver snakes and dragons curled around my fingers, because nothing says “Not the warm and fuzzy kind” like an angry dragon wrapped around your middle finger. I also wore a huge crystal pendant and big loopy earrings, because if “Stop!” “Dragons!” and “Snakes!” didn’t do the trick, I could fall back on “too airy-fairy” as an escape.
Always have a Plan B.
So, I’m sitting there in the jury waiting room, stupidly unarmed with a book, and stuck between people who are clearly thrilled about this whole experience, and filling the air with chit-chat about their various medical problems, what they had for breakfast and what cute things their grandkids said, and I realize that I already hate everyone in the room. So, I set my displeasure on a mental shelf, focused on my feet and pretended that none of this is really happening, like it’s the world’s longest pap smear exam.
Nearly an hour later, we’re finally called into the courtroom. Let the grilling begin. Twelve are called up first, and the judge asks, “Have you ever been the victim of gun violence? Do you have family members in law enforcement? Do you know anyone on the jury or the witness list?” And, I’m thinking, “Curses! All I can answer is ‘no’!” One by one, those who answered yes to any of those questions were dismissed, and replacements were called in from the gallery. And just when I thought I’d scoot free, they called my name.
I sat down in a jury chair, and after nearly three hours of listening to people who felt compelled to give an oration on their personal views on everything from the Second Amendment to the plight of the economically deprived, and who clearly craved lots and lots and lots of attention and indulged themselves in their big moment to be heard, I felt like my skeleton would launch right out of my body and zing around the room and burst all over the ceiling in a thousand pieces of exasperation. I wanted to dive on every one of the yappers and shriek, “For the love of God, will you just shut up!!!”
I decided, however, to take a breath and behave myself, lest I wind up sitting next to an attorney rather than facing one. Finally, it was my turn, and the attorneys asked me questions, and I responded only with a curt “yes” or “no,” unless prodded for elaboration, which I offered in as few words as possible, all the while channeling my inner angry cat, with glowering eyes and ears laid flat back, emitting my best “so not fun” energy.
They picked me anyway.
Did you people miss the part about “columnist”? Really? You’re going to put me on a jury and lob ammunition into the lap of someone who clearly despises every moment of this, dislikes everyone in the room equally and is therefore unlikely to be swayed by anyone’s drama or personal issues, who’ll have no patience for anything but the facts, and who aims to tick through the evidence and wrap this up as quickly and efficiently as is humanly possible, and get the hell out of there?
So, the afternoon wore on, and the lawyers grilled a few more people and selected 12, plus two alternates. I focused on my feet and considered that being filleted by an ice cold speculum seemed almost pleasant by comparison. Even four hour’s worth. As person after person was dismissed for their answers, the stunning inefficiency of the jury selection process became clear to me. People with law enforcement ties, or victims of gun violence or street crime, or who just started a job, or are scheduled for surgery could be screened out beforehand online. If we can file our taxes online, we can go through jury selection online too. It’s called technology, people. Let’s start using it.
Less than an hour in a juror’s seat, and I could already see the flaws in our legal system. And the lawyers hadn’t even started talking yet.