The closer it got to my time to call in for instructions, the more I wanted to crawl back into bed. I didn't sleep last night, and I couldn't eat this morning. I started working early, to try to get a head start in case I had to report to court. I let the Boss pile the paperwork all over me, and I tried hard to concentrate. I'm not sure I was entirely successful.
It's funny (kind of) that last night I was thinking I might forget to check in at the appointed time. As it turned out, that was all I could think about. I refreshed the court web site over and over in the hour before the time I was told to check in. I did it so often that I almost missed it when it finally changed. I was to report for jury duty at 12:30 pm. That gave me a little over an hour to get my affairs in order.
I wanted to give it a safe half hour for me to drive across town in midday traffic. Since I also needed to stop at the post office, I left at 11:45 am. I was in no shape to deal with slow cars and long stoplights, but I found plenty of both along the way. It was a nightmare come true. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more rushed I felt, the higher (and slower) the obstacles appeared.
Thank goodness for the map, because I can never remember how to get to the courthouse. I parked in the first long-term lot I came to, then started walking. I almost walked directly into the jail, before I reoriented myself and veered off to the next building. I had to walk all the way around it before I could find the entrance door.
The jury room has row after row of plastic purple chairs, all facing a podium and three television screens turned to CNN with the sound off. I could stare at Donald Rumsfeld or I could stare at the floor. I'd brought a book, but I couldn't focus on that, so I watched to see if the carpet would change color. I'm pretty sure it didn't, at least while I was there. I kept a pretty close eye on it, so I would probably have known.
Since I still hadn't eaten anything all day, I was a little light headed. If that's what they were looking for in a prospective juror, I was their man.
It was a lot of waiting, with an occasional interruption. We had a little orientation speech. Twenty minutes after that, we saw a video featuring happy jurors making the judicial system work, just by being there. Over and over they reminded us that we didn't need to know anything in order to do our jobs. All we had to do was pay attention and use common sense. Yeah, well. Fine.
Most of the time it was quiet, and I finally settled into the book I'd brought. At first there was no sound but an occasional whisper, but as time wore on the noise level gradually rose until I could hear bits and pieces of different conversations all over the room. And my empty, rumbling belly. I could hear that, too.
At 2:00 pm, a judge came in and stood at the podium. She informed us that she'd been tied up until then hearing the verdict in another trial. The attorneys in the case we were called for weren't ready. We could go home. We'd fulfilled our duty for this year. Just like that.