Sunday: I call the number and enter the other numbers and press the numbers and eventually learn that I need to report for jury duty on Thursday.
Thursday: I arrive at 111 North Hill Ave to find a line of people in front of the building entrance. “Good,” I think, “they should make the criminals wait in line and watch all of us hard-working, upstanding citizens as we walk in to do our civic duty. Sadly, the line was for people with jury duty. I took my place in line and quickly grew so bored that I decided to start an Instagram account. Nobody cared.
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And I also decided to keep a log…
7:34am – Hour 1 has been unpleasant but I am still strong. I waited in line for about 30 minutes. The woman behind me told a listening ear (not mine) about her many, many, many, many, many ailments. She started with a lesson on how to know when it’s time to get that tooth pulled. Next we dove into the wrist injury (“massive break”) and the resulting bone degeneration disease that left her knees knocking bone on bone (“the doctors don’t even know how I’m walking around!”). Then came the story about the car accident where she suffered “whiplash times ten.” But the whiplash-times-ten had a name that involved the word “ovarian.” At this point, she was talking so quickly, that it was easy to miss such small details. I am growing dubious. Before she could launch into another adventure, the guards have begun to file us through the metal detectors.
7:46am – I set the metal detector alarm off, yet without so much as a glance, the guard robotically motioned me to proceed … as if she secretly hopes that I do have something on my person that will put her out of her misery. When I turned to ask her for directions, she intuited my question and interrupted with a stoney “SECOND FLOOR.” What a strange place.
7:53am – The scenery here is so oppressive that it appears to have drained everyone of the ability to interact.
7:55am – I walked down the most life-depleating hallway I’ve ever seen.
7:59am: I did the “Who goes left?” Shuffle with a woman who remained completely expressionless. I nervously giggled “Excuse me!!” but she remained silent and emotionless, much like a coyote I once saw negotiating a fence.
8:11am – When I entered “The Juror Room” a.k.a. “The Sea of Potential” (as I have renamed it), a sea of empty blue chairs looked like softly clapping waves in an ocean during a tidal change. Peaceful in appearance, but underneath you know that it will drown you if given a chance.
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8:48am – They played a video. Then a judge who must not feel heard by his loved ones talked for a long time about the honor of jury duty. He made a confusing reference to the recent terrorist massacre in Paris where extremists murdered 17 innocent people, including the execution of 3 cartoonists. The judge said the event would have been “impossible … well, unlikely” in the U.S. because of our jury by peers system. You might need to read that part again because you are so confused, but he really said it. And nobody punched him. I almost did. Obviously we could all reference a little event in the U.S. that we refer to only by it’s date. I’ve never used this shorthand before, but it’s works here: SMH
8:53am – My strength is fading. They are clever here. They use long speeches peppered with rainbow suspenders level gags to break us down. I can see my comrades weakening. I’m amazed at how quickly the bright eyes of the living are dulled by this subtle and powerful torture.
8:04am – The hour hand of the clock sags so that it is difficult to decipher the time. This must be intentional. I almost believe that we are repeating the 8 o’clock hour, but I’ll try to remember that it is really the 9 o’clock hour. Must remember. I think it is Thursday, though all the days run together here. Since it is still Day 1, I am able to keep track.
8/9:07am – My body is beginning to feel at one with the chair. My mind seems to be breaking down. I almost joined in the bizarre North Korelian applause that happens after each speech. The Commander spoke about the rules and listed the stupid questions we are not permitted to ask. The implied conclusion seems to be that we are stupid and annoying. I believe her. I am stupid and annoying. Wait! No, I am not! It’s all getting fuzzy. I remember my son. I remember my husband. And the puppy. I remember them. Must not forget.
8/9:11am – I ration the last of my luke-warm tea. Lips so dry. Tongue swelling? Was this mole here yesterday? Distracted. I must remove this blasted chipped nail polish. Nail polish remover! Cupboard! Home! Memories of home! What is my family doing now? Do they miss me? How much has my son grown since I saw him last?
8/9:24am – They’ve replaced our names with dehumanizing numbers. I am now Juror 8095. Must remember my name, my humanity. I will fight for those memories. I am Allison Garwood!
8/9:29am – The sedative of boredom and ugly carpet is punctuated by bolts of terror. Will my name be called? What then?? I try to get some rest, but I can’t sleep. The silent screams of the Potentials (as I have named us) makes sleep impossible. Each time I catch the eye of a Potential I see more screams: “What if? What then?!” I try to concentrate on my family and making it back to them one day. My sweet son. Juror 8095 loves you, sweetie.
8/9:33am – They offered us a 30 minute break. A few people left. Where did they go? A break from what? How does one take a break from waiting? Is it a trap? Do they shoot the fools who leave for not appreciating the honor of serving this great country? Do they shoot the fools who stay for not needing to rest from the excitement of the potential of serving this great free country? I decide to stay.
8/9:44 – A flashback of my old life when I think I see a friend from behind. A friend from my old life. The woman turns, I realize I’m here in my new life. Keep forgetting this is where I live now.
8/9:47 – I brought some Cuties in my purse. Can I eat them? The Grammar Outlaw (yes! Juror 8095 remembers calling herself this in her old life!) wonders both: a. if eating in the Sea of Potential is allowed and b. if the starved stomach of a pitiful Potential is capable of receiving nutrition.
8/9:50 – In the name of everything that’s holy!! They are calling names right now!!! A TWENTY ONE DAY TRIAL!!! Oh the humanity!!!!
8/9:51 – My name was called.