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)