Social Obligation

This morning I was up at the crack of dawn to get ready for jury duty.

I will swear all day that theoretically, I have absolutely no issue with the concept of jury duty as we know it.

It’s the judicial system itself that’s flawed, but that’s beside the point.

I check in and take a seat on the front row, because nobody sits on the front row, and plenty of seats were available. I get out my book and read until everyone in line has a little H next to their name on the roll. About a hundred and twenty of us spread out in the police jury room, which has seating for possibly two hundred.

We listen to the rules: no cell phones on in the courtroom, and hide your reading material when the judge is in the courtroom.

Don’t forget, I’m in Louisiana, and too much book learnin’ can get offensive, y’all. Can’t let a judge catch you readin’ when there’s bad folks to lock up.

I don’t see the harm in an old lady catching up on her Woman’s Day when the lawyers have fourteen people to interview before theres a chance of her number getting called. 

Then the same movie I’ve already seen four times. Come on guys, maybe update the film every decade? Every twenty years, even? Please?

Ah, now we discuss who doesn’t meet the legal requirements. One person in the room is dismissed for a recent felony conviction.

Next we spend forty minutes on roll call and assigning new juror numbers, because even though they’ll be selecting random numbers to send to the courtrooms upstairs, the numbers we were assigned when chosen aren’t good enough anymore. But of course, let’s not tell the prospective jurors that their numbers don’t mean anything until the ones with high numbers get their hopes up. 

I had 106. 

Okay, now let’s have a ten minute recess while the judges take plea bargains upstairs and estimate how many jurors they’ll need this week.

Ten minutes stretches to twenty. Twenty to thirty. An hour. An hour and a half. By this time I was posting on Facebook about bureaucratic inefficiency. 

Finally, the judge returns with news. And it’s good news: everyone upstairs has either pled guilty or made a deal. 

We are all done; we are all released.

Several people didn’t understand what this meant and had to verify their status with someone, anyone with an official-looking name tag.

Traffic was horrible on the way home.

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