As I was walking back into my apartment from the mailbox, I leafed through the envelopes and ads I had received. Most of it was what I usually got: bills, credit card statements, and pizza and carpet cleaning coupons.
As I walked back through my apartment door, I noticed the last envelope, which was white, red and black. It was a jury summons.
Inside were instructions to call the automated service to register and a date when I was expected to report for service as a juror. At first, I dreaded the thought of spending days and weeks in a courtroom on a case of trivial importance. It was a long drive to get to downtown, there were the parking hassles, and the waiting.
When the first day of service arrived, I passed through the metal detectors and sat down in the Jurors’ Assembly Room. There were hundreds of other people there who were taking time away from work, school, or their regular family responsibilities.
After filling out several forms, we were all instructed to watch a video on jury service. We all looked on as the old color TV’s hanging in the corners of the room flickered to life.
The video showed some scenes inside a real courtroom. It showed what the jobs of the judge, the attorneys, court clerk, stenographer, and bailiff entailed. The narrator let us know that it was the bailiff that jurors were to speak to in case any of us had a problem.
The video showed how everyone would stand as the judge centered. It also showed how jurors should pay attention to, and listen to, all testimony as well as the judge’s instructions.
After that, the juror room clerk called a pool of 35 people to report to a courtroom. I was not called. I was not called for any of the next four groups of thirty-five either. I was ready to try and drift off to sleep for a half hour or so, but the two ladies sitting nearby started up a conversation. As it turned out, they had many of the same interests as I, and the three of us spend the hours until lunch talking about computers, iPhones, art, traffic and television shows we all liked.
I think there is something about being confined to a space with strangers and finding comfort in conversation and commonalities. We three talked and listened to each other and truly enjoyed the interaction. After lunch we returned to the jury room. I spent the afternoon listening to the names of other perspective jurors being called, but never heard my own. At the end of the day, those who were not called for a case were excused from further jury service. We were reminded that we would not receive another jury summons in the mail again for at least another year.