I consider myself to be a decent citizen. I vote. I recycle. I don’t litter. I yield to most pedestrian traffic.
But when I got a notice that I was selected for jury service, I did what every red-blooded American does – I wondered if I should pretend it got lost in the mail.
“Notice? What notice? I’ve never seen a notice. Maybe this notice you speak of, maybe it had a little …accident?”
The draft has been gone for over 30 years. Today if you’re like me, you consider “compulsory service” to be putting down a book to listen to a flight attendant go over the safety announcements .
Why is that? Maybe it’s because in the wake of 9/11 we, as Americans, shocked and bewildered, asked President Bush what we could do. Instead of volunteering or enlisting he told us to spend money. Oh what sacrifice! Finally, going to the mall is our patriotic duty! I love my country – buy me something shiny!
Anyway, I suspected that the phrase “no good deed ever goes unpunished” was written by a juror. But that still didn’t stop me. No proverb was going to deter me. This was my chance to participate in a justice system of the people, by the people, for the people. I didn’t even ask for a deferment. I was going against my instincts.
I was stepping up to my civic duty with enthusiasm even though it was started at 7:30 AM.
The notice stated that jurors should dress “business casual.” I’ve always considered business casual to be something ironed worn with uncomfortable shoes. Maybe it depends on your vocation. From the looks of some of the other jurors plodding along the halls of the courthouse their “business” was either a Crocs model, a lifeguard or an adult industry professional.
It’s justice that’s blind…as for the rest of us – we see you!
It was like their outfits were trying to increase their chances of being dismissed. “You’re looking for someone who is impartial and has common sense. As seen from my corduroy cut offs and Megadeth t-shirt – clearly that’s not me.”
I felt like some dingbat on a reality show that just realized the other housemates have a STRATEGY!
When we reported for jury service, we were asked to sit in a large waiting room. We were given our badges. We were asked to fill out paperwork and turn it in. Then they called out a list of everyone who filled out their paperwork wrong or incomplete. Out of 80 people, about a third weren’t able to fill out the paperwork on the first try. No butterfly ballots or anything. Just a straightforward, fill in the bubble and sign here questionnaire of eligibility. At first I thought this was a good argument against the death penalty – obviously these folks shouldn’t be able to dole out any punishment that you can’t go back and correct later. But afterwards, I think it was another attempt – feeble of course – to get out of serving.
There I was: dressed appropriately, on time, paperwork completed in black ink. Just a sitting duck, vulnerable with no exit strategy. I would say I felt like Donald Rumsfeld – but unlike him I still have a job.
We were told to wait for our names to be called. I read a couple of magazines. More names were called. I checked my email. More names were called. I turned on my iPod to drown out the kvetching of the others without a strategy. You’d think they had been drafted to stack marbles in Siberia by the whining. Hours went by. My name was never called. Finally at four in the afternoon, the announcement was made that I had fulfilled my duty and could go home. That was it. I was done. Maybe I was over qualified. Maybe it’s all random. Maybe I should be happy about it.
I literally sat around, did nothing and that was performing my civic duty. It made me feel like a member of Congress.