Living for the Citay: Jury Duty Baltimore Style

I performed my civic duty today. You get one guess? Yes, that’s right JURY DUTY! Don’t I sound excited? Well I’m not, but something in my spirit whispers to me to appreciate this process, after all, jury duty is an important part of what allows defendants to have a chance at a fair hearing. I should feel a sense of duty but I don’t. I should be excited to have a day off from work and a chance to have some kind of Law and Order fantasy where the judge turns to me and says ‘Madame forewoman, what say you?’ ,  calmly looking at the written verdict in my hand-although I already know the outcome- I proclaim ‘Guilty! Your Honor. Well that’s not how it goes down, jury duty is not an episode of Law and Order, it’s a day spent waiting. Since I had nothing else to do I people watched, read, caught snippets of movies and people watched some more.

For seven hours I sat in a dusty room, with filthy faded purple carpeting, outdated plastic chairs upholstered with faded rough brown material, backlit by the sun beaming through several large foggy windows on the back wall. The bland décor and dusty overlay numbed my senses, instantly making me feel tired.  So what did I do for 8 hours? I people watched, read Tithe by Holly Black, texted, and watched movies…not in that particular order. Here’s my timeline:

·         7:45am-8: Go through metal detector unscathed since I paid attention to directions and   cleared my backpack of non-essential items.  

·         8-9am: Began the process of checking in which included receiving $15 in cash for our services. After I checked in, I watched everyone else do the same, planting myself directly across from the information desk.  I noticed some Baltimore trends: most of the white dudes wore khaki pants and button downs, while the black dudes wore jeans and tennis shoes, younger women (twenties) of all races shapes and sizes rocked skinny jeans with knee high boots, older women across the board wore mostly black slacks. I wore an all black ensemble with my rain boots since I walked to the courthouse under a winter weather advisory that never came to fruition.

·         9-11:30: The Jury Commissioner introduced herself at 9am, admonishing us not to dare sneak out during lunch. We were threatened with fines of $1000 and/or up to 90 days in the clinker. The threats worked; I stayed put. After her little speech I read a little, sent two text messages, checked email and scrolled through Tumblr while occasionally glancing up at the first movie, It’s Complicated starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin.

·         11:30-12:30: Right on the heels of the first movie, the next one, Maid in Manhattan (a J-Lo classic)began. Before the movie had a chance to get started, the first round of jurors was called up; I breathed a sigh of relief when I wasn’t one of them.

·         12:30-1:45: LUNCH TIME! I wandered outside happy to gulp some fresh air, move around and have some freedom.  I was so drunk off the fresh air and freedom that I began walking toward the Harbor but realized my food choices would be restaurants and McDonald’s, so I turned around and headed in the opposite direction. I eventually settled for a quiet Subway where I sat with my turkey sandwich and book.

·         1:45-3: Back from lunch, I decide to switch seats moving closer to the restrooms and a better television. Maid in Manhattan resumes and I have a brief moment of reflection for the loss of actress Natasha Richardson who was in this movie.  By this time I’ve stopped people watching and have slipped into counting down the time. Last time I had jury duty we were all released at 2:30 so I’m hopeful that I’ll have a repeat performance.

·         3-3:28pm: Next movie, Radio, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. begins. I’m starting to feel like I’m out of the danger zone when the movie is interrupted and more jurors are called. For a minute I was like, ‘Shit, now I could be here after 5pm!’ I was lucky though, my number wasn’t called so with great relief I settled in to watch the movie.

·         3:28-4pm: I actually pay attention to Radio since unlike the other two movies I’d never seen this one. One of the men behind me remarks that this should have been the first movie. I can’t help but understand how he feels since the other two movies were romcoms. Finally at 4pm we are released back from whence we came. I jump up; gather my coat and backpack and head for home, a 5 minute walk uphill from the courthouse.

I was lucky because I never got called to a court room mercifully avoiding having to be available for a trial. So did I get anything out of this situation? I suppose I did:  a day off work, $15, and a lengthy to-do list when I get to work tomorrow.  The upside is tomorrow’s Friday and this Sunday the Ravens face the Patriots for a shot at the Super Bowl!!!!

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