Help! I’m a prisoner in a county court building! I’m being held hostage right here, in the jury lounge, of all places, and it’s not at all what the name implies. There’s no subdued lighting, no plush sofas bedecked with decorative, comfy throw pillows to rest my exhausted head upon. No People magazines to peruse, and no soothing sounds of soft jazz.
So what kind of a jury lounge is this anyway? More like an ordinary waiting room, if you ask me. Complete with rows upon rows of chairs and stark, fluorescent lighting. The better to wake us up with, I suppose. After all, it is rather early and most of us are bleary-eyed, having awoken at 5 am to arrive here on time.
And who exactly are we? Just 200 American citizens, as far as I can see. We, the People and all that. Stand-up citizens who got the call to serve—and actually reported for duty. You’ll hear no excuses from us! We are not trying to get out of our civic responsibilities, no ma’am. We’re proud to be here, arm in arm and ready to enforce the law. Ok, maybe not arm in arm. Most of us have settled into a quiet solitude—or a stunned stupor, depending on how you look at it. It’s as if we’re all nursing hangovers and the slightest sound will split our heads in two. With nothing to do but wait. Jury lounge? I’d say, more like jury hell!
And what does a citizen summoned to jury duty wear? Only made-in-the-USA clothing befits an occasion such as this. Which means for me, a moderate, willing to look at both-sides-of-the-case outfit. In other words, nothing flashy or revealing, and nothing I’d wear on the weekends when I’m feeling like a lazy doodle. But somehow my fellow jurors didn’t get the memo, and I am aghast at what I see: everything from flip-flops, shorts, and sweats, to one cowboy vest, two pairs of orthopedic white shoes and one pair of plaid pajama pants. I consider going around and asking certain folks of the opposite gender, to tuck in their shirts. I have a mind to tell a woman in a peach-colored halter, three sizes to small, to pull it down over her navel, if you please.
Ten trials were to start today, but as of 10:05 am, we’re down to six because four have already settled or plea-bargained. One woman just polished off an entire box of cough drops. Another is filing her nails. A guy sitting beside me appears to be studying up for a French exam. An obviously bored man has put himself in charge of the recycling bin. Anytime someone approaches, to toss a can or water bottle, he gingerly opens it for them. Anything to kill time and we’re all killing time, forbidden as we are to leave.
10:38 and we’re all still jury lounge lizards. Two more cases have settled. 11:16 and still we’re all here. A young woman in stilettos slips on her way to the rest room. Lawsuit, perhaps?
11:23 and Case #7 enters a plea bargain. 11:35 and the natives are getting restless. We’ve yet to have a break from the monotony of waiting and I hear murmurings from the back of a possible breakout. Could it be a jury riot? Who can tell? Suddenly, the woman in the tight halter appears incensed. She’s been tapping her fingernails on the counter to no avail. Her nostrils flare and that can only mean one thing: She’s going rogue! And it looks like the recycling man is right behind her! He’s conjuring up a list of demands or, perhaps, an escape plan. Another five minutes and we’ll all be unionizing.
11:48 and a lady in charge steps up to the podium and the room grows quiet. We can all go home, she announces. Dismissed! Free to leave! There are no cases to be tried today, she adds for good measure.
What about our protest? I anxiously look around, expecting to see my comrades, my fellow jurors, resolved to continue with our plans to revolt. We’re not going to fall for this trap, are we? Obviously rebellion means nothing to them for, just like that, I see everyone gather their things, put away their books and their laptops, and make a mad dash for the door. I look for Recycling Man, but he’s already abandoned his post and has hightailed it out of Dodge.
Someone yells, “”Prison break!” But then I realize that it’s only me. Sheepishly, I too leave, feeling used and abandoned. Only the lady in charge of the lounge remains. “Nice lounge,” I remark, with only a slight detection of sarcasm. But what I really want to say is,
“Pardon me, any chance I can get a flag sticker, like we get when we vote, so that I can place it on my lapel to show the world that I participated in the judicial system?”
The lady walks away, and with a dismissive wave of her hand, says, “See you next year.”
Yep, since I didn’t get assigned to a jury, I’ll probably get another summons in 12 months. Oh well. Another riot averted.
- I, the Jury (monicastangledweb.com)
You took the words out of my mouth, so I really have nothing to say except commend you on highlighting the problems of waiting when someone has jury duty!
I would preferred to serve on a jury than hang out in the lounge. But I’m going to recommend that they add a karaoke machine for our entertainment. Don’t you think that could be fun?
It’s been a long time since I’ve been called to jury duty, and even then, I never did get on a trial. I was ready, but I was among those weeded out. I had to shake my head at your descriptions of fellow would-be jurors! Ya gotta luv America!!
Me and my juror buddies, we’re the cream of the crop and we like to dress the part (and that’s only said with a hint of sarcasm). Honestly, the jurors’ lounge would do well to have a fashion consultant on the premises to offer helpful hints, even if all it means is learning to tuck in a shirt, or wear a sweater to disguise the tatoos. That’s all I’m saying. I never thought of myself as a fashionista until I entered through the doors of the jurors’ lounge…The rest is history.
I had fun reading your post, Monica. When someone’s patrolling the recycling bin, you know it’s bad. I got called to jury duty once and the defendant was African American. When asked, “Do you have any African American friends?” I said haltingly, “Well, kind of. My husband.” Which was the true. I was dismissed immediately. I didn’t stick around long enough to check on the recycling situation.
Ha! You dodged the bullet on that one. When I was young I thought getting a jury summons was as likely as winning the lottery. Well, I’ve never won the lottery but I’ve been summoned 6 times, and served on a jury twice. I think when I retire, I’m just going to loiter in jury lounges and see if they call me. They pay $12 per day, after all! 🙂
You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I have always wanted to have jury duty. I’ve watched family and friends called to duty and I’ve never once received a summons. I think my extreme nosiness makes me want to hear all of the sordid details of someone’s legal troubles. I assume it would be like Jerry Springer live or something. Your decscription doesn’t make it sound as Springeresque as I had imagined! Funny post!
Trust me, I was disappointed that I didn’t get called. Maybe next time. Getting called makes it exciting. Sitting all day in the jury lounge, not so much. 😦
Monica, I loved this post and laughed so hard! I was like you at one point, wishing I could get called just ONE time to jury duty so I could see what it was like. Well, be careful what you wish for cuz last year, I got called onto a five week gang murder trial. It was emotionally draining and I honestly think for a short while afterward I suffered from a little PTSD, and then I had to go back to work to be told that I should have tried harder to get out of jury duty because THEY were inconvenienced and stressed that I was out of the office for so long. Yes, be careful what you wish for.
I’ve been on two cases, Susan, and neither of them were criminal, so my experience was mild in comparison to yours. If I ever get on a trial again, I’m going to pray it’s not for a crime because I know that would be horrendous. Thanks for the heads up!
I have never had jury duty. The first time I was called, I played the pregnancy card and got out of going.
Which probably means I’ll be getting a summons sometimes in the near future. At least it makes for good blog fodder, right?
Definitely will make good blog fodder. I was able to squeeze two posts out of my jury summons! 😉
The last time i had jury duty was in NYC 20 years ago! No laptops, no cell phones, no ipods. I brought books, mags, and crossword puzzles and, like you people watched. It was so beyond freaky that I actually started writing a Seinfeld episode thinking it would be a perfect Jerry thing. Never finished it but wow, that was a crazy three days.
Nice that you’re done if not called the first day. In NYC we had to come back for 3 days even if you never sat a case.
It used to be that way, the three day system, but a few years ago they changed it, so if you’re not called, that’s it and you’re off the hook for a year. But if you do serve, then they wait 3 years before calling you back. So, 3 years ago I did serve, for two days, and then the plaintiff settled out of court.
What? No glamour like what they feature on tv shows and Hollywood films? No one to bribe you or sway you to cast a vote of innocent or guilty? No being evaluated as a potential jury member? No lawyer to ask you to look at Exhibit A? I’m disappointed. 🙂 You had me laughing from beginning to end, Monica! Only you have the ability to make jury duty hysterical!
Now I’m really disappointed. Not only did I not get to serve. But no bribe, either! Boy was I gypped. 😦
I get called every year, to. Still haven’t been on a jury in CA. Your time was much better spent then mine ever is. (I’m the one with my nose buried in a book to pass the time.) What a spot on description of the people and the place.
Next time, leave the book at home and bring your lap top (or in my case, my iPad). You’ll be surprised how much you’ll find to write about!
This was hilarious, Monica…I have yet to do jury duty, but I suspect it won’t be a fun thing!
Hi Wendy! It may not be a fun thing, but as a writer, you have an advantage, my friend–your creative mind and imagination. So you’ll not have any problems finding the fun in it! 🙂 I so appreciate you stopping by each time I have a new post. You’re the best!
Thanks, Monica…I wouldn’t keep coming if your blog wasn’t good!
You might enjoy my friend Oma’s take on jury duty:
Jury duty is definitely not for the faint of heart. It is a good way to people watch. You have a great eye for that! Thankfully, the jury lounge in our court house was a little more accommodating — however, big comfy couches bring their own brand of horror. People tend to fall asleep, or take up the whole thing with their ‘stuff’. Yep, definitely not for the faint of heart! Congratulations on surviving the day!
I was actually hoping to get assigned or at least interviewed as a potential juror, but NONE of us were called. Just waiting, waiting, and then we left. I guess there’s always next year. At least it gives me food for fodder, don’t you think?