This week I've been plagued with municipal court jury duty. Excuse me, I mean I have had the civic privilege of ensuring the right to trial by a jury of your peers. Last week I showed up for jury selection where they randomly draw potential juror's numbers, bingo-style, for each case. If it'd been a lottery, I'd be stinking rich. My number was called so many times that when it didn't come up, the others shook their heads in disbelief. I had my clergy collar on so the defense attorneys would immediately ask for a pass on me. Not much luck with that this time. What good is a clergy collar if it won't get you out of jury duty?
Actually I ended up having to report for only four trials. And we never heard a one of them! Every one was settled without going to trial - settled apparently after much negotiation while we sat in the jury room waiting.
The first day I followed the rules and left my cell phone and book in the car. The next day I took both in with me. And the last day I even took in a portfolio with work to keep me occupied. However, what I should have taken was a tape recorder. You can find some interesting characters in the jury room.
One woman, recently moved to town from the north, was apparently missing her friends back home, cause she was trying pretty hard to make friends out of us. She made me feel like I was at a Chamber of Commerce after-hours social mixer - a lot of questions and overly sincere affirming responses. I'd try to return to my reading material, but like the collar, it didn't work.
One man who was on two juries with me freaked me out a little. Seriously, he knew a lot about every one of us in the room. At the selection session you have to tell what you do and what your spouse does. He must have memorized everything we said. There was just too much information coming from this man, and it made me start watching my own comments carefully.
Most of the folks, however, were just looking to pass the time like I was. And so you know what happens while a jury waits, here's a topic sampling from our conversations: moving to the South (obviously), the drought, dieting, alligators in unexpected places, hunting wild pigs, saving a niece from a domestic violence situation, heart catheterizations, more diets and recipes, fire fighting, deer hunting, church choirs, traffic accidents, children, job closures, and favorite places to eat.
The judge was nice, appreciative of us, and kept us updated on the negotiations. And except for it being a busy week for me, it wasn't any worse than going to the dentist. Wait, it was better. We got paid $10 a day for our service to the community, without ever passing a verdict.