Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jury Duty...

Getting stuck in the elevator with a group of people is one of my biggest fears. I'm not super claustrophobic but the fear always creeps into my mind when I get into an elevator with other people.

This week I performed my civic duty as a jury member. I'll admit that serving on a jury of my peers, addresses some of the same fears I have about getting stuck in an elevator.

Boring predicament with lots of waiting.
Nothing to talk about.
No end in sight.
Fear about what is going to happen next. And afterward.
Thinking about all the things I should be doing.
Phone restrictions.
Annoying personalities.
Bad breath.

All of these things could be associated with both jury service and getting trapped in an elevator full of people. Or like being on Lost. Or any situation where you are stuck with a bunch of strangers and you have to make decisions and worry about the unknown.

I think in any situation where you have to work with a group of strangers, a certain chain of events takes place. First, if you are like me, you try to recognize the people in the group, even if you don't know their names you create a sort of pheumonic device for their faces.

Serving as a juror this week, I found myself attempting to make a connection with each of the jurors by figuring out who they looked like in my family, on t.v. or in my circle of aquaintances.

One man looked just like my friend Brannon, so as juror number 7, he was automatically 'Brannon #7' (and obviously the person I would most likely turn to in case of a zombie invasion if we were under attack during our stint at the courthouse.)

On woman was 76-years-old with gray hair, ice blue eyes and two moles on her face. She looked a little like my mom, mixed with a yeti, so she was 'my abominable mom'. Seriously, it was weird.

Another woman had red hair and mannerisms that reminded me of my aunt Sharon, so she was 'aunt sharon' and a there was another who reminded me of a teacher at school because of the way she would make her points and blink while looking at me, I felt like we were on the same team.

None of these characteristics were a personality flaw, just my way of feeling like I belonged the group...I had a few family members, a friend and even a co-worker. It made me feel much more at ease with the situation.

And serving on a jury is a serious situation.

The second thing you try to do if you are in a group of people, after finding at least one 'familiar' face, is try to make small talk to determine who your allies are and who is just down right annoying. We were all dying to talk about the trial, but we weren't allowed to discuss anything until the deliberation process.

So, we talked about the weather, dinner, how cold it was in the courthouse...we tried to find anything we could to make conversation.

At this point, it was clear that I was going to get along with everyone just fine. All of the jurors were friendly, and no one had a loud-opinionated demeanor.

In a crowded elevator, I think I could have gotten along with this group just fine. Thank god.

Third, after you all get over your nerves and the ice has been broken, you try to find issues with which you can agree on within the group. I tried to stay away from this...I took a book...and I just tried not to form a strong opinion about anyone or anything going on around me. My job was to be open-minded and listen to all the facts. I think it made thins easier.

Fourth, bonding ensues.  The end is in sight and you know you have done what was expected of its just a matter of taking care of the final business.

In this case....we all got along so we started to make jokes. Half-heartedly about people or events related to the case. We had all bonded over our experience together and we were able to laugh about the bikers outside the courthouse...we worried, jokingly, that the gang was probably waiting to watch us come out so they could get revenge. We knew we were safe, but we couldn't help but see the humor in something, after such a serious day.

So if you ever have to serve on a jury...don't be too scared...the entire process is pretty interesting. It is our civic duty, as members of a democracy to make a contribution to justice. It is a lot like what you see on t.v., but its different when you are part of the show. When you have to make a responsible is very serious and it does weigh on your heart.

I do have a few suggestions of things you might want to consider if you are ever called to serve:
1. Take a jacket or sweater
2. Take a book, it gets boring on the recesses
3. Take some mints and/or gum
4. Take change for the vending machines
5. Don't wear perfume because people are sensitive
6. People have a mint ready to help mask their odor. Seriously.
7. Be prepared to sit. And wait. In uncomfortable chairs.
8. Be prepared to have an open mind.
9. Have your listening ears on.
10. Have a good attitude. Be humble and grateful for the judicial system. We live in a free society and the person on trial deserves a group of peers that will respect his innocence until proven guilty.

It was an honor to serve on this jury...I would definitely do it again, without dread.

Now I am behind at work, but that is okay.

What I did was important.

And I learned a lot about myself and working with a group of people.

Luckily, I didn't get trapped in an elevator with a bunch of rude, opinionated stinky group was pretty decent and we were able to reach a decision. I feel good about the experience.
The photos in this post are from my Holga camera. Thanks for reading!


Maria Ontiveros said...

Great writing today! And thanks for your service. Plus, super photos.

Sara Kate said...

As someone who has been called for jury duty three (three!!) times in the 8 years I've been eligible to serve, I totally love your take on this!

And I agree, it's not quite as horrible as people might make it out to be. Then again, I've never served on anything worse than a DUI trial, so maybe if I had to serve on a long drawn-out murder trial, it would be different! But the people watching along is worth it. :)