Day one of actual jury duty, and my stress limit was already shattered by the time we sat down in the jury box. And as I said last week, the attorneys hadn’t even started talking yet.
We were ordered to be in the jury waiting room at 8:45 a.m. sharp, and I had a nice fat, five-minute cushion when I walked up the courthouse stairs. Unlike the day before, when I was a mere citizen with a jury summons and sailed right through the security checkpoint, on this day I hit a snag.
The screener spotted an eensy-weensy folding knife in my makeup bag. It’d sailed right on through the day before. Ah, but I wasn’t a juror then. Once you’re a juror, you belong to them.
Officer Hardnose, standing guard nearby, declared that I must take it back to my car or throw it away.
You’ve got to be kidding me. The blade isn’t big enough for a hamster knife fight.
“It’s still a weapon,” he said sternly.
And yet, he wasn’t worried about my tongue. Let alone my keyboard. Silly man.
“Can’t I just leave it with you and pick it up later?”
Officer Hardnose replied that all he could do was confiscate it permanently. It was already 8:43 a.m., and I was tempted to chuck it in the trash because I have a neurotic fear about being late, but the cheapskate — it is strong with this one. I protested that I didn’t have enough time to walk three blocks to my car and back. I’d be late.
“Trust me, you’ve got plenty of time,” said the screener.
I would not fully understand the pure truth of that statement for several days.
“Can I go to the bathroom first?” I pleaded. I’d downed a huge travel mug of black coffee on the drive there without reservation because I hadn’t anticipated being detained in the security dragnet over a gerbil’s switchblade. My bladder was losing patience.
“No,” said Officer Hardnose sternly. Because he could.
Thankfully, the screening officer took pity on me, and directed me to leave my purse and go. I did, and on the way out, I gave Officer Hardnose an annoyed glance as I snatched my purse and practically jogged to my car.
It wasn’t until I got to the car that I discovered the makeup bag wasn’t in my purse. Oh yeah — they’d removed it from my purse, needing of course to contain that weapon. I was so flustered about being late, I totally forgot. I threw a personal little hissy fit right there in the parking lot, and jogged back to the courthouse and back up the stairs.
“You didn’t give me the bag back,” I growled, half-winded. He knew. He handed it to me as soon as he saw me. And Officer Hardnose. He knew too. They probably watched me leave without the bag and then giggled like schoolgirls as soon as I got out the door.
That’s it, buddy. The next glance you get is going to be so way worse than annoyance.
I trotted back to the car yet again, and as all mature adults would, opened the door, and chucked the makeup bag to the floor, swearing like a middle-schooler, and then turned around and jogged back yet again, sailing right through security this time. And, oh yes, Officer Hardnose got a glance all right.
See this, Officer Hardnose? That’s not just annoyance. That’s acrimony.
Stings, doesn’t it.
You had it comin’, pal.
I charged up the stairs and into the jury room, and was relieved that the other jurors were still there. Whew. I wouldn’t be sent to the Big House for contempt of court after all. I settled into a chair and before anyone had a chance to engage me in any way, I pulled out my iPad and popped in my earbuds — the perfect shield for unwanted social interaction. I learned that from my kids.
The only thing that could’ve made the morning any more aggravating would’ve been getting sucked into chit-chat quicksand with strangers. I wasn’t there to be sociable. I wasn’t there to make friends. I was there for one reason: I was forced to.
At least my fears about being late turned out to be unfounded. After a half hour rolled past, I decided to try an iPad game. I picked Temple Run, because I could understand the goal: Run fast and don’t die. That was my first time running. By the time the trial ended nearly two weeks later, I’d mastered the “Karma Lee” level, slipping and sliding, grabbing coins and magic green diamonds, swinging on ropes and leaping over ravines like a diehard gamer. And I don’t even like video games. But it passed the time. (And no I couldn’t read a book because I can’t concentrate when I’m annoyed.)
Turns out, much of jury duty involves sitting and waiting. A video game seemed somewhat more entertaining than my usual pastime when I’m stuck somewhere and excruciatingly bored: imagining all the ways I could commit suicide using only the available tools in the room. That got me through covering many a planning commission meeting, my friends. One mention of sewer laterals, and I’d be mentally impaling myself on the flagpole.
As for my fellow jurors, they were embracing this whole adventure, chattering about this and that, and deciding where they’d all go for lunch. I’d take note so I could be sure to head in the other direction at lunchtime.
Why be so unsociable? Simple. I had a singular goal: to get through this hostage ordeal and resume my normal life as quickly as possible. Besides, once we got into deliberations, if I had to verbally mince some nit-picking melonhead into pieces for bogging the process down with endless, pointless, ego-stroking debate, it’d be a lot easier if we hadn’t chatted over sandwiches the day before.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at [email protected]; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.edebra.com