Civic Duty, Done

Sunday we had snow, though it didn’t stick, and the temperature plunged after dark. Which meant yesterday I was driving before dawn, on black ice and through freezing fog, downtown to the courthouse.

Yes, my friends, jury duty again.

This makes the fourth time, though only the third in this county. I know there are thousands of eligible people who haven’t even been called once, but they keep interrupting my working time with this nonsense. Not that I mind doing my civic duty–I went in the first two times with good grace, somewhat proud to participate even though I’m the last person prosecution or defense wants on a jury.

It’s not that I can’t be impartial. It’s just that my family history (law enforcement kin), added to my viewing/reading habits (I do read and watch a lot of true crime) and career (writer with a distinct interest in gruesome forensic pathology, not to mention I once thought I’d study to be a paralegal) makes me a bad bet for either side’s purposes. I never get past voir dire, and probably never will–they want the quiet folk who can be swayed by various courtroom strategies.

Anyway, yesterday was no exception and I was sent home after the jury was finally empaneled. A whole working day lost, momentum frittered away because I’d had to plan for perhaps a week’s worth of disruption. I couldn’t even get back to revisions because all my bandwidth had been eaten up, so I was reduced to staring at a documentary until I could heave my poor corpse to bed. And there were very few masks to be seen–less than ten percent of all the people called for duty, and one lone mask among the courtroom staff) which means if I get sick, I know exactly where it happened. Plus, the trial itself was a criminal one, and just plain heartbreaking to hear even the basic dimension of.

Hyperempathy is great for my work, but a distinct drawback otherwise. Hearing the charges made me wince.

On the other hand, it was great material. Watching how people reacted, how they sorted themselves according to social expectations, watching the attorneys perform, and practicing my powers of observation are all wonderful for the work. For example, the prosecutor was left-handed, wearing a tailored three-piece and glossy wingtips–and also a pair of blue-and-green striped socks that had to be “lucky”. The defense attorney was married, loved their spouse very much, and did not like their client but was giving their all. The cross-section of the jury was fascinating, and watching from a corner of the room while people grouped themselves and cooperated was alternately comforting and terrifying.

I suppose I’ve watched too many history documentaries to be entirely comfortable when I see people patiently trooping along in a line while an “authority” exhorts them. And locating the impulse in myself to be polite, play along, follow the crowd was sobering indeed. The writer in me was furiously taking notes; it’s a machine that never turns off. Everything goes into the hopper to be churned by the writing brain.

You’d think they would want me far away from court for that reason alone.

I am thinking about going back to paralegal studies, though. Growing up I was “supposed” to be a doctor to fulfill one of my childhood abuser’s frustrated desires, but was always magnanimously told being a lawyer was “acceptable” too. I have no desire to argue in a courtroom or deal with people all day long, which is why I hole up in my office and deal with imaginary people for the bulk of my time. Still, the studying is interesting, the architecture of the law is fascinating, the skills needed are right up my alley, and it might be a day job if I ever get too tired of publishing. It would mean going back to an office, which as an introvert I’d absolutely hate…but still, it’s always nice to have plans and options.

The urge will most likely pass by the time I get my morning run out of the way. Boxnoggin was unhappy at the break in routine and very upset that someone else had to take him for walkies yesterday. He calmed down once it was clear dinner was going to arrive on time, and today is displaying only a lingering uncertainty, which will fade once he’s in his harness and it’s clear the world is continuing upon its accepted course.

I’d best get moving towards the toaster now. Losing a day and momentum is bad enough, I’m going to have to restart revisions and shift my week’s schedule around again. Small price to pay, but my nose is suspiciously stuffy and my entire body aches. It could just be the stress, and a run will purge those chemicals, fill me with endorphins, and set me right in a trice. That’s the hope, at least.

Time to get to it.