doing my jury duty (or 12 Angry Men… and then some)
Every now and then you are called upon to do your civic responsibility and yesterday was my turn. I had jury duty… but that isn’t the responsibility I’m talking about.
Let me explain.
I walked into the waiting area at 8:30am sharp and saw roughly ninety people sitting watching a video giving us juror instructions, i.e. quick review of the legal system and our upcoming role in it. Things were a bit dour. This crowd made the people waiting at the Department of Motor Vehicles look like a rave.
Then came the part where we waited to see if we’d be asked to serve on a jury. We were looking at a solid seven hours sitting in uncomfortable plastic chairs hoping our number didn’t come up. Thirty people were immediately whisked out of the room to go through screening for a civil trial and the rest of us exhaled and produced our various reading materials.
Mine was “Driving Mr. Albert,” by Michael Paterniti, a story about his drive across America with Einstein’s brain and the man who had taken it with him after he performed the autopsy almost sixty years ago. I’d heard good things and was looking forward to the opportunity to read it in its entirety.
I should at this juncture clarify my statement about everyone producing their reading materials. By everyone I meant everyone but one woman.
She had no book.
Or inhibitions about striking up a conversation with a total stranger. Or volume control on her voice. Or a filter about what came out of her pie hole.
Let me set the scene. Sixty people sitting quietly in a small room, reading. One woman began to talk to the poor bastard next to her in a voice that gave the casual observer the impression she thought she was speaking in a wind tunnel as opposed to a room where you could hear a pin not only drop but roll around on a carpeted floor.
My book was starting off well and I was getting more engrossed by the minute. I was even able to block out the wheezing of the man next to me. Every breath seemed to be a great feat for him. Part wheeze and part death rattle. The irony was I was reading about the brain of Einstein while actively trying not to imagine what was sloshing around in this idiot’s cranium. He just sort of gave off a shimmer of stupidity. My ability to ignore him was a true testament to how much I was enjoying the book.
But I was not faring as well with the loud woman in back. She seemed an endless reservoir of banality. She just kept talking and talking and talking. What’s worse was the guy next to her had the kind of voice that was so low you couldn’t actually make out what he was saying. You just knew he was responding because you’d get a little rumble in your stomach and then she would return to her efforts of making sure everyone in the courtrooms upstairs didn’t miss a bit of her conversation.
Three fucking hours and this monster kept assaulting my eardrums with her opinions on every topic known and unknown to mankind. Everyone else in the room took turns craning their necks back to glare at her but she was immune to such subtleties.
Lunchtime arrived and if I hadn’t been surrounded by gun-wielding police officers, I would have walked directly to the back of the room and murdered her. I know there wouldn’t have been a member of the present jury pool that would have convicted me.
What I needed was a plan.
One hoagie and lemonade later, I knew what had to be done.
I came into the room and plopped down right next to her. My book could wait. It was time to make a point.
Apparently she didn’t notice, or didn’t care, that I wasn’t the man with the low voice because as soon as the nice woman from the county was done giving us an update on our remaining possibilities of serving on a jury, the woman started right back in.
I cut her off and I started my own story.
“Last week I was at one of those giant super-saver buying club places and I’m standing in line with about twenty other people and all of a sudden the woman in front of me farts!”
She neither laughed nor took offense. I got the impression she was waiting for me to pause so she could return to speaking so I took an enormous breath and continued at about forty decibels.
“Well wouldn’t you know it but then a lot of other people start to fart! Even I farted and I never fart in public. I just let loose. The weird thing is I didn’t feel it coming. Then it occurs to everyone that our colons were talking to each other. Short staccato bursts followed by long windy soliloquies. We all just stood there as our asses were chatting away. Lord knows what they were saying but the funny thing is the farts didn’t smell.”
I looked at her. I was waiting to see if it would sink in that I was trying to make a point. Clearly I had everyone else’s attention in the room but I was unsure if the she-demon perched next to me was aware of my intentions.
She started to tell me about a neighbor who had recently died unexpectedly. I was going to further explore why a fart farted by a rectum engaged in conversation wouldn’t smell but she had jumped in and changed the subject.
I felt at once cheated and challenged. It was time to bring out the big guns. The true story that I’d never shared with anyone…
“I know exactly what you mean about life being cruel. For instance, the other day I was at Starbucks and was grooving to James Brown’s “I Got Ants In My Pants (And I Need To Dance)” background music when all of a sudden I saw this girl’s head swinging around wildly behind the counter. It was so cool to see a girl so uninhibited so I immediately started to watch as her she made her way towards me. I’ll be honest, I sort of felt that she could be the One and I started thinking of all these opening lines I could to introduce myself. Then when she turned the corner, I saw that she had cerebral palsy.”
Audible groans erupted from all around us. For the first time all day, the woman shut her mouth and sat back.
“You see how that’s cruel on so many levels right?”
I picked up my book and continued reading. I won’t give away the ending but because it’s a true story, it sort of fizzles. There’s no big ending, it sort of just trails off.
I hate when stories do that.
So anyway… I guess that’s my story about jury duty.