A month or so ago, I received in the mail. as I do almost every three years, a jury summons. In the past since I wasn’t working, I didn’t really mind serving my duty (yes, I giggled as I wrote duty…you know me by now, you know I have the sense of humor of a five year old boy.) Most of the time I have enjoyed jury duty (giggle) because it gets me out of the house and it’s like having a front row seat to “Matlock Live!” (but with less shoulder pads, hot dogs and white suits and noticeably missing are Andy Griffith’s weird little grunting sounds between his lines)
This time it’s different. This time has been less than pleasant.
My jury summons came with a few helpful hints: where to park, how long you might have to serve, what to bring as far as reading materials, etc. They failed to mention that their cable would be out and that they had free wifi. So yesterday I could have been writing, or updating my facebook status or searching for Lego building instructions to download….you know, Lego instructions for…my nephew…ok busted, the Lego stuff was for me. Yes they could have included that simple fact: Feel free to bring your laptop, we have free wifi.
They could have. They didn’t. So as I packed my trusty journey bag the night before I was to appear at the courthouse promptly at 8:00 am (DON’T BE LATE! WE EXPECT YOU THERE NO LATER THAN 8:00 AM!) I packed two books: one to read and one that would teach me to make beautiful origami, a notebook, a soda, snacks for lunch, tons of candy, of course, some origami paper.
As always I arrived early and headed to the jury assembly room. I like to sit in the front rows of these things because there will be less chance of me interacting with people. I got an end seat in the front row and immediately took over both armrests and sat less-than-ladylike to deter people from sitting beside me.
This didn’t work. A few minutes before eight, in walked a large hurricane of a woman who promptly plopped herself down right beside me, even though there were still a lot of other empty seats. She made that noise people make when they’ve been walking for hours and are exhausted. She seemed to physically expand as she settled in. She had three bags full of stuff, the contents of which I would learn later. She pulled out a spiral bound book and began to read and mouth-breathe. Great. I pretended to be asleep by closing my eyes but she caught me right when I opened them to see if it was working. I can’t remember exactly her first words but I will never forget the odor that was coupled with her speech. It was hot. It was foul and it was pointed my way. She kept talking to anyone who would listen about what we should expect (as if she was a professional juror) I can’t stand encounters with someone in these situations when they pretend to know everything there is about it and they treat you like you know nothing so they’re really helping you out. HATE IT. She also kept making a semi-joke about the jurors being “hostages.”
“Yeah, they probably called around nine hundred hostages for today. And if we’re not picked today we will have to come tomorrow.” (She glanced my way to see if I would laugh at her pathetic attempt to be funny. I did not.)
Then somehow she began to tell me about a trip she took to an 1800s replica village settlement in Indiana, where she learned how they baked bread and pies. She described the entire process. Apparently my face did not match with my feelings because I was trying to seem disinterested. She either didn’t notice or didn’t care because she kept talking, with her cabbage breath steaming my hair straight with every word. Finally I broke out my Beautiful Origami book and decided I’d make a paper menagerie. I thought maybe this might shut her up, seeing that I was busy….but it was not to be.
“I bought the grandkids an origami book and it came with this gorgeous paper! That’s a great idea for something to do while you’re a hostage.” (glance, pause for laughter. No laughter.) I kept folding. Must. Make. This. Owl.
Soon though, I earned a respite from her endless witless banter. She found another hostage to talk at. One who seemed to blossom in her cabbagey-laced attention. Peas in a pod.
They didn’t start assembling until about 9:30. They quickly assembled four juries, none of which I was picked for, and then I sat there, occasionally bombarded by Stankbreath until 11:30 when they released us for a two hour lunch. I have never, in my life, needed a two hour lunch, especially on a day when I just want to go home. So for two hours I wandered around downtown St. Louis.
When I re-entered the jury assembly room, I was pleasantly surprised. Stankbreath had fully expanded and was now using my former seat as a storage area for her crochet materials. Sweet! I was able to get another seat without that awkward glance you get when you move away from someone. I sat down two rows behind my original seat. I had my own little space until about ten minutes before everyone was expected back. Then a very tall bald man leapfrogged over my backpack (purposely put there to deter anyone from sitting beside me) He was a nervous man, the kind of person who apologizes for living, sometimes verbally and sometimes with their demeanor. With every minor move he made he shrunk more and more into himself. And he was not a small guy. He was actually so large (not fat, just a big guy) that he was crammed into the tiny seat.
He didn’t help his case any (pun intended, see? Because I’m serving jury duty? Duty? Ahhhh the immature mind) when he pulled out a very tiny Apple computer opened it up on his huge lap. He typed away for a while, throwing out a “oh yeah, uh huh, uh huh” every time the Chatty Kenny (I would have gone with Kathy here but it was a guy, more on him later) spoke to him. He alternated between his laptop, his Ipod and his Iphone. Definitely an Apple guy. Lemming. We spoke a few times and I found out what he did for a living (software engineer) and where he travelled for his job (Amsterdam but no trip to the van Gogh museum, who does that???) Then he put away his devices and closed his eyes.
And that’s really when he and I interacted the most. His head would fall forward and land on his chest. Then as it hit his chest, it would startle him awake and he’d open his eyes for a few minutes, only to have them close again. Each time he bobbled his head forward he would somehow manage to both lean forward and to his right…which is exactly where I was sitting. By the third or fourth bobble he was dangerously close to landing on me. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t panic a little bit.
I went into Emergency Planning Mode. If this guy fell on my shoulder, I would be fine. It would be a little awkward but I’m sure I could muster up some joke about not realizing we were that close, ending the line with a half-hearted chuckle. But if he kept going at his current pace and angle, the problem might be bigger. In theory, his entire upper torso could land on my lap, including his giant meaty head. That would require more than a joke…I had no answer. But luckily I didn’t need one because after two more hours of sitting there not being called, his humber was called and the seat beside me was vacated. Finally I would get the silence and solitude I had so craved all day. And it only took til 3:00 pm to get that reward.
Ahhhh to be so lucky. But it was not to be. Enter Chatty Kenny. Chatty Kenny was a really nice guy. But from the beginning, it was obvious that he needed someone to talk to. Within minutes of meeting him, I knew a lot about him. He was the supervisor in a factory that made all of the lawn rakes for Wal-Mart. He had declared bankruptcy recently, losing his pickup truck, which he declared was heartbreaking but worked out because he lived only a block and a half away. Oh, and he made $110 a day so being here he was losing a lot of money.
Chatty Kenny took me through the entire process of how to make a lawn rake, which I actually did find interesting, if I had had a moment of peace all day, which I did not. Around 3:30 they assembled two more juries. Neither of us was on either one so we were sent home with instructions to come back the next day.
And that’s where I am right now. I am sitting in the jury assembly room, with Chatty Kenny right beside me, who keeps glancing at my computer and when busted, stated guiltily “I’m not reading over your shoulder,” to which I, unfiltered, said “But you kind of are.”
Luckily he laughed. So here I sit, hoping to not be picked for a jury, hoping to be released at the end of the day, never to return again.
Until three years from now when I am forced, as a U.S. citizen, to go through this entire dreadful process again. They don’t call it jury DUTY for nothing….
duty…(giggle giggle, still funny.)