Hurry up, and wait.¬† That is exactly what I did this week.¬† I was summoned for jury duty.¬† Don’t get me wrong.¬† I believe that everyone should do their civic duty and do jury duty at least once in their life.¬† I do believe that it seems like they call the same people over and over.¬† I hear that over here in my parish, jurors are chosen for duty from a list of registered voters in the area.¬† What about the other citizens?¬† The ones who do not vote, but partake in the benefits of our society and have citizenship here?¬† Why not make the list from those who own or reside at an address within the parish?¬† Or those who have driver’s licenses?¬† It’s not hard making a list from those sources.¬† And if¬† solicitors can get our addresses and phone numbers to send us junk mail and sales calls, then surely the government can get the information to form jury lists.
Anyway, however they made their list really doesn’t matter now, because I was summoned for jury duty.¬† So on Monday morning I reported to the government building for 9 am.¬† This was actually a benefit for me, since work usually made me report for 6:30 am.¬† I had to park in the parking garage, but the summons claimed that my parking ticket would be validated, so I wasn’t too worried about the expense.
I arrived 30 minutes early, which was a good thing.¬† I was able to find the room to report and then find a seat.¬† As 9 o’clock got closer, those seats filled up and soon there was standing room only.¬† At 9 the orientation began.¬† The jury officer was a very pleasant woman.¬† She warned us of bench warrants, etc.¬† But while she was talking, I couldn’t help noticing the signs posted around about not smoking due to orders of the fire marshall.¬† Well, wasn’t cramming too many people into a small room when there wasn’t enough seating also a fire violation?¬† And here we were, prospective jurors, who may possibly be judging someone that allegedly committed a crime, broke a law — and we’re sitting here in violation of the fire marshall.
The computer wouldn’t work right, so we could not see the orientation video.¬† Was that good or bad?¬† I couldn’t tell.¬† This was not my first time serving jury duty, but it was my first in this parish.¬† During my last stay at jury duty, I was chosen Jury #3 within the first hour on a burglary case.¬† It took 9 more hours to seat all 12 jurors and an alternate so that we could have trial the next day.¬†
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to actually serve on a trial this time.¬† There were several murder cases up for trial, and they could last a while.¬† So while I sat there watching 70 + – aged people, and full-time students, and others with medical problems try to get out of their jury summons,¬† I just silently hoped that this would not take too long.¬† I was already behind at school¬† from having to take off and then take care of my husband after his surgery.¬† So I sat there and silently waited, hoping my service would be short or reasonable, and wondering why full-time students could get out of a jury summons, and not a high school teacher like me.¬† A mother of 2 toddlers that looked to be the age of 18 months or so had brought the two toddlers with her in a stroller to try to get out of jury summons by saying she could not find a babysitter.¬† Well, she did, sort of — they told her they would let her out for now, but that she would have to return in 1 month to serve jury duty, and better have a babysitter then.
After all that was taken care of, we were told to hang out in the library building next door or in front of it.¬† So that’s what we did.¬† We left the government building to go to the public library next door.¬† Of course, I had brought my own book, but the library would have air conditioning, and seats and restrooms.¬† And a restroom¬† I desperately needed.¬† As I walked into the library, one of the librarians gave me a quick introduction to the library and its available services, warned me not to have food or drinks in the library, and then told me were the restrooms were.¬† She even tipped me off that the first floor restroom had only one stall, but the fourth floor one would have two.
Well, as I rounded the corner to the first floor restroom and saw the line waiting there, I reasoned that the fourth floor restroom would be a better choice.¬† So I pressed the elevator button, and waited and waited.¬† After waiting for that elevator for 10 minutes, I decided I might as well try the stairs.¬† There was no use waiting for the restroom on the first floor anyway,¬† the line had not moved any while I had waited for the elevator.¬† So I chose to walk up 4 flights of stairs — not a good idea for someone like me who has high blood pressure and heart problems, and is overweight.¬† But I was careful and slow.¬† I walked up a flight of steps and then rested for a few minutes, and then another flight, and then another rest, and then another — and finally up on the fourth floor¬† I took a breather and followed the signs to the restroom.¬† My gamble was correct.¬† There was no line at all for the restroom, and so I was able to go in immediately — and collapse!¬†
No, I didn’t pass out, but I told myself that perhaps it was not so smart going up all those flight of stairs.
After a little rest, and walking around the fourth floor looking at exhibits of pictures of Baton Rouge during different historical eras,¬† I walked down one flight to the 3rd floor and walked around that floor, too.¬† It was a non-interesting floor.¬† Just books of non-fiction arranged on shelf after shelf, and plenty of jurors just sitting around, making phone calls to loved ones and complaining about having to do jury duty.¬†
Well, my legs could not take the walking anymore, so I walked to the elevator and told myself that I was going to wait no matter how long it would take.¬† But the elevator came rather quickly, and I went down to the first floor, out into the courtyard and sat on one of the ledges and read from my book.¬† By noon, the breezy, cloudy day had turned into a beautiful sunny day, and my arms were getting sunburned.¬† People were mumbling about being hungry, some were eyeing the restaurants across the street.¬† She had told us not to leave for lunch without her dismissing us, but some were leaving anyway.
Around 11, we noticed her come around and go into the library.¬† She was picking jurors “at random” and assigning them to panels,¬† sending them to lunch, and telling them when to return.¬† When she came outside, and others started crowding around her, she warned them away, saying she was picking people at random. I wondered about how scientific her “at random” was.¬† Being a math teacher, I knew that just picking people by sight was not random, but perhaps she was using some other method that I was unaware of.¬† Could the state’s capitol parish be so low in technology that it had to pick jurors by sight?¬† Some days I wonder about living in Baton Rouge, and letting Baton Rouge lead Louisiana.¬†
By noon, she had “finished” selecting people.¬† Well, not really finished–she had stopped.¬† I had learned that Panel 1 members were sent to lunch, so was Panel 2 members.¬† Panel 3 members had been told to go home, and not return until Wednesday.¬† She stood around and then gathered those of us still in the courtyard and told us:¬† “If you are not assigned to a panel [and I wasn't], go home and return tomorrow at 9.”¬† So that was my first day at jury duty — waiting around at the library, reading 3 chapters of my book, and people watching.
I got home in time to take my husband to his doctor’s appointment.¬† He was the last patient, so we had to wait a while in the waiting room.¬† The wait was worth it for him — He was told he didn’t need his crutches anymore, and to start walking around with his boot on, eventually to wean himself back into a tennis shoe.
Day Two was just more “Hurry up and wait”, only it involved the traffic.¬† I decided to leave a little earlier because my legs were sore from all the extra exercise I had done the day before, still feeling a little weak.¬† That was a good thing, because my 30-minute trip turned into 1 hour and 45 minutes.¬† Traffic was bumper to bumper.¬† At first I thought it may be because of the construction or an accident, but I soon found out that it was because of protestors on a walkway over the Interstate.¬† When I drove under the 3 protestors of¬†”sodomy is a sin”¬†(yes, that’s it only 3),¬† I silently thought:¬† “fall off that walkway in front of my car, and I’ll show you what sodomy with a car will feel like.”¬† And these drivers!¬† Why were they slowing down?¬† Those dumb protestors were up on the walkway out of the way of our cars.¬† The protestors can believe what they like (and I do think sodomy is a sin)¬† but don’t bother me while I’m trying to do my thing.
And I was sure I would be late for jury duty, and there would be a bench warrant.
Actually, I arrived with 7 minutes to spare.¬† I had to drive up to the 4th level of the parking garage to find a parking spot, and then wait for 2 elevators to pass before I could get on one to take me to the office where I was to report.¬† I reported, and was told:¬† “You’re on Panel 4.¬† go to the library and wait.”
And wait I did.¬† I read more chapters of my book in the library, and talked to my hubby on the phone.¬† I sat in the library for a while, and then went outside to enjoy the weather again.¬† There’s not much seating in the area where there is shade, so I stood there talking on the phone until the Jury officer came and told me that Panel 4 could go home and report back on Wednesday for 10:00.
Wednesday’s traffic was better, but only a little bit.¬† I left even earlier, and still had a little drive.¬† I signed in and was told to wait in the library again.¬† Tommy had gone back to work, so all I could do was people watch and read.¬† The people weren’t worth watching after three days.¬† I had seen them before, and now they just looked despirited and mulled about picking out books and magazines.¬† One lady went down the magazine aisle that held all the ladies magazines.¬† I’m not sure what she was looking for, but I am sure that she picked up every ladies magazine there, read the cover, and put it down — only to pick up another.¬† A young man was walking around and would just pause, like he was deciding whether or not it would be worth walking upstairs or down that aisle one more time.
This waiting was getting boring, was getting tiresome.¬† After the first day, I had learned my lesson.¬† I had packed a small bottle of water and some snacks in my big purse.¬† So I stepped outside near lunch to drink and eat.¬† They don’t pay our lunch while we sit here and wait for the library, and they don’t care that some of us are used to having lunch at 11 instead of noon.¬† I was glad for my snacks, my blood sugar was going crazy with this schedule upset.¬†
Finally, we see the jury officer walk up to the courtyard.¬† She just looks around and then goofs around with one of the jurors.¬† Other jurors notice her and soon all eyes are on her.¬† We had learned our lesson not to crowd around her, and so we just sit or stand where we are and watch her, waiting — begging with our eyes to tell us what’s next — there’s got to be more than this waiting.¬†
And sensing our stares, she holds up 4 fingers, calling Panel 4 over to her.¬† We gather around her, and she says:¬† “Panel 4 members only.¬† Thank you for your service.¬† You may go home and are dismissed for the rest of the week.”¬† Panel 4 members sigh a relief, and express their thanks to her.¬† We gather our things, and start walking back to the parking garage.¬† But as I walk away, I wonder if my term of jury service was worth it to the taxpayers.¬† I never even sat on a jury panel query or even a trial, but I’ll be receiving three days’ pay.¬† Whether it was worth it¬† or not, I did know that when I walked into my classroom on Thursday, there would be some very unhappy students.