Note: This is the final bit in the ongoing story concerning my experience as a potential juror. You can find the beginning of the story here…
The mousy little judge recovers from the startling announcement that we have a wanted felon in the house, and she quickly instructs the confused police officer to take the questionable juror to another room for some private conversation. They trottle off to do so, and then the judge faces the rest of the room once again.
“Does anyone ELSE think they have a good reason why they shouldn’t serve on a jury today?”
Well, not really, not after discovering that Patty Hearst just pulled a trump card on all of us. Can’t really top that. The jerk who managed to get out of duty because he “had the sniffles” is still standing at the front of the room waiting to be excused, his head hung in shame as he refuses to make eye contact with those of us still in servitude to the Municipal Court. We glare at him anyway and try to make him burst into flames, mainly for entertainment purposes, but this does not immediately happen.
The judge smiles primly. “Okay, then. Well, make yourselves comfortable and the bailiff will be in shortly with your assignments.” Then she turns and walks out of the room to go do whatever judges do when they aren’t presiding over a trial.
Now it’s a waiting game, that excruciating period where we all sit around forever, hoping that our name is never called so that maybe we can get out of here by noon. Or that our name does get called but by the time we tromp all the way to the courtroom, some type of agreement has been reached and we are dismissed. Whatever it takes. Just let us go home soon. Please.
For the next two minutes or so, it’s actually very peaceful. There are a few pockets of quiet conversation here and there, but for the most part people are quietly reading or working on crossword puzzles or just sitting there and waiting for the hangover to pass. This is how it should work in a jury waiting room. You know it’s going to be boring, so you bring your own entertainment and you leave people alone. Nice. I pull out my book and open it to the next chapter, curious to see what twisted thing Stephen King is about to unleash on another minor character who doesn’t understand that locked doors should be left locked.
Right then, some skank in the front row jumps up, races over to the ancient TV, and slaps it on. She doesn’t even bother to mess with the channel or even analyze what our viewing options might be. She’s one of those sad and irritating souls who have been raised at the bosom of numbing television. It doesn’t matter what the program is. The TV just needs to be on. (This right here is why our society is doomed to failure at some point.)
Now we have some crap-fest daytime TV show blaring throughout the room. I’m one of those people who can’t read when annoying noises are taking place around me, so I sigh and close my book. Might as well try to get into whatever is being broadcast and hope it helps pass the time, fully aware that I might be tasting a gateway drug that will eventually lead to a life of sloth and worthlessness.
We are apparently watching a game show, a mystifying competition involving three contestants who ride around in a taxicab, with the driver throwing out trivia questions while navigating some serious traffic. They win money if they are right, they lose money when they are wrong, and there are special rules like bonus cash if the passengers answer a question correctly when the driver is at a red light.
They’ve got to be kidding me with this. What moron producer gave a green light to such a bonehead idea? Hey, let’s shove some people in a car, and then do everything we can to distract the driver, what with hosting duties and a camera shoved in his face. This thing has potential death and expensive lawsuits all over it.
And the woman who insisted on activating the TV so we would have to sit through this mess? She returns to her seat and immediately gets on her cell phone, babbling about some social faux pas that happened at a bar with the dubious name of “Snapper Jack’s”. Somebody’s pregnant and Baby Daddy ain’t steppin’ up.
I involuntarily start grinding my teeth.
Then some guy with bad hair stands up and marches toward the exit door, presumably intent on a personal mission of some kind. That would be fine and all, none of my business, if it weren’t for this man’s choice of footwear. He’s wearing some wretched sneakers that apparently have thousands of suction cups on the soles. Each step he takes releases a squelchy, ripping noise that echoes around the room, outdoing even the banal blare from the TV. I instantly hate and despise his very existence. He finally rounds the corner out of sight, and my sphincter relaxes.
Two seconds later, Suction Man returns through the door and heads toward the “privacy room” on the left, his evil shoes pulling up half the floor tiles as he goes, creating a sonic cacophony that threatens to shatter our eardrums. Luckily, he mostly closes the door so that it muffles his pacing in the inner sanctum.
From somewhere behind me: “Bitch better stay in there for a while. Can’t take that.”
Suction Man doesn’t get the message. Four seconds later, he throws open the door and squelches back into sight. He then dumbfounds us all by circling the crumbling check-in table, twice, and then heading back out the main door. What is wrong with him? Does he really not hear the devil noises that his shoes are making?
Incredibly, Suction Man marches right back in the room and continues with the sonic disturbance, insistently trying to make his mark on every square inch of flooring in the waiting room. This is so many kinds of not-right. He is clearly insane.
From somewhere to my right: “Oh, Sweet Jesus. Give me the strength.”
But the madness doesn’t stop there.
Two rows ahead of me, a woman pulls out a piece of paper and shows it to a temporary companion on her right. “Am I supposed to do something with this?” She’s holding her jury summons. This woman was in her seat way before both the administrative clerk and the judge instructed everyone to place their summons in the bin on the crappy table.
Her companion just looks at her.
I just look at her.
Then the woman in the front row who insisted on activating the TV suddenly turns around and throws in even more stupidity to the mix. “Hey, girl, I got one a those too. Does the judge lady need that?”
Is there anybody in this room that made it past the third grade? Just wondering.
And so it goes, for the next several hours. Every fifteen minutes or so, some waste of taxpayer dollars will discover that he or she still has their jury summons that they haven’t handed over. Every ten minutes something really loud happens on the TV that nobody is watching but still hasn’t been turned off. And every five minutes, Suction Man makes another run for the border. That last bit is the worst of all. The noise he is making is so beyond annoying that half the people are on suicide watch by the time another official enters the room.
The new guy is the bailiff. He’s here to announce our specific jury assignments. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for, enduring agonizing torment for what seems like decades. Even the tattooed gang-bangers in the jury pool turn off their iPods to see what this man has to say.
And he gets right to the point. “I want everybody on the back row to line up against this wall over here. You guys are going first.”
Wow. That’s really kind of cool. The back row has all the people who didn’t take this seriously and showed up late. They deserve to go first, before the folks who did the right thing and got here on time. I kinda like this guy.
Then he throws me for a loop. “Now I want everybody in the third row to line up behind these other people.” What? I’m still not affected, being in the fifth row, but things are kind of not making sense at this point. What’s going on?
Then the bailiff gets even more random. “Any lawyers in the room?” One guy behind me raises his hand. “Get in line. Anybody work for AT&T? I had a problem with my bill and they really ticked me off.”
Well, of course nobody’s going to raise their hand after that. But he keeps going. “How about Sprint? Anybody work for them? Time-Warner?” (He’s getting so close to my job with Verizon that I can barely breathe. If he says the V-word I’m crawling under my chair and curling up in a ball.) But he’s apparently done.
“Okay, everybody lined up against the wall can go home. The rest of you are gonna be on a jury.”
Then he laughs. “I’m just kidding. It’s all good, they don’t need any of you. Get your butts out of here and go.”
Everybody leaps to their feet in a rapturous moment of release. As we slowly file out the door, the bailiff hams it up, cracking jokes and asking if anybody is going to Luby’s, cause he sure would like some fried fish.
And he thanks every single one of us as we go out the door. That, right there, makes everything fine and dandy. I’ve whined and moaned during my entire stay, but this man has to endure whiners and moaners every day, and he still has a great attitude about his job. Lesson to be learned, right?
As I wander down the hall, I hear one of the last people still in the room ask him a question. “Am I supposed to do something with this piece of paper?”
There’s an odd, sharp sound, like someone being slapped.
I just keep walking toward freedom, with a spring in my step, probably because my crotch has finally dried out and I’m a few pounds lighter. I briefly contemplate heading to Luby’s down the street and grabbing some fried fish for the bailiff, just to make his day. But then I realize I would have to let the horndog in security fondle my belt again when I come back through and, yeah, we’re not going there. Maybe next time.
Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 03/19/10. Considerable changes made. Story behind the photo: A random shot of downtown Dallas from the LTV Tower. Just because.
In the viewing audience, Melanie raises her hand: “Lovely story, really, but what about the cliffhanger in the last episode with the woman and her sister? Why was there an arrest warrant?”
Brian: “Right, that. Well, it turned out it was just a warrant for unpaid parking tickets. Not really all that exciting, so I thought it best to quietly not finish that part of the adventure.”
Melanie: “Interesting. You seem to have a history of not telling stories that you promise to tell.”
Brian: “I think I know where you’re going with this.”
Melanie: “Of course you do. Where’s the story about the time you got arrested? We’ve been waiting for years.”
Brian: “I promise to get right on that one.”
I smile beatifically and wait for Melanie to re-take her seat, then I uncross the fingers behind my back.
Categories: My Life