This morning I had the “privilege” of upholding one of my civic duties as an American citizen: Jury Duty. Horrah! Can you sense the sarcasm?
Before all of you die-hard lovers of the justice system go all ape on me, I should clarify. It’s not that I don’t understand, or recognize, the importance of my presence. I get it. And, God forbid, should I ever find myself on the other side of the courtroom railing, I will be thankful that our American Justice System exists. However, as I sit here today on a solid wood bench, trying to wake my butt cheeks from their slumber, I can’t help but think that as a juror we are treated a bit like criminals ourselves.
I’m 35 years old and this is the fourth time I’ve been called for jury duty. I’ve received notice five times, but the first time I was still in high school and under the age of 18. I know people older than me that have never been called. If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that the Black Hawk County Courthouse has my number. It’s a random selection process. I just wish I had the same luck of the draw while playing the Iowa Powerball.
Anyhoo…my point is this isn’t my first dog and pony show. I consider myself a bit of an expert when it comes to the experience. Perhaps so many of us wouldn’t dread the process so much if it wasn’t, well, such a dreadful process. For those of you who are unfamiliar with how it goes down, let me paint the picture:
The first thing you encounter upon entering the courthouse is a long security line where you are required to have your bags and body scanned. I get the necessity and its sad that we live in a world where you have to assume anybody could be packing. But, a body scan at 8:00 a.m., before I’ve even had a Diet Coke, isn’t the warmest of welcomes. After passing through the security line, you stand in another long line for the Clerk of Court where you receive your courtroom assignment. You’ll be greeted by a courthouse employee who is so obviously overflowing with joy and happiness that he/she passes your assignment on to you with a curt “Courtroom 301. Next?” Once you reach the courtroom, you plant your tushie on a pine bench. Get comfortable. Because unless you’re lucky enough to be part of a plea-bargain case, that’s where you’ll spend the next. eight. hours. If you’re really lucky, your juror number will be called and you’ll move to one of the cushy chairs on the juror stand.
Not so bad you say? That’s because you haven’t gotten the pep talk from the courtroom attendant yet. Not only do you get to sit on a rock-hard bench for 8 hours, but there are to be “no cell phones, no cameras, no food, no beverages, no laptops, no e-readers, no tablests and no books in use in the courtroom.” Because they need your utmost attention. Don’t fret, there will be a recess from time to time so you can grab a snack or something to drink. That is if you don’t need to use that time to sprint to your 2-hour parking meter so you can feed it more quarters and avoid a $10 parking ticket. If you do manage to grab a snack or something to drink in the remaining seconds of your 15-20 minute recess, you can forget about consuming it because all food and beverage must be eaten OUTSIDE the courtroom. Perhaps if you get really dry, you can sneak a drink from one of the styrofoam cups and giant pitchers of water sitting in front of the attorneys. They are the ones doing all the talking, right? Besides, if you eat or drink, you might have to use the restroom and there’s no time for that either. Awesome.
So here I sit, writing today’s post the old fashioned way: pen in hand, pen pressed to a white legal pad.
Wait – here comes the judge…
What’s that he’s saying? Something about the case being resolved?!
JACKPOT! Plea-bargain! We’re dismissed!
As I leave the stagnant grey environment of the courthouse, I can immediately smell the freshness of the air and feel the warmth of the sun on my face. I can’t help but think this must feel a little like being released from prison. Usually a break from the daily grind of caring for my two young boys is welcomed with open arms. But I’ll take whining, fighting and butt-wiping over this controlled environment any day. I don’t think I’ll be seeing “Attorney at Law” behind my name anytime soon.
God bless America!