Chosen for Duty

Jury duty takes me back to my childhood…and not in a good way.   For the past 4 days, I have felt like a child in a grown up and somewhat foreign world.

I am required (not asked if I want to, nor excused for any reason that I deem important) to sit for 2 hours at a time in the back row in a jury box.  The air conditioner distracts me each time the fan starts.  One of the lawyers is so quiet and mumbles that I can’t hear him.  I get discouraged because I can’t follow the line of questioning so begin to fade out and miss whole chunks of testimony.  At the end of the first day, I manage to ask the court officer if something can be done about this situation.  But I missed a whole day!!

We are not allowed to have food in the courtroom.  This wouldn’t be too big a deal except that I overslept and neglected to eat breakfast before coming.  My stomach growled relentlessly which distracted me, and probably everyone around me.

I am expected to sit in the same seat next to the same people each day.  The woman directly next to me keeps trying to catch my eye.  When I finally gazed in her direction, she used facial expressions to communicate something to me about the lawyer.  I was mortified!  We are not supposed to talk at all about the trial but to do so in the middle of the courtroom terrified me!  I thought we would be humiliated and thrown out on the spot!  (We weren’t).

One of the lawyers talks too slowly, which drives me crazy.  Another one is quite aggressive, which makes me very uncomfortable.  The third is quite theatrical.  Each one discusses details about dates, e-mails, and contracts, interminably with every witness.  I am not a detail person and the actual business or content of this trial is not at all interesting to me.  Although I intensely attempt to follow the line of questioning, when I hear legal jargon, my brain begins to shut down.  I find myself watching the lawyers and witnesses with interest, letting go of the words.  Look how angry he got.  Wow, that lawyer’s hands are shaking. Hmmm, she looks different without her glasses.  I wonder if the judge is following all this or thinking about something else.

Finally, the sitting… I cannot sit for 2 hours at a time with nothing to do!  I shift in my seat, cross and re-cross my legs, bite my lip, look at the clock, play with the bracelet on my wrist, and yawn a lot.  I’ve even resorted to pinching myself to stay awake and sitting on my hands to keep from fidgeting!  I’ve almost sighed out loud at times and am working hard not to show emotion on my face.

Just when I think I understand kids, I have an experience like jury duty.   Our children may have trouble sitting still, don’t always understand what is being asked of them, aren’t particularly interested in the content, are distracted by background noises, are intimidated by adults around them, want to do the right thing but get side-tracked by other kids, or are distracted by their own physical hunger or discomfort.  In the grown up world, they are basically powerless.  I will head back to my job with gratitude that I am NOT a child and with greater respect of the challenges inherent in every day life for our children.

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

Photo by j Jury Duty 

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