I go back to the courthouse, a “Shore Leave” beneficiary returning to “The Front.” It might have been better if I had not left at all. Re-entering the “War Zone” triggers my original anxieties. It was like going to Jury Duty twice.
(NOTE: My apologies to anyone who has endured, not the metaphorical, but the actual experience. I am analogizing for dramatic effect. But do not doubt that I am cognizant of the difference. I am. And given the option, I would overwhelmingly embrace “Jury Duty.”)
“Going AWOL” was not a consideration. Not meaning the thought did not, at least peripherally, cross my mind. Again, pursuing this recognizedly inapt analogy, the rest of the Jury Pool members were now my comrades. I went back, to a substantial degree, for them. Not to bolster our defenses – we were not facing an imminent attack. It was that somehow their opinion of me was important. I did not want them to think poorly of me. (“Earlo, they’re strangers!” “I know it’s crazy, but still.”)
I walk into the building, I pass through “Security” (Man! All those Law & Order episodes where somebody ran amok in the courtroom, drew a gun and started blasting away? I mean, was there no courtroom security at all before 9/11?)
I take the elevator to the Third Floor Assembly Room. (I am generally a “Stairs Person” which, unlike in New York, is doable in Los Angeles, where impending earthquake apprehensions keep the building structures relatively short. But with the absence of Third Floor stair access, I am required to take the elevator, trying gamely not to freak out. It helped that there was nobody else on the elevator. At worst, I would embarrass myself in front of the disembodied “Emergency Button Response Voice.”)
I re-enter the Assembly Room, wondering if I should check back in – less, I immediately realize, for attendance recording purposes than for personal self-aggrandizement – “Oh, good! You came back!”
Instead, I simply proceed out to the patio, take my book out of my Major Dad knapsack (a First Season show holiday present) , and I get back to my reading.
At this point, the morning “scuttlebutt” aside, I expect to be called to serve on the court’s pre-announced second trial’s jury panel. The prevailing “butterflies” instantly resurface. It was then, however, I got my first inkling that all might fortuitously be well.
It is announced that the jury pool members who need Parking Validations should proceed immediately to the check-in desk, because – and here was the fishy part – they were turning off the “Validation Machine” for the rest of the day.
We were assured that this instruction had nothing to do with our continuing Jury Duty responsibilities, but I could not help thinking that it did. Attending to “Parking Validation” appeared like a “Finishing Off” activity. Similar to them saying, “Make sure you have all your personal belongings when you leave. We’re not saying you are leaving now. This is simply a reminder.” To my ear, something about that instruction that seemed conspicuously “off.”
And it turned out, I was correct.
Ten minutes later, at about two twenty-five P.M., we were informed that our jury service had been completed, and we were officially released.
With apologies once again for the combat analogy – it was like the church bells were pealing all over San Christobel. (Or wherever.) We were permanently out of “Harm’s Way”, free to return to the waiting arms of our loved ones.
What was the fuss about? And why was it so upsetting to me?
I have, I am certain, mentioned this before. “A rich and fertile imagination” comes with a recognizable downside. Analogically constructed, every dentist appointment is accompanied by images of a jackhammer decimating your teeth.
As with dentist, so with Jury Duty. “Worst Case Scenarios” inevitably pop to mind.
MENACING CONVICTEE: I’ll get you when I get out!”
More reasonable – at least to this fevered sensibility – is the concern that, feeling congenitally less capable that the Average Bear – in this case, the average juror – concerning real situations – “real” meaning situations you would prefer to avoid but can't – I have a dread of exposing my inadequacies before an assemblage of fellow citizens.
What if we see things differently? What if I am ambivalized by the evidence and simply unable to decide? What if some of the juror members seem stubbornly inflexible, and ignorantly wrong, and, okay I’ll say it – just plain stupid?
How will I deal with people who disagree with me? – What if I become frustratingly tongue-tied and suddenly inarticulate? What if we can’t come to a unanimous decision and we are sent back for further deliberation, and it gets even more contentious, and we “hang”, and the judge berates us for wasting the court’s time? (And I know it’s my fault.)
To me, these seem more “legitimate concerns” than hyper-ventilated “What if’s?” But I’m me. And I have over-dramatized before.
Confession: I feel inadequate as a “Regular Person.” In situations where “Regular Person” behavior is required, I feel trepidatiously “not up to the challenge.” I may mask my concerns with an indignant sense of “entitlement” – “How dare they interrupt my habitual routine with Jury Duty!” But my real fear is, “I can’t handle it.” (Is this too personal? It feels somewhat uncomfortable, but I go where the stories take me.)
On the other hand, a “‘Regular Person’ sensibility” costs me six – I think – interesting stories.
“How was Jury Duty?”
“I went. But they didn’t call me?”
How fascinating is that?
It is possible I might have enjoyed Jury Duty. I watch trials when I go to England. I enjoy courtroom dramas on TV. Who knows? The reasonable part of me might have relished the opportunity to challenge myself, sifting thoughtfully through the evidence, arguing my views persuasively during deliberation. It’s possible. As I’ve been told for a lifetime about strange foods that I have summarily rejected, “How do you know until you’ve tried it?”
Was the fuss necessary? I was provided no reality to compare it with. It probably wasn’t. But being dismissed without serving, I never actually found out.
Maybe next time I can approach the call to Jury Duty with a more equanimitous demeanor.
But, knowing me,
I probably won’t.