Just spent every working day of the new year on standby, as I was called for jury duty service starting January 5th. I figured it would be no big deal, really, because who’s in a better position than me to serve on a jury? I don’t have an office to go to every day, I have two kids in school, I had a beefy book I needed to get through (“Founding Brothers” for my book club; liked it but what a workout!), and I like to think I’m about as open-minded as they come. Dare I say, possibly more so.
Never mind that I can be hopelessly indecisive, am likely to trust anyone who receives a government-financed paycheck, and don’t always pay attention like I should.
Week 1 was uneventful, mostly waiting and reading, but when everything got all down to business on 1/12, and the machine started chugging toward selecting the jury for a 1 month murder trial, I was exhilarated but apprehensive. It would be great to serve—what a responsibility—but my practical realities weren’t doing much to grease the wheels of justice. I mean, how could I commit to that kind of time? Where would my kids go after school for a month? It was enough domino-shuffling to create a two-week back-up net. What were 5 weeks of that going to look like? I have great friends, but honestly I wouldn’t want to obligate anyone like that.
A mixture of relief and disappointment came when I was kindly excluded by the judge because I freelance for a newspaper (among other clients), and because I only get paid while I’m working (i.e., not while I’m sitting around in the courtroom reading books and filling in the crossword grid). Funny that the job thing didn’t come to mind first. I make twice my daily juror’s reimbursement in just an hour of freelance writing, but strangely don’t feel like it’s a job that would count against the big people with the real jobs at the non-home offices.
I do feel good about using a work excuse rather than the old “My kids get home at 2:30 and I have no child care,” although I’m pretty sure I would have been excused for that too. My kids are bigger—8 and 10, so they can’t be at home alone (unless I’d like to come home to rubble), but it’s not like they’re babies. The Mommy card’s great, especially when it’s covered in X’s, O’s, and crayon-drawn hearts, but when it comes to civic duty, I’d rather keep it in my pocket.
Wouldn’t you know that as I was cooking dinner the next night, this came across on NPR: “Jury selection has begun in the trial of [insert name of defendant that was sitting in the courtroom on the day I got excused]…” Ironic, I suppose, but a confirmation, I think, that I was right where I was supposed to be.