Friday, December 12, 2008

A Narrow Escape

I survived a day at jury duty.

I get picked for service about every 18-24 months. I don't know why, but I do. I even got picked to serve on a jury for a Grand Theft Auto case. Very interesting. Everyone should do it. It really teaches you a lot about the justice system.

But, this time, I just didn't have the time to dedicate to serving. So, I walked into the jury assembly room just hoping for a break.

I got called to be on a panel for selection around 10:30a. "Great," I thought, "if I am lucky enough to get dismissed, it's so early, they'll put me in for another panel!" We walked up 2 flights to the 4th floor, and we went outside the courtroom door. We waited about 5 or 6 minutes, and a lady pokes her head out.

"Are you guys here for District 36?" We all moan a collective, "Yes." She looks confused and goes back in the room.

About 3 minutes later a fat man comes out and asks the same question. "Yes," we sigh again. "Well," he says smiling, "we don't need jurors until tomorrow, so you're free!" We must have looked too happy, because he quickly clarified: "You are free to go back to the jury assembly room." We all start to trudge back down the hall. One guy yells, "Hey, let's not walk so fast!" We all chuckled and moved like sheep toward the escalator.

At noon, they called me for another panel. Only this time, we were all to report to Traffic Court...19 blocks away. Again, the collective sigh, as we packed up our belongings and started to walk out to the parking lot. While reading the map in the car, I am pretty sure I ran a red light. I just envisioned myself getting a ticket on my way to serve at Traffic Court. The coincidence of it all.

Traffic Court was the Ritz Carlton of the court houses. I've been in 3 so far for jury service in LA -- criminal (where I served), civil (where I reported this time) and now traffic. At the Traffic Court, there are vending machines in the jury assembly room! The chairs are nicer! There are magazines ALL OVER for you to read! It was heaven for people stuck in potential-juror hell.

Here, again, I saw the walls of differences between people collapse. I saw an Indian guy on a lap top and an Asian girl start talking about nursing school -- he was finished and she wanted to go. I saw a Hispanic guy and a middle aged lady laughing about some private joke they had managed to develop during the last 4 hours of being in that room.

It got me thinking about how, at jury dury, everyone is on the same team. Everyone is hoping for a dismissal. Everyone is hoping to get out of it. Strangers with nothing else in common start talking to each other, laughing about their kids, etc. It was one of the few places I've even been that the playing field is level. We're all just there to serve.

It was a great snapshot of America. Or at least, the America we all want to believe in.

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