Getting there right on time and then waiting for three hours. Uncomfortable chairs. Having to fill out forms that ask personal questions. Outdated reading material. Other people being called while you sit…and sit…and sit. Why, I found that jury duty is just like going to the doctor. Except you go to the doctor because you have a problem that needs to be fixed.
With jury duty, the problem is that you are there and you want to be somewhere else. At least, this seemed to be the case with all of my fellow jury duty selectees this morning, and it certainly was with me. Notwithstanding the annoyingly cheery video that we were shown about the patriotic nature of jury duty, how our presence was assuring that the Republic Would Stand, blah, blah, blah, the mood in the jury assembly room for those three hours was seriously sullen.
Until the last of us were released at 11:30 am, having been told that the trial had been put off because new evidence had been discovered and the defense needed more time to consider it, the only happy people I saw were the four prospective jurors who were told they had been let go for some undisclosed reason after the judge/attorneys had seen their forms.
At that point I regretted not having been convicted of a felony in the past eight years, and failing to write down “using the Internet to research the manufacture of barely legal synthetic psychoactive drugs” on the “special interests” line of my juror information form. Instead, I sat and sat, and read and read.
As luck would have it, today’s Statesman-Journal had an item about prospective jurors in the Robert Blake murder trial being asked if they could be available for five months, and being told that few excuses not to serve would be accepted. That was cheery jury room reading.
Only slightly more positive was a chapter from a science book, “The Universe Next Door,” that I had brought to help while away the hours. I learned that the Many Worlds idea in quantum theory says that at every moment reality splits into countless parallel universes, each inhabited by a slightly different version of the reality we are experiencing now.
All this happens because of the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics. So in one universe I was called for jury duty, and in another universe I wasn’t. In one universe I was called for jury duty and had to serve, and in another universe I was called for jury duty and didn’t have to serve.
This was all theoretically interesting, but the hard cold fact was that the only universe I was aware of at the moment had me sitting in a bleak juror meeting room on an uncomfortable chair. The universe in which I was at home leisurely eating my breakfast and watching CNN was nowhere to be experienced. I kept tapping the heels of my shoes together and wishing that the Good Witch would take me anywhere but into another jury pool. No luck.
Looking back at the experience with as optimistic a gaze as I can muster, it was just three hours of my life that I’ll never have back again. On the plus side, I got some reading done. I enjoyed an excellent bag of seasoned almonds from the Courthouse coffee stand. I think I get $10 plus 20 cents a mile, which should reap me a $14 check. Subtracting $1.29 for the almonds, I came out well ahead. Not quite minimum wage, but more than $4.00 an hour for my time.
This guy has a much darker view of jury duty than I do, though I empathize with his outlook. There’s something un-American about telling people who haven’t done anything wrong, “Failure to respond to the jury summons may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest and your having to show cause why you should not be held in contempt.”
When I read that, I thought: “Cause? I’ll show you cause. You’re asking a lazy, semi-retired writer who stays up until midnight to show up in downtown Salem at the time he usually stumbles out of bed. Case closed.” In my own universe, at least.