Jury Duty 1998

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Jury Duty 1998.png
Jury Duty 1998.png

A jury is made up of 12 people too dumb to lie? I had not been called for Jury Duty, ever before… then my luck ran out; I received "the summons". I must admit my curiosity at doing my civic duty, was tempered with the thrill of driving to downtown San Diego (in rush hour), dealing with my fellow man (which I don't always think too highly of), and sitting through a torturously long bureaucratic process -- all for $5/day (when parking cost me $7). Lets just say my cynical nature was not disappointed.


First I was stuck in a jury orientation room, where we had the rules and regulations explained to us. Since some of my fellow men, must have proven themselves to be less than wise in the past, as the orator (who was surprising good at public speaking), explained everything, then explained what that meant. Then repeated it. I had fun sitting there imagining why he had to repeat himself so many times. I could just picture stellar representations of humanity, not being able to figure this stuff out after the 3rd explanation. Such detailed and important processes, as being able to work a time card machine. Now, I have been a professional, and am not experienced at using these devices, but I felt I was capable of properly using the device after watching its operation only once -- but I could imagine the people who somehow failed to use a stamp properly in the past (requiring the depth of explanation we were exposed to). I just pictured these guys coming out with dates in black ink across their hands or foreheads, or on the wrong side of the page, which caused me to chuckle at all the most inappropriate times.

Of course, I mis-aimed the thing the first time I used it and got the time on the wrong line -- *&;^%$#@!.

Then we waited… and waited… and waited. Did I mention we waited?

At least I got to write and read a little. I've noticed that the Govt. is never fast when it comes to wasting your time, but amazingly efficient (and quick) at taking your money. Ah, the joys of life. Just me and 500 if my closest strangers all sitting in something that is generously referred to as a lounge. Bus terminal with a lower class ambiance would be a more accurate description. Thank goodness there are masters of euphemisms marketing the language to us, so that now a bunch of bolted together chairs, facing a wall, with the unwashed masses all around us, is referred to as a "lounge". I imagine if the water fountain broke and squirted me in the face, they’d call it a “spa”.

I didn’t feel very relaxed as the person next to me started making strangely wet and bubbly noises while coughing in my general direction (I could feel the cooties and wanted desperately to take a bath in rubbing alcohol). I was also questioning the engineers concept of adequate ventilation as it seemed a tad stuffy -- sorta like a cross between a sauna and a high school locker room (and I'm not a crowd lover to begin with).

Fortunately, while I wasn't called right away, some of those around me were, which gave me a bit of elbow room, and the freedom to look around.

My wife is somewhat a bad influence on me. For the first 25 years of my life, I never knew that the fashion police could actually make arrests (and dressed accordingly). But my wife spent our first few years together informing me about all the criminal offenses that I, and those around us, had committed. Since then, I have learned to people watch (and judge) as my wife has schooled me. (Don’t tell anyone, but I think she’s an informant for the fassion secret-police).

I noted that there was a frightening amount of 70's fashions, in a color that can only be described as "baby vomit green" -- I guess that is coming back in style. I looked around and kept thinking, "Oh, yeah. Nothing says Juror like vinyl miniskirts and thigh high boots. Or even better -- purple Velour pants, Ug Boots, and a tight orange sweater, straining to contain a Dolly Parton figure. I kept wondering which trailer park they came from.

Fortunately, after a mere 6 hours of sitting around on my butt, reading and writing (and people watching), it was announced that we could go home for the day. My civic duty was done, and the chair had been properly warmed.

I got a pass on the next day. But the freeway I drive to the courthouse did not, a huge sinkhole devoured a 50' x 50' x 150' part of our highway. El Nino and defective subcontractors on a drainage main are to blame.

Wednesday, I was called in again to do my civic duty. I'm not 100% sure what duty I am serving by sitting in the jury lounge -- but at least I know I'm doing that duty well. Naturally, I can think of 1,000 different ways to improve their systems (I'm an engineer), but I've learned that offering advice to bureaucrat is worse than kissing a moody Rhino on the lips -- after all, moody Rhino's don't usually have your address and home phone number. Again, at the halfway point (midday), they let me out -- and I went in to work.

Thursday I got a pass. And when I called in to see if they were going to need me on Friday, I was informed that I was a superior human being, and thanks for doing my duty to God and Country, and I was through.

I kept thinking -- "what a country"... in more ways that one.

The week before, a friend sat through a case -- where they took a week to prove the obvious. You know the usual stuff, where "shit happens", and people die -- and that a Doctor should not be responsible because someone accepts the risks associated with surgery (paying the price of an unhealthy lifestyle or unlucky spin on the genetic roulette table). Anyway, someone died on the Doctors table (when it wasn’t vaguely the Doctors fault) and some schmucks were trying to hit the lawsuit lottery, and get a sympathetic (and none-to-smart) jury, that would award them millions (and punish the innocent). Fortunately Justice prevailed. The ironic part was that the guy died getting an angiogram (like my wife had a couple months before).

The Adventure Begins... and ends

Oh, well. Friday came, and my civic duty is served, for a while -- and I didn't have to sit in on a case. Ironically, I might have enjoyed it -- in an "after the fact" kinda way. But I found out that they probably would have rejected me anyways -- turns out lawyers tend not to like other lawyers, doctors or engineers on the Jury, especially ones with any life experiences. Something about scientific thought, or knowing the tricks of the trade, scaring the bejeezus out of them.

If you were looking for a point to this missive, I apologize. It was as useless as Jury Duty seemed to be. It’s not that I don’t value the service, it’s the bureaucratic process that’s a waste of time. You’ve had a couple hundred years to organize this, and this is the best you can do? Really? I don’t know why you’d think my Jury Duty experiences would be more exciting than anyone else’s. But I served my civic duty, because it didn’t seem worth the energy to outwit some bureaucrats… and if everyone did that, where would we be?

Written: 1998.02.03