As I sit in the 300+ head herd of dutiful citizens summoned today for jury duty, I can’t help but people watch. It’s one of my favorite games.
There are men in ill-fitting suits and comfort-dress shoes walking around, blending in perfectly with the beige walls and understated furniture.
A woman in a Disney character jacket sitting next to me cannot be still, and incessantly shakes a foot, which–in turn–makes some little metal piece of her bedazzled jacket rattle. The sound causes the man across from me to notice and we exchange a comically annoyed smile.
Most of us waiting are on some sort of device to pass the time, and even those who felt the need this morning to haul plump briefcases and backpacks are not using them, instead opting to play Candy Crush or check their Facebook news feed until our juror numbers are called. I resist the urge to check on my Clan and instead turn my phone off all together.
Two people in the entire group sit quietly, with nothing to do yet not appearing bored or impatient or anything but resigned to wait.
One woman makes idle small talk with the court clerk, and I wonder at her angle. Will this act get her number slipped onto a more exciting case? She runs out of silly questions and returns to her seat.
The coffee is burnt but still tasty until I regret not packing minty gum to eliminate the lingering flavor.
Sirens roll by outside and I look up to see a middle-aged woman carrying a shiny golden tote bag, wearing a mini skirt, suntan colored panty hose, and sandaled feet. This especially strikes me as most of us are still sporting layers and coats in our lingering 35 degree Wisconsin spring days.
After a few hours of waiting, the herd starts to get restless. People get up, some stretch, most have found restrooms or snack machines or new magazines to peruse. I look at the clock and realize that on a normal day I would be home by now and today, in particular, would be enjoying the first day of spring break with my children.
A series of juror numbers is called for the first round of eliminations, mine is not among them so I sit.
The woman is still tapping her foot, her jacket still tink-tink-tinkling. I refuse to change my seat to get away from her rattle because I’m otherwise comfortable and warm in front of the large picture window. I will her to either stop shaking or change seats herself. We’ll see if it works.
It surprises me how many people in this herd of strangers leave their purses, cases, devices, and other personal belongings in their chairs as they seek out excuses to move about. We’ve all claimed our spots and that is, apparently, more important than trust in this room full of strangers.
Every once in a while the silence is broken by a gregarious courthouse worker or high heels clicking down the linoleum clad hallway. The distraction doesn’t last long and the large room returns to a quiet stillness that would rival any library.
I am hungry, but it’s probably more of a boredom hunger than real.
Black and white framed portraits cover the walls in neat grids. They are important people in Wisconsin’s judicial history and they look so serious and distinguished staring down at me in my chair. Most wear glasses.
My travel cup of green tea is calling to me from my car parked a block away and two more stories up. Having it would occupy me and give me something warm to hold, but then I would just have to make more trips to the restroom and risk losing my seat. The struggle is real.
Yes. She’s still there and still tapping.
The tapping foot woman is also thirsty. I almost laugh out loud when she pulls a long swig from a canned energy drink. Sitting, sitting, sitting, sucking up sugary caffeine, tapping away, and unable to hold still. Go figure.
Exactly the opposite, across the room another woman naps. She seems quite comfortable to be off from work and be minimally paid to chair nap among strangers.
Random coughs shatter the silence. Those who have been here before begin quiet, knowing conversations, regaling others of us with their fascinating tales of jury duties past. I say a silent prayer to either be excused quickly, or chosen to serve on some enthralling criminal case. I am a cop’s daughter, after all, so being a part of this process could be really cool–especially if I can serve to preserve the law and be a voice of fairness at the same time.
Tappy Tapperton stretches, yawns, puts down her iPad in exchange for her iPhone, taps some more. Her leg never tired. Never. It must be the energy drink.
My mind turns to lunch spots. I’m rarely downtown so this could prove a rare treat opportunity to check out a new-to-me lunch spot in downtown Madison. A juicy cheeseburger sounds good!
Another series of juror numbers is called. There are questions that make me wonder what some otherwise intelligent-looking people didn’t learn in kindergarten. Q: “My number is 218, do I go, now?” A: “No, sir. We announced numbers 1 – 80, you can return to your seat.”
I brought a book with me to read, and I do read some, but mostly I just watch my fellow jury duty friends. No one seems as curious about me as I am of them; if they are they hide it well.
The first round is excused. They get to go home, go to lunch, resume their day. This makes the rest of us fidget a bit. The clock ticks on and Tapping Disney keeps double-time.
Bored, I visit the restroom…mainly as an internal excuse to stretch my legs and count the remaining herd. As I stand, I sarcastically ask the older gentleman sitting across from me to watch after my chair, to which he replies, “A special seat for a special lady.” Awww.
When I’m away, another huge group of possible jurors is excused, and yet we continue to wait.
At this point, there are only about twenty of us left, so we give in and begin to chat. Television shows. Growing Madison area communities. Restaurants. Until we finally get around to speculating on our juror fate. A retired insurance adjuster predicts that the case we are slated to sit through is settling rather than battle it out in court. “Whoever plays chicken first wins,” as he puts it. Within an hour an announcement is made that we–the last of the original 300+–are excused. We are excused from jury service for at least four more years, which I calculate was one year per hour we waited…sounds fair. We are thanked and we are sent on our merry ways.
Those remaining rush the elevators, suddenly itching for fresh air. The last words I heard from my juror friends was, “By the way, you’re pretty easy on the eyes.” I responded to the elderly gentleman with a laughing “Thank you,” and ran to cross the street back to the parking garage that housed my freedom.