Monday, June 11, 2012

Jury Duty:
My Day(s) In the Sun

Law & Order fans - look familiar?

I spent last Wednesday & Thursday downtown, doing my civic duty.  

Can I tell you something?  It was freakin' glorious.

First off, some real talk:  Lately my job has been shall we say?...[expletive] unbearable. So jury duty came at just the right time. A much-needed break from the beige cubicle

Fact:  Lawyers love tasseled loafers.

Jury duty was also a break from monotony. I jumped the tracks of my workaday rut. Rather than pull on the same boring work clothes, I grabbed fun dresses and skirts from my closet instead.  I left my apartment at a different time, took a different train, went downtown (where I rarely venture), got my morning coffee from a different place.

Newness, variety - all so inspiring to me (as a writer...and a human). At the court house, there were new people around me to interact with, new procedures to follow, new protocol to absorb. New murals to stare at:

The inside of the court house is beautiful.

My actual juror experience was pretty painless: a few hours each morning spent in an air-conditioned room with free Wi-fi. I read or emailed or day-dreamed. Then we were 'released' each day around lunch.

The first day I grabbed a sandwich and sat in this park overlooking the Hudson River. The second day? Vietnamese food from Baxter Street while watching some old men play chess.


The night before jury duty, while trying to view Venus' transit from the 70th Street pier, I had fortuitously run into a friend-of-a-friend.  She's a fount of knowledge about all things New York, and she clued me in to a public work-space downtown, not far from the courthouse.  

"It's lovely, but you can't tell anyone about it," she made me promise. "I don't want it getting 'discovered' and over-crowded.  It's my best-kept secret."  So, sorry folks - mums the word on where I spent Wednesday and Thursday afternoons - but it was lovely, and sun-filled, and quiet, and friendly, and I was beyond happy to be sitting there on comfy couches, catching up on overdue emails and working on writing projects.

Heaven?  A little slice of it, I think, maybe.

Looking up, downtown

On Wednesday, while leaving the court house, I held the door open for a man behind me.  In a Russian accent, he thanked me, then said, "And again, I must thank you."

I shot him a quizzical look and he explained, "For looking so good today!"  (Shucks. I just think it's nice to look nice for the justice system.)

On Thursday, while waiting in line at security, a woman (also with an accent) asked the man behind me if this was the right building for filing for divorce. He wasn't sure, but said he thought so. Then he was so bold (and kind, I think) to address her - this stranger - again, with candor: "It sucks doesn't it?"

"What, divorce?" she asked, "Yes.  It does...But I guess it's just life."

"Yeah," he admitted, "But life is hard sometimes."

"Yes," she agreed, and smiled, if wanly.

So many stories in this town...

Playing hand-ball (I think?)

Heading into jury duty, I knew I would appreciate (oh-so-very-much) being out of my office.  What I hadn't anticipated were the ancillary benefits that came along with it.

My whole perspective shifted, softened. Rather than feel defeated by a workday, I was optimistic that "Anything could happen...and just might!"  I was not so easily annoyed by people blocking the doors in the subway.  When fellow jurors didn't listen to the instructions given to us, I didn't pass judgment, just shrugged and wondered what it was like to be them.  I took deep breaths, I sat happily in the moment and feared not for the future.  I was patient, I was present, I was smiling.

The implication is clear: if jury duty (jury duty!) brings such a sense of peace and well-being and contentment, then I need to find a new job.  Post-haste.

I'm a' working on that one, promise.

Sounds about right. (As seen in TriBeCa)

Finally, a nerdy word about the importance of jury duty, delivered from a soap box: 

Yes, I was enthusiastic about jury duty because it was a vacation from work, and yes, my time in the juror pool ended up being a cake-walk.  And I think this is typical of most people's experience - sit around for awhile, get released.  

Still, more often than not my announcement of "I have jury duty coming up," was met with a response of "Ugh! That's horrible. Say something crazy/racist/ignorant to get out of it!"  

I get that impulse, I totally do.  Jury duty can be downright inconvenient for many people, plus Liz Lemon made getting dismissed look flippin' hilarious.  But the thing is, our justice system - while arguably flawed in parts - is fascinating as a whole.  And you get a front-row seat and a first-hand education in it while serving on a jury.  

Even more, our right to trial by a jury of our peers is an important one.  Many people across the globe don't enjoy this privilege; we're lucky to have it.  But it only works (well) if we're willing to show up and be peers for our fellow citizens.  So let's let ourselves be inconvenienced for one another.  In the name of justice!

Easier said than done, I know.  Enough with the civics lecture.  Shall we toast?  To chasing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  And days in the sun.  Where and when they may be found.


Robin aka Gotham Girl said...

Excellent post!

Sonja said...

Love this! I'm so glad you had a good experience. :) And I can't WAIT for your next job!