Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Jury duty - day 2

(From here)

In the morning, we all gathered back up in the jurors' lounge on the fifth floor and sat around for a couple of hours. Laptops abounded this morning so there was a lot more competition for the six outlets in the room as many more people had clued in that their mental survival depended on self entertainment.

I'd arrived early enough to snag one of the precious outlets and within five minutes all the rest were occupied as well. After a hearty round of self congratulations, we lucky few danced a ritualistic dance which included a bonfire and the sacrifice of a couple of tuna sandwiches to thank the gods and then we ceremoniously plugged in our laptops. As we turned on our machines, we glanced up around the room and could see a sea of envious eyes glaring at us. I'm pretty sure that more than a few of those who were denied would have gladly challenged our privileged positions and resorted to violence for our access and were only held back because of the police presence in the courthouse. Everyone knows that the police constantly monitor just these types of radical undercurrents because they so often erupt suddenly into ferocious uprisings. The police have little tolerance for such displays of uncivil behaviour and will meet such actions with extreme force. Still, I am convinced that by week's end, we will all have formed allegiances and a savage war involving backpack and briefcase pummelings will have broken out between all the group over who controls the best locations in each waiting room.

An interesting tidbit I learned from the woman sitting beside me (who smartly refused to give up her seat and its vital outlet access location to some swarthy looking fellow who challenged her for it) is that if you as a possible juror don't show up one day for this boredom party, the authorities will send out a patrol car to pick you up and bring you back in handcuffs if necessary. I thought about this for a second and weighed the excitement of a police car ride, dare I say escort, against the downside of having to wear handcuffs and possibly accruing a criminal record. I haven't made a decision on this temptation yet.

At around 11 o'clock, when I was like 90% through this exciting coming of age roller derby movie, "Whip It", with Ellen Page - you know, the chick in Juno who looks like she could be Janeane Garafolo's daughter - we were told we needed to vacate the fifth floor lounge and make our way downstairs to the first floor lounge.

Everyone has their own strategy to changing lounges and only the best ones award the winners with outlet access. Some people try to shuffle faster than the person beside them. Some people use their elbows. Some people feign an emergency and try to get the indifferent crowd to clear a path for them. All of these strategies involve taking the escalator down the several flights to the first floor. I, however, took the elevator.

I beat them all downstairs and snagged an outlet accessible cubicle (WIN!) and installed myself and my laptop and got ready for more torpor. As the others started trickling into the lounge, I could feel their eyes burning into my back but I didn't care. I knew the police would protect me.

My glory was short lived however, as a mere hour later, we were told that we had to proceed to a court on the fourth floor where we would be given our next assignment of sitting and waiting.

There are no outlets available in the courtrooms so there was no point in hurrying.

Up in the courtroom, there was a different judge from yesterday but it was a little difficult to tell him apart from yesterday's because, well, they looked the same and announced the exact same set of instructions. In fact, it could have been easily mistaken as an exact repeat performance of yesterday's courtroom event until the cell phone went off.

As in a theatre or a high school, we had been told to keep our cell phones turned off so it's not like we weren't warned. In the middle of a mini-speech about how seriously we all need to regard the jury process, someone's cell phone went off. The judge looked up and then was about to restart the speech when the cell phone went off again.

Can you say ballistic? Holy shit, talk about taking a verbal beat down. I hope that guy with the cel phone was wearing kevlar cuz the judge sprayed a hailstorm of word bullets at him, and the rest of us as well, by collateral damage. The judge roared out words like "decorum" and "gadgets" and "respect". It was like getting chewed out by a school principal except unlike a principal whose only weapon is to reward a student with a vacation away from class, this principal could potentially order the police to taser your ass and cart you off to jail while still twitching and smouldering. Suddenly, everyone was sitting up straight and paying attention. If that judge had demanded we spit polish our shoes, we would've done it on the spot. We were scared but the ferocious reprimand was also thrilling and we sort of wanted more, I mean, as long as it was directed at someone else.

Unfortunately, that was not to be. After the initial oratory, the drawing of the names began again and lasted until we broke for lunch at around 1:30. We were told to be back in the courtroom by 2:30.

No one was late.

Just before the judge re-entered the courtroom after the break, the courthouse staff made doubly sure everyone had their cell phones turned off. We were also reminded that we weren't allowed to wear glasses up in our hair or have them hanging in our collars.

"Oh and no gum," said one of our handlers. "Is anyone chewing gum?"

Some guy put up his hand. "I am."

"Oh no," said the handler. "No, no, no, that's no good. You can't chew gum in here. YOU CAN'T CHEW GUM. Does anyone have a piece of paper he can spit the gum into? A piece of paper? Anyone?"

Everyone started digging into their packs and purses for some paper.

"Anyone? Paper? Hurry, hurry," said the handler.

But then before anyone could pull out a sheet, the man said, "Never mind. I swallowed it."

The relief was audible.

The next couple of hours were spent with more drawing of names until basically everyone had their name drawn and was assigned to one of five groups, A to E. As each group was formed, we were told to go into another courtroom where we could sit and wait.

So, we sat and waited on courtroom wooden benches. No outlets, no cubicles. We were finally all equal and while there was a certain amount of regret that I could not charge up my laptop, it felt good. There was nothing left to fight for, nothing to defend.

Anyway, after a seemingly arbitrary amount of time, a handler got up in front of us and told us to reorganize our seating into our respective alphabetized groups. The procedure went something like this:

"Okay, could everyone please sit in groups according to their assigned group name?"

Everyone got up and looked around and we were all saying our group names and shuffling about, trying to find each other and trying to decide where to sit. After about five minutes of this, it was apparent this leaderless strategy wasn't working out.

The handler took over the situation.

"Okay, let's have all the A's sit here," she said and pointed to a section of seats in front of her. All the A's in the room got up and started heading over to their new assigned seats. That seemed to work out well.

The handler then moved over a bit and pointed out another group of seats.

"Could all the B's sit here?" No one moved. "All the B's here, please." Still, no one moved.

"There aren't any B's in the room," someone yelled out, trying to be helpful.

"Oh, Okay. Uh, could all the C's sit here then."

A few people rose to move to the new location but then someone from the back corner said, "All the C's are already over here."

Some of the C's in transit stopped in their tracks, now confused over where to sit and some started heading to the back corner but the handler, who hadn't heard the person's announcement and was still waiting for all the C's to come to her.

"Where's all the C's?" she asked. "I'd like all the C's here," and so a bunch of C's started back towards her but the group at the back wasn't budging.

"We're already back here," someone said again, louder, and this time the handler heard him.

"Oh okay," she said. "All the C's are back there," and all the C's in transit turned around once again and made their way over to the back corner. "Okay, let's have the D's here then," said the handler indicating the same location she had originally wanted the C's to occupy.

"Do you mean you want us grouped at the front or at the side?" someone asked.

"The D's are already back here," someone else announced.

"Oh," the handler said.

"So, where do you want us?" someone asked.

Some people walked towards the handler, some headed for the back, others, of which I was one, stayed put awaiting further instructions.

The handler didn't know what to do so she smiled.

A new handler walked into the room followed by a potential jurist.

"This person is from group B. Where should she sit?" the newly arrived handler asked.

"Anywhere," the handler in the courtroom suggested.

Eventually, the handlers called us up one at a time and wrote our names out on various pieces of paper and then we sat and waited until the end of the day when we were allowed to go home.

Continued here.


Social Mange said...

Loud *SNORK* as I truly laugh out loud.

Ian said...

Too funny.
It almost makes me want to be called for Jury duty.
I said almost.

Laura HP said...

That's hilarious. I work at a camp for middle school kids and that's exactly what happens when we try to get them sorted into groups! It's a difficult manoeuvre.

Erin said...

Twitching and smoldering...laugh!! So, do you end up with tuna melts after you sacrifice the the tuna sandwiches?

By the way, I don't recommend the back of a police car. I had the dubious honour of being the parent chosen to sit in one during a Beaver Troop tour. To say there is limited leg room would be an understatement, it's like having your knees rammed up your nose back there. Avoid it at all costs!