Even though my heart sinks whenever I receive a jury summons, I always tell myself I will do my civic duty and not complain. But an hour into the first day, I want to scream. I bring plenty to do -- magazines, a notebook for sketches and ideas, my iPad so I can play word games and retrieve my email. It just doesn't matter. I feel like a caged animal.
The room is gray and lifeless, with connected seats facing all one direction, like a bus station. The fluorescent lights make everyone look tired and washed out and no one smiles. No one wants to be there. We watch a bad film from the 1980s about what an honor it is to sit in judgment of our peers. And we wait.
When we are called to a courtroom, we are shepherded like cattle to a bank of elevators and through the hallways. The courtroom is small and can barely hold us -- perhaps 40 prospective jurors. The judge, the attorneys, the defendant and the bailiff watch us as we take our seats in the windowless room. The only embellishment: the words In God We Trust in 6 inch brass letters affixed to the wall above the judge's head.
The clerk swears us in and the the judge addresses us. He reads the indictment: 3 counts of vehicular homicide. Everyone in the jury pool moans and tries to think of a reason why he or she should not be picked for this trial. We break for lunch. When we return, the next three hours are spent dismissing people who have medical conditions, who can't speak English, who can't hear . . . and I know I am trapped. There is not a single reason I can't serve on this jury. A third of the pool has already been dismissed. I have a sinking feeling I will be chosen.
Then the judge tells us the trial will probably run into the middle of March -- and does anyone have any planned trips within that time period. Eureka! Pete has just booked a March vacation for us and just like that, I am free.
I would like to be able to say that I feel guilty that I'll be on vacation while 12 of my peers suffer through six weeks of what will surely be disturbing and possibly gruesome testimony, but I don't. I am relieved.
So much for civic duty.