A Grand Jury

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WEST PALM BEACH, FL — I spent the morning with a nurse, a self-described snowbird, a self-described court psychologist (for the 15th circuit, she explained, without explaining what a court psychologist does), a butterfly breeder, an accountant, and 54 other people who I don’t know what they do. There were 60 of us in all. I am unemployed, and was not the only one in my category.

I spent the morning with people dressed up, like this was a big day, dressed down, like there are no big days, and dressed in business attire, from suits to uniforms, like they were hoping to get back to what they do every day.

I never see these people all together unless I am doing my civic duty.

Last time was just two and a half weeks ago, when I served as a poll worker, and this time was Federal Court grand jury call.

I am grateful for both. They were opportunities for me, and also a reminder that as awful as the things that my country has done have been lately, my country still has the potential, sometimes realized, for greatness.

There were 60 of us and although we got off to a slow start, most of us got there early. One, it looked like, in pajamas. Another a good hour late, and with an attitude clearly a long time standing (she was in her 40s, at least), announcing, “I’m late for school,” with a pretend abashed grin.

The woman who realised we each were supposed to have a “Juror” badge, and so brought one to me too and dropped it in my lap, she turned out to have a religious conviction against serving on a jury, and we ended up leaving together at noon.

I knew I was out of there as soon as I found out the obligation would be 18 months long as I will be in Zambia for the year by the end of January, Yes, it was fun, when we were asked if anyone had a reason to not serve, after I heard all the other reasons, to say, “I’m a free-lance writer and I have accepted a fellowship and I will be in Africa all of next year.”

I thought the guy right after me who said he was a butterfly breeder and has to pack and ship butterflies on Thursdays (grand jury meeting day for the next year and a half), topped me, but I got out and he didn’t.

If I were going to be here, though, I would have liked to stay. It would have been fun. It would have bee a godsend back in the day, when I was working for an incompetent nut who ran a dysfunctional office, and could have used a day off from that once a week for a year and a half.

And I would have liked to spend more time with the randomly selected people of whom I don’t see nearly enough.

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