Jury duty. Again.

If I sound a tad irritated, you would be right. Aside from my father who has been summoned for jury duty exactly once in his almost seventy years and claims that it’s a very “interesting process,” most people I know view it the same way they view luggage fees and half-days at work… Lame. Just add the fee to the freakin’ ticket price, and give employees the entire day off. Everyone knows nothing gets done on a half-day.


Quickly finding the seat most removed from stranger danger, I settled in and whipped out my laptop. No more than thirty seconds later, someone took the seat rightnextome. An older and rather burly gentleman, he was obviously not familiar with the unspoken rules of personal space. In no mood to feign politeness, I scooted one seat over. Unperturbed, he remained where he sat, hands folded over his Buddha belly, and silently bided his time until a suitable mark arrived. A few minutes later, she appeared; a very nice-looking and very unlucky woman sat down across from him.

“So did ya get any traffic comin’ over here?”

She politely answered no. That was encouragement enough for him. He continued that he had come all the way from Arcadia, but didn’t mind the drive. Unlucky Lady declined to comment; he was not deterred by her silence. I tried to block out his rambling with my headphones, but no matter how loudly I blasted Enya – it was one of those days – I couldn’t drown out his voice. Then much to my surprise I heard him say, “Yeah, my wife was just told that her breast cancer came back, but she don’t want chemo no more. Said she don’t want to live like this, gonna kill herself somehow.”

Come again? Did I hear that correctly? How did the conversation turn from commuting to cancer? I couldn’t believe this man was spilling his life story to someone he met exactly two minutes ago. My mind then flashed back to my college years when I was also working retail. I suddenly remembered the number of times when after purchasing a pair of earrings or cute blouse, a customer would casually launch into a tale about her cheating boyfriend or intrusive mother. Usually my response was, “Would you like to have your receipt or should I put it in the bag?” I’ve never been much good with TMI. However, I have also never passed up a sweet eavesdropping opportunity and promptly shut down my iTunes to better hear my neighbors.

As it turned out, Unlucky Lady was quite the chatterbox herself. Initially resistant to Buddha’s conversation starters, she began to speak up more and more. Perhaps a bit too much. Within a few minutes, I found out that she had a “horrible track record with guys,” but was now living with a very nice widower who may or may not want to marry her. However, this didn’t trouble her. He treated her well and that’s all that really matters, right?

Buddha listened intently and finally issued a reply: “I told my wife that if she was gonna kill herself, wrecking a car would be wrong. Who knows who she might hurt?” Hmm… Not sure if that was an appropriate response, but Unlucky Lady just smiled sweetly and allowed Buddha to continue until a pause surfaced in the conversation. She then took that opportunity to tell another story about how wonderful her boyfriend was. They continued like this for hours, each taking turns talking about their lives without actually engaging the other. It seemed to suite them both just fine.

We finally broke for lunch. Freedom.

Upon returning to my holding cell, I absentmindedly sat down in the same seat as before. Buddha did the same. I quickly looked around for Unlucky Lady, but couldn’t find her anywhere and got nervous. Would I be Buddha’s next target? Thankfully, some poor soul made the mistake of sitting in the chair next to him. Within moments I heard Buddha say, “So my wife got her cancer back. Said she don’t want no chemo. Just wants to kill herself.”

While Unlucky Lady stoically hid her annoyance if indeed there was any, Unlucky Man was not as subtle. I noticed a leg twitch that became more and more pronounced as Buddha continued to chatter away. This dude had an opinion on everything…

Dating: “The man should always pay. If I were a lady, I’d get up and walk outside the second the check hit the table.”

Minimum wage: “This feller pays his employees $18 an hour. That’s how you get ‘em to stick around!”

Population control: “People are having too many babies.”

Family relations: “I haven’t talked to my brother in over five years. No birthday cards, no Christmas wishes, no nothin’!”

High school reunions: “The ones that were the most likely to succeed haven’t done anything with their lives. The hot chick is so fat she can’t see her own feet, and the ugly duckling is a knock out.”

Standardized testing: “They should throw it out in the wind. It’s bullsh*t.”

The Amish: “They’re just havin’ fun.” (I might have misheard that one.)

I was quite impressed by how Buddha could go on and on about nearly any topic. Of course, he eventually circled back to his favorite: his wife. “When she first got sick and had her surgery, I would wake up every morning at 4am to change her bandages and clean her wounds. Some men might have left their wives, but I’m old school. For better or worse, richer or poorer.”

I suddenly wanted to give Buddha a hug. Though his incessant talking was slightly infuriating, he was just a lonely old man mourning his sick wife and the little time she had left. Perhaps talking it out was a way for him to make peace with the situation. If he found solace in a stranger who was willing to listen, why should I be bothered by it?

Eventually those of us left in the holding cell were dismissed and given another year’s reprieve from jury duty. I walked out without saying anything to Buddha. Then again, I couldn’t have gotten a word in edgewise; still chatting away, he followed Unlucky Man out the building and together they disappeared into the afternoon sun.

Image: farconville / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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2 Responses to “Big Talker”

OMGosh we are so alike. I seem to ALWAYS sit next to those people…however I must wear a sign that says “Talk to ME.” Ha!

February 2nd, 2012

Haha… I have no doubt that if I remained in that first seat, I would have been walking into the afternoon sun with Buddha. 😉

February 3rd, 2012