Thursday, March 22, 2007

Jury Duty

I've been a registered voter for a long time and today, for the first time, I got to sit in the jury pool room along with about 60 others and see if I would be picked for jury duty.

I don't know why it took until now to get jury duty. When I lived in Manhattan in the late 80s, there was a critical shortage of physical therapists and our hospital successfully lobbied for a hardship exemption. (Hardship for the hospital/patients, not for the therapists.) Thereafter, I moved around a bit--from Philadelphia to Chicago, and then to the Boston area. I've lived here for 15 years. You'd think in that time, I might have been tapped for jury duty. (actually, I was about a year or so ago, but the night before, was told that all trials for the next day had been canceled.)

Last night, when I called the 'standby' number, I was hoping that my responsibility had been canceled again. Although I don't work full time, and today is one of my days off, I still didn't relish driving an hour to Lowell and giving my day to the courthouse. And god-forbid I got picked for a jury. I have a full day of patient care scheduled in the clinic tomorrow. I'm a solo practitioner. If I'm not there, I have to cancel all my patients. They don't get physical therapy and I don't get paid. Plus, I'd have to leave before my kids got off to school, and wouldn't get home until several house after they'd come home.

Not necessarily the best thing with one teenager and one almost teenager.

But, I got up this morning and headed up to Lowell for my civic duty. It took me over an hour to get there and almost a half hour to find a legal parking place. (I thought it would be too pathetic for me to get a parking ticket serving jury duty.)

The jury pool room smelled of stale smoke. (Just because you can't smoke in public buildings doesn't mean the smoke doesn't linger on your clothes or your person to 'coat' the room with the memory of thousands of cigarettes. I have asthma. 'Nuff said.)

The wooden benches were hard and the room overly warm. Did I mention the smell of smoke?

We watched a very lame video about courtroom/trial procedures. The man next to me was scrolling on his blackberry. I think anyone who watches Law and Order could have done just as good a job on the briefing.

I still didn't want to be there.

Then the judge came by to brief us. He had a good sense of humor. He knew none of us wanted to spend the day there. But he also conveyed his sense of how important the jury system is. It wasn't the long black robe or the fact that the court officer boomed 'all rise' in his best courtroom voice when the judge came and left, but I believed him. Sitting in this warm, smelly room was important.

It was a criminal trial.

They had us take a break. Thank the god of caffeine, there was a decent coffee machine. We waited some more.

By 10:30, the judge came back. ("All rise") and released us with his thanks. The defendant waived his right to a jury and we were free to go, having 'served' for the day.

I didn't want to be there. I *really* didn't want to be there.

I was disappointed.

I was really disappointed.

Strange, huh?

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