Jury duty. The bane of my American existence.

I’m truly conflicted about the process. On the one hand, I want to do my civic duty. Pardon the Pollyanna sentiment, but I believe that as Americans it’s our responsibility to participate in the judicial system and give every citizen the right to a fair trial. On the other hand… It’s boring. And tedious. And boring. I hate it.

Even worse is when you’re not immediately called that first Monday morning. Such a tease. After two days in a row of having my automated BFF tell me that I needn’t bother showing up, I had become smugly confident that I would be let off the hook for the entire week… Not. That. Lucky.

I don’t hate jury duty because you have to sit there all day, waiting to see if you’ll be called to a panel. It isn’t because the café sells the most god-awful coffee on earth. (Upon my first sip, I immediately spit it out. I then proceeded to force the entire cup down my throat – hell, I had already paid the $2.45.) And it’s not because I’m forced to suffer through some pompous speech by some pompous judge as she enlightens me on the importance of doing my civic duty.

No, I hate jury duty because I’m surrounded by people.

Ugh. They are everywhere. As soon as I enter that soul-sucking holding cell, I suddenly feel like an unfortunate heifer in a PETA video forced to inhabit the same space with hundreds of other bigger, uglier, smellier cows without any fresh air or sunlight. Granted, I think jurors are rarely slaughtered once they perform their duty, but it feels just as depressing to be there.

I have this thing with personal space. I like a lot of it. That’s why I’ll book my plane ticket months ahead of time to ensure an aisle seat. It’s why I get pissed off when a stranger not only feels comfortable enough to share the armrest with me, but also will touch naked skin while doing it. It’s also why I take it personally when someone sits right next to me in the movie theater when literally dozens of other chairs are available many feet away.

I was able to snag an aisle seat that afternoon, but as luck would have it, I sat next to three chicks that were intent on chatting with each other. All day long. Awesome. Just what the world needs – people who want to be friendly and pleasant to each other. And before you ask – yes – I tried to find another seat, but it was either endure these women, or find myself stuck between a “let’s share your armrest” old lady and a “let’s share your leg space” hipster dude. (I know this from an unfortunate incident earlier that morning.) So I stayed put.

It’s nearly impossible to ignore someone else’s conversation. All I wanted to do was read my book, but all I could do was listen to these three broads go on and on about everything. The ringleader of the group was unstoppable, like the Michael Jordan of talking. This woman could have a conversation with a rock for five hours and not notice that she was the only one speaking. I actually was quite impressed – in a bitter, agitated kind of way. Suffice it to say, I learned a lot about her before the day was over. Most importantly, she suffered from plantar fasciitis. What’s this you ask? Hell if I know, but apparently it’s extremely painful. Also, you can only wear boots. That’s it. No sandals. No high heels. But wait! You didn’t hear the best part of the story yet. The boots she had on were too big so she also was wearing two pairs of socks so that her feet wouldn’t slide around! And on one of the hottest days of the summer, too! Ha! How funny! That’s good stuff.

She also was a “professional caregiver.” She mostly walks dogs, but will also watch your children or make you dinner. She just loves to cook! Now be prepared to be shocked – she hasn’t taken a vacation in seven years. That’s dedication, folks. We all could learn a lesson from this woman. She also had very strong opinions about The Hurt Locker and California Pizza Kitchen.

The other two chicks weren’t nearly as vocal, but they said just enough to keep baiting Chatty Kathy. Meanwhile, I was slowly going insane. Sure, multiple conversations were being had all around the room, but for some reason my ears would not stop listening to these three women. But then a funny thing started to happen. At some point – perhaps at about hour three – I began to give into the insanity.

Chatty Kathy had launched into a tirade about how she liked animals more than people. That’s the reason she’s so perfect at her job! For the most part, she didn’t have to interact with other humans. On the one hand, I completely agreed with her point of view. Made sense to me. On the other, I found it extremely ironic that for someone who seemingly hated other people, she couldn’t stop talking to them.

At one point, these women engaged me, asking where I had bought my purse. Internally, I freaked out. Would I also be pulled into this abyss of mindless conversation?  I gave some casual remark, something along the lines of “I don’t know,” which immediately shut down their pending inquiry. Yet within minutes, I felt a twinge of regret. Somewhere along the line, these women had formed a friendship. No matter what was being discussed, they all were so happy and kind and curious about each other. Whether it was fake or not, I don’t know, but it was… nice.

By hour four, I was genuinely jealous of their little triumvirate. I wanted girl talk, too! The book wasn’t so interesting anymore. My literary crush, Chuck Klosterman, was now boring me. I pretended to still be reading, but really I was just doing it as a ploy so that I could continue eavesdropping on their conversation.

Then the announcement was made – “You are now released from service.” Thank you! The clerk began to call out each remaining juror’s name. Chatty Kathy – aka Julia Something – was then called. Before leaving, she turned to the other women: “It was so nice talking to you. Take care!” That was all. I half expected her to give out her phone number, her social security number, something… Nope. She just gathered up her things and left. The second woman was called shortly after. She turned to the third and gave her goodbye. They all were just so nice… I watched each departure with an inexplicable melancholy.

Once my own name was called, I turned around to see if anyone was going to say goodbye to me. No takers? Okay… I hightailed it out of there and met up with some gals for happy hour. As we sat there, chatting and laughing and enjoying each other’s company (along with some very yummy and very cheap drinks), I had a new appreciation for my friends. Conversation, even of the meaningless variety, is really nice from time to time. No matter if you’re just talking about walking dogs or shoes that don’t fit, it feels good to connect with others in those small ways. I also had a new appreciation for the USPS. Those folks work really hard. And should they happen to “lose” my next jury summons, I won’t hold it against them.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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3 Responses to “Motion To Suppress Your Mouth”

aww, that was a really nice post.

July 20th, 2010

Nice character development!

July 20th, 2010

I love this one! And I made it into two blogs in a row, alright! 😉

July 29th, 2010