Gratitude Sunday: The Hidden Costs Of Jury Duty

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” Martin Luther King, Jr

Sunday Haiku
Spicy juniper
sweating in the sun, fragrance
clings closely to earth.

Sunday Musings
I did my civic duty this week. I reported for jury service.

Frankly I enjoyed the jury service I’ve done in the past. I’m older now and keep thinking I’m able to do what I used to. Some things you just get to go through and to soothe myself I tell myself, “it will be over soon and then I’ll feel better when it’s done”. I know, we tell ourselves all kinds of things to get through potentially weird or unpleasant or strange or once in a lifetime events. Since I am feeling especially cranky this week, I’m going to whine and laugh about it a bit. Here’s a “Day in the Life of a Cranky Old Fat White Lady Doing Her Civic Duty Reporting for Jury”.

In my county you are summoned about a month in advance for jury duty. You must respond or you are considered in contempt of court, and they send more mail threatening you with a fine and/or jail time. You must be 18 years of age and a resident of the county. Jurors are picked randomly from the driver’s license registration and voter registration. (Note: I recently found out some people don’t register to vote because they are afraid to serve jury duty. Yikes! Register. Vote. Consider jury duty to be an adventure, even if it is a little scary. As you read this post you’ll see it was a little scary for me, too, but I did it anyway.) You might be asked to serve every two years. Or not. (Hubster’s never been summoned; the son has twice; this is my first time in this county, we’ve all lived here for 22 years, though the son has only qualified for the last 7 since he turned 18). You may request a deferral, once. You may submit a letter claiming hardship for medical reasons, requiring a doctor’s note, which they state is usually declined and you will be asked to serve anyway. You may decline automatically if you are over 70 years of age.

I took one deferral last winter when the snows were upon the ground. They followed through and summoned me again. It’s a command performance: serve or face contempt of court. My doctor was not inclined to write the note and it was too late to request and obtain a temporary handicap parking permit, which is all she wants to give me. 70 is still many suns and moons away.

Some trials are called off at the last minute, so summoned jurors call the night before to see if they still have to report in the morning. My number was called. The task was on.

I didn’t sleep that night. It’s the way I’m built. If I have a morning appointment the body and brain does not relax until the event is over. The whole jury/court event is opposite my schedule, even though it is all normal business type operating hours, you know, day time. I had to leave the house at 6:30 AM for the half hour drive to the county courthouse, so I set the alarm for 5:15. I was done lying there by 4:30. I was able to eat, but other normal morning movements failed. I remembered to put my phone on to charge when I got up. I showered; brushed teeth, hair, and did my little beauty routine; dressed; packed; collected the phone from the charger, and was out the door by 6:35.

If you don’t have a handicap parking permit it is not suggested you park around the courthouse where the parking is either marked “handicapped” or “two hour parking”. They ticket you, and you might be in court all day until 5:00 PM. The parking garage is three blocks away from the courthouse.

I located the parking structure easily enough but the direction I came from didn’t allow entrance, so I had to go down the block and turn around. The entrance is not well marked. The low hanging height marker doesn’t help it look like that’s where you go in. The illusion of the low hanging marker made my stomach queasy as I thought for sure I would hit it with the top of my little truck. This illusion carried on all the way up to the 5th level where we were allowed to park for free, me mentally bumping the top of the truck on all the evenly spaced girders above me. I do not like parking structures. My brain say the ceilings are too low and are going to rip the roof right off the car. The circling to get to each level makes me a bit seasick. And of course, the map was not extremely clear, and the elevator was at the opposite end of the structure from where I parked. And there’s where I made a mistake. Instead of walking to the other end of the garage to the elevator or moving the truck, I walked down those 5 flights of stairs. I think I’m in fair physical condition and down should be easier than up. Little did I know what would come later.

I was a little shaky when I got to the bottom of the stairs, but I didn’t think much about it. I have a twisted proclivity for freaking myself out about physical stuff, and I still had three blocks to walk to the courthouse and who knew how much walking and steps inside. By the time I reached the courthouse doors my face was red, which is what it does these days. I wasn’t breathless exactly, but I was consciously controlling my breath which is something I do in situations where I feel distress, whether physical or emotional.

Doors to the courthouse open at 7:15 AM, jurors are asked to report by 7:30, orientation begins at 8:00 AM. I walked through the security doors at 7:25. There is a security scan. Your belongings are scanned; your body is scanned; you go through a metal detector. You can bring lunch, snacks, stuff for personal needs, books, and certain electronic items, including headphones, cell phones, and laptops. The security guards traded out my fancy bright blue cane with the pretty butterfly pattern on it for a plain brown wood cane to go through the metal detector. I had no pockets. I packed my backpack lightly and carefully, purposely leaving my sharps, pocket knife (Boy Scouts), extra keys, and knitting needles at home. I took a book, lunch, snacks, and extra layers to wear in case the AC was working well. No metal there. The woman in front of me had on steel toed shoes. They made her take them off. When it was my turn I kept setting of the alarm. The security guard finally said she thought it was likely to be my hair clip which has a metal backing. Good thing she didn’t suggest it was my steel belted radial industrial style body support system, because I was not inclined to remove my heavy duty under-wired brassiere to get through security. She asked me to take a sip from my water container, I’m guessing to prove it wasn’t alcohol. She used a manual wand to “deactivate” my metal, and I was through.

The guard directed me to the elevator. Good choice, but there were 6 steps up to the level the elevator was on. I’m guessing elsewhere in the building was access for wheelchairs; it wasn’t at that point of entry.

Of course with all those nerves on edge, my bladder signaled a need for relief. I thought for sure there would be a restroom on every level. The jury waiting/orientation room is in the basement, and there certainly is a restroom there, a nice big one, but down a couple long halls and up a ramp and not well lit. Turns out they don’t like you to use that one, but I did anyway, because I was there, it was there, and I didn’t know any different. Once inside the jury room, they announced several times to use the restroom on the 1st floor, so then I knew. Oh well, I didn’t damage anything or make a mess.

Waiting for jury duty is all about hurry up and wait. You get to fill out some paperwork and answer some basic questions, such as what section of town do you live in, are you renting or buying, have you ever been involved in a civil or criminal lawsuit, or been a victim in a car accident, or are you related to people employed in law enforcement. I filled in my answers, turned in the paperwork, and took a seat. I was impressed to see they had three different sizes of seats, Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Teen Bear sized seats, and it was all comfortable, not hard plastic. You did not have to remain seated, and I was already so sore, I kept standing up to do lunges and other muscle stretching so I’d be able to walk away from the courthouse later. I did not care how dorky I looked, you know, fat woman exercising is an oxymoron to some people.

At 8:30 we were shown an orientation video, explaining the basics of jury duty, why if you get to sit all day and are not chosen for a jury your time is still important and valuable, and how important serving on a jury was because it could affect another person’s life. The jury coordinator kept us updated about what was going on in the courtrooms, how close they were to being ready for jurors, what to expect of the day, and when we might be excused. We all laughed when she said, “When you are excused, it is a good idea to run away from here as fast as you can.” We were allowed to eat and drink according to our needs and complimentary coffee, hot cocoa, tea, and water were provided.

I brought a book to read but I am usually so nervous in these kinds of situations I find it hard to concentrate, and I end up people watching. That frightens some people as then think they are being watched and judged. I don’t judge so much (hwell, a little) but I love to observe people. So many different kinds of people, it’s just a wealth of eye candy. Young people who have no idea about the dignity of “court clothing”, older people dressed to the nines, some folks dressed neatly for the office, in-betweens who appeared to be dressed for Friday night out. Personally, I think women’s shoes are weird, and all styles were represented here: the high heels, spikes, and platforms, and high-wedged espadrilles, a relatively few sensible shoes or sneakers. I wore sensible sneakers and socks, but I saw two women nearly fall and one woman twisted her ankle as she sat down.

The jury coordinator plugged in a movie, The Astronaut Farmer, about an intelligent farmer who builds a space vehicle in his barn. Some folks watched the movie, some ignored it and read or worked on their electronic devices (the courthouse provided free Wi-fi with the password prominently posted in several places), some of us read books, some of us closed our eyes to catch a little nap. When the space capsule in the movie was launched there was a loud movie explosion and most to us jumped, and when the vehicle crash landed a few seconds later there was a collective gasp in the room. At least we were all awake.

I ended up sitting next to an older black gentleman, who was careful not to manspread when he sat down next to me. I joked a little about me moving over and he said, oh no plenty of room. He was neatly dressed in a clean chambray button-down shirt, jeans with an ironed crease, and simple shined dress shoes, unlike most of the men there who were in jeans and t-shirts. From his shoes I thought he might be a veteran, but he didn’t stand when the jury coordinator asked for veterans to stand so we could acknowledge their service. The coordinator didn’t look nearly old enough, but she admitted to having two adult children serving in the Marines. You can’t tell from age these days.

The gentleman had a little gray in his neatly trimmed hair and mustache. He was polite and soft voiced, and we had a lovely quiet conversation about education, our children, the book he was reading (about coaching and management styles), and cars. Everyday stuff. I thought we were being quiet but a woman in the row in front of us kept throwing us the side-eye. With the current climate, I was on guard, as this woman was white, perfectly coiffed, perfectly made-up, and fashionably coordinated outfit-wise, maybe 10 years younger than me, and had that unmistakable sneer of distaste on her face. I was waiting for her to say something about the race issue or poor white trash and glad she didn’t because I don’t have time for that nonsense. I talk to anybody I wish because I like talking with people and I don’t give a rip about differences; I’m old enough now I don’t care who you are, you don’t get to tell me different. If I’d sat beside her I likely would have struck up a conversation as well, so maybe she has something to be grateful for, that she didn’t have to endure me.

Three trials were on the docket. Numbers were called for the first two trials. Not my number. Finally the jury coordinator came forward and told us the third trial had reached a settlement and the rest of us waiting were excused from jury duty.

I gathered up my stuff, but I was not in running mode. I limped out of the room, into the elevator, and bumbled down the steps to leave the courthouse. I could barely walk.

I located the elevator at the far end of the parking structure, but my challenges were not over yet. First I could not figure out which button called the elevators, as none of them lit up and there was no little sign saying “this button” out of the many choices on the wall. I prevailed and figured out the correct button. Then I realized the elevator was glass on three sides so you could see the neighborhood. For me this is as bad as getting onto a carnival ride. I tucked myself into the corner by the door facing the only solid walls and hung on for dear life, thinking this would help, but I could see the shadows of the parking structure as the elevator rose each level. I knew if I closed my eyes I would only get dizzier so I endured the shadows, lowering my eyelids as far as I dared without getting dizzy.

Getting back into my own car was a relief, and I helixed my dizzy way down to the bottom of the structure. The exit was easier than the entrance and if I have to serve jury duty again I hope to remember this easier entrance on the other side of the building.

I was so exhausted I came home and napped. When I got up I realized the damage I had done to myself. I could hardly move.

Now, what I’ve learned about muscle pain over the years, especially pain from using muscles that aren’t used to being used is, you must keep using them or the pain will be worse and it will last longer. I loaded up on ibuprofen, strapped on some ice packs, and kept walking. I did my usual swim in the evening and my tai chi exercises. I applied microwave hot packs when I finally settled down for a little evening media viewing. I ate ibuprofen by the handfuls for the next two and a half days as I walked around with legs of concrete, alternating ice packs and heat, and more exercise than ever to work out the pain. I not only used muscles not used for a while, I overstimulated my sciatica, which doubled down my pain, as the aggravated sciatic is painful to walk with. Another case of “it will be over soon and then I’ll feel better when it’s done”.

For all my talking about movement, I’m obviously not getting enough. Walking is hard because of back pain, stairs are harder. Either I give up or I do something. I’m not inclined to give up, so there’s that. In the meantime, I’m thinking I need to find a set of safe steps I can walk up and down, every other day or so.

I won’t be called for jury duty for another two years. If I’m summoned again we’ll see then if I am able to walk better, or if I’ll need to get that doctor’s note.

Though I experienced personal distress, I recommend every citizen of the United States serve jury duty. You might not be selected to serve on a jury, and if you are that’s another fascinating part of the process of justice in America, despite the personal hardship of the break in your routine.

It’s your civic duty. It’s your responsibility as a member of our community. Here your voice matters as much as voting and has more power because it is the collective voice of peers. We are all connected.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Every where I went this week I saw the loveliest “weeds”. Wild mustard yellow tansy growing in clusters beside the road. Baby blue bachelors buttons in hellstrips. Chocolate brown spears of blooming cattails in the wetlands. Yellow moth mulleins with centers mimicking the moths they want to attract. Purple belladonna, deadly nightshade, reminiscent of shooting stars, but poisonous.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Bingeing through season 3 of Dr Kildare (1961-1966, not rated TV series). I wouldn’t say that Dr Kildare was before its time. The writers and producers chose issues pertinent to the time the show was being viewed when it was released; the series was a reflection of current culture. In this re-viewing 55 years later, for so many of the issues presented in this series, I see most of the issues to still be unresolved, such as bullying; jealousy; anger at the success of others and petty workplace jealousies; suicide; immigration; unwed teen pregnancy and (!) consequences for the teen father; race, religious, and gender differences; the stigma of obesity; woman’s place at home vs in the workplace; depression and anxiety. I see the glorification of doctors as the ultimate gods of knowledge (they aren’t), and doctors who make thoughtless mistakes at the cost of their patients. Most of the plots could as easily be done on any medical show in today’s TV viewing line-ups, just update the settings and props. Fascinating how childhood perception and adult perception overlap. How impressionable we are as children.

Currently Reading – Finished The Dark Angel (2018, fiction) by Elly Griffiths. Griffiths keeps violence to a minimum despite the obvious crime element. In this novel, however, a semi-major character is killed, and she writes it with the same dignity and grace she had vested in the character. I don’t often cry at British mysteries, but I did with this one. And one of the main characters is left pregnant possibly by the person who died, so once again the author leaves us waiting for the next in the series. Selfish me says write faster, Ms Griffiths. * Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – And the Unexpected Solutions (2018, psychology, depression) by Johann Hari. Medical doctors are missing some important parts about the human body and its psyche. They could do so much more to relieve the stress of everyday living in this world, if only they would, but of course, I’m a perfect-worlder. The medical paradigm will need to become more holistic to improve the health of Americans, treating the body-mind as a whole unit; what the brain does mentally and emotionally affects the body and vice versa. Improving those connections along with a host of others could improve the health of Americans. Side note from me: If we should become a healthier nation, I’m not worried about a healthier America diminishing the medical industry, which it seems to be these days rather than a profession. I feel when one industry fades or decreases, other industries open up. As some industries die, others take their place. Seems like the natural stages of progress. I didn’t write this post with a quill pen, ink, and parchment, although I still own a selection of quill pens and inkwells.

This week I have been grateful for:

    • The car getting me where I wanted to go, getting dicey with a 20 year old rig.
    • Finding more information about my future financial situation.
    • The opportunity to serve on jury duty.
    • Ibuprofen, ice packs, and microwave hot packs.
    • Getting more housecleaning done than usual in an effort to work out muscle pain.
    • Being much closer to having a fiction story finished, and getting more work done on another project for another author. Grateful the other author is gracious about our time-line toward excellence.
    • Having only one payment left on the new clothes washer I had to buy.
    • Stopping to admire the gigantic blue spruce outside my counselor’s office. It is laden with ostrich egg sized cones the most beautiful shade of light sage and looks as if the Easter Bunny made a theme-tree, laying eggs all of the same pale sage color in the dark blue-green branches.
    • Taking time to admire the 150 year old sequoias in front of the county courthouse. Shady, fragrant, enduring, 5 are left of the original 6 planted.
    • While admiring the trees I heard two little birds skittering around in the bark dust under the rhododendrons (a natural companion for sequoias) and chattering to each other, making it obvious they were delightfully courting. They came up within about three feet of me when I stood still and quiet until somebody else walked by.
    • Summer salads.
    • Oregon cherries as big as ping pong balls, but much sweeter to eat. Grateful I have never been hungry enough to try eating ping pong balls.
    • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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