Monday, October 11, 2010

Jury Duty: NOT the Pauly Shore Movie

I was expecting jury duty to be more "state fair" or "DMV", and in actuality, it was more "church luncheon" or "senior center."  I expected raucous, unwashed masses, I got literate grannies and plump uncles.  I dreaded jury duty from the minute I registered to vote; everyone I knew groaned about the long days and what a bother it was to sit for hours on end in a jury room, waiting.  Know what?  I loved it.

I arrived well ahead of schedule--nerves about what would happen to me if I was late enabled me to get out the door well before I needed.  I lined up on the red carpet with my "peers", still waiting for the room to fill with a standard Californian type of diversity.  I won't say that the room wasn't ethnically diverse--it was, for sure--but what surprised me was the lack of perceptible diversity of income level and education.  I suppose one can't tell these entirely by looking at someone, and I don't mean to presume too much, but by all appearances everyone there was ostensibly literate and of mid- to upper class.  This really made me wonder about the process of jury selection, my perception of Californians, and at least the kind of people who pay attention to a jury summons... in the end I really just don't know why the crowd appeared as it did, but it took me by surprise.  It did not appear to represent a cross-section of California as I imagined it.  I also wondered if my perception of what a cross-selection of my state would look like is skewed from my profession.  I honestly don't know.

My early observations out of the way, I settled into a cubbyhole in the corner and proceeded to tune out the world.  Thank God I remembered to run back in the house to grab my headphones in the morning.  I Jim Brickman-ed out and graded essays for a few hours.  My cubbyhole proved to be the best seat in the house, as it afforded me a bubble of personal space and a window seat in the sun.  I sipped tea and wrapped my sweater tight around my shoulders.  It was glorious and peaceful, not unlike the Saturdays I spend grading, huddled in the corner of a Starbucks--only this seemed like a "free" day because it wasn't carved from my personal time.  Lunch came (two hours!) and I strolled into the sunshine to fetch my lunch from the car, smiling.

The post-lunch hours were admittedly more boring than the morning and my right hip started to ache, but the morning's peace carried over enough that I was content.  Eventually I stopped grading and buried myself in the final pages of Native Son, which I'm teaching to my AP kids.  I finished my read-through, ironically following the passages that chronicle Bigger Thomas' legal troubles in the final book, Fate.  Every once in a while a disembodied voice would call out names for transport to a courtroom.  Every time I'd lift out my pink ear bud, and listen, escaping selection.  (I honestly wanted to go--I like the courtrooms--but my name never came.)  Finally the eight trials dwindled to one, and I waited obediently for the last hour.  A ten-minute break  allowed me to sojourn to the cafeteria, where I ferreted out a (disgusting)  hard boiled egg and some string cheese.  I spent my final minutes reading The Onion and trying to guess the political affiliations of my fellow maybe-jurors, and I was thanked and excused by 3:45.

I realize I didn't have the full experience--I can't claim to have been on a trial or to have been through the process in its entirety.  But as far as sitting in a room goes, I'd take jury duty any day.  I would have had to take a sick day to finish my grades sometime this week--instead I did my civic duty and knocked out a few essays in the process.  Not.  Too. Shabby.


  1. I loved jury duty. I felt so proud to be an American. And the cross section of people was interesting to me. It was another lesson in "don't judge the book by its cover."

    Thanks for your comment today. I love knowing you're still out there!