So, about a month ago, I got a very official looking communication in the mail. I thought it was a traffic citation, actually, since we have cameras at about every intersection these days and despite the fact that I am very careful, I have a severe distrust of technology (and I disagree with law enforcement posting cameras at intersections to give tickets – if you can’t police your own intersections, you don’t deserve the revenue) and have heard that yellow lights have been intentionally shortened so that people will run the red ones and hence get a ticket. It wouldn’t have surprised me.
But it wasn’t a ticket. It was worse. I was being summoned to jury duty… and not the piddly local stuff, but US District Court (because you know, if I’m going to do it, I may as well do it big). And I say this is worse than a ticket because a ticket I can pay. I don’t want to, I wouldn’t like it, but I pay the damn thing, I don’t have to think about it anymore – Gatsby used to say the best problem you can have is one you can solve with money. I used to think that was a joke. Until I started making real money. Now I know he’s right. Anyway…
US District court is worse than a ticket… because they demand THREE FULL WEEKS of your time. Not in the court, but on call for them. Which means you can’t make appointments because you don’t know when you’re going to be needed. You can’t plan a trip. You have to call in a few times a week to see if you’re going to be needed, which means that your boss won’t know whether you’re going to be at work the next day for the next three weeks either. I can’t even take any PTO time because if I did, with my luck, I’d probably have to go in to serve that day, which meant that I’d be using my vacation time instead of my work time. The only good parts about this that I could see was that if I did get selected to serve, then I’d get to keep my salary plus the daily rate. Oh and because the courthouse is located, literally, in my favorite area of Tampa’s downtown. The Greek place I go to, my favorite pizza place, the old bookstore that I like, the park, and First Watch all within a few blocks. At least there’d be somewhere to go to eat if I had to kill some time.
The first two weeks I was on call, nothing happened. I called the number, was told to call back on a certain date, I did, was told to keep calling back, no big deal. Of course it would figure, though… as luck would have it, they’d have me go in on the week that all of our staff, and my backup, would be at the Insurance conference thing in Vegas. We all were expecting it… I was hoping that wouldn’t happen, but it did. Not that I could use that as an excuse. Because that’s the thing about US District Court… they don’t freaking care that no one is left to do your job. It’s not their problem that insurance offices across the country won’t be trained. Truthfully, had my backup been in office, I wouldn’t have minded – I could have used the break. Saying the same thing three times a day can be tiresome. But I felt irresponsible about leaving them high and dry.
So, armed with my new, large, oversized bag that would fit my umbrella inside, along with two books to amuse myself with while I waited, pens, Prowl, my Tarot cards (no self-respecting witch leaves home without them), and, for good measure, hair devoid of product and my pentagram necklace (that I rarely wear) out in the open for the world to see – because, you know, I may as well look the part, and, inconveniently, NOT my cell phone or tablet since I wasn’t allowed to have those in the Courthouse, I went in there at 7:30 in the morning. This is early for me. I don’t even usually wake up until 7:45. Holy crap I felt like a zombie. But I figured the fact that I was sleepy might help my cause further.
I filled out the reimbursement sheet (they apparently reimburse you for mileage – which admittedly is kind of cool), I found a seat on one of the couches near the window because they looked more comfortable with the tables and chairs in the center of the room (the rest of the group chose the center of the room – I didn’t care – I liked the couch and I was sleepy). We went through the tedious, but friendly, orientation and were told there was only one trial scheduled. If we didn’t chosen for that, we’d be sent home and off the call schedule for 2 years. Oh good god, that made me happy, but while others were smiling, I didn’t. Not yet. I didn’t want to jinx myself.
After the orientation, we filed, single file, into the courtroom – a large, imposing space that was very formal looking on the inside. It wasn’t the first time I’d been in a courtroom, but it was the first time I’d been in a Federal courtroom. And this one was significantly larger than the one I’d been in when I watched Mr. Ex get expunged in 2002 and certainly more official looking than the Mock one that had been at the University of Louisville when I’d sat on the jury for a S/O’s mock trial final in 2009 (he, ironically, is now a lawyer in Orlando – and he wasn’t at this trial, thank god).
So we sat there, introducing ourselves, asking questions. Nothing quite like being one of about five people that has an answer for everything. I think what finally got me off was the fact that I’m just too damned educated and I knew too much about the court system. And I have a cousin currently going through the court system (not as a juror) in Kentucky. And I know too much about computers (which is laughable because I know very little in reality). Though I’m sure the pentagram didn’t hurt anything in the end. I did not take the cards out and shuffle them during questioning, though I did think about it.
I was out of there by 11:30. Long before the storms started that afternoon, and home, watching Walking Dead by 1:00. Then I took a fucking nap. Because having to be anywhere at 7:45 is ridiculous.
Now things can get back to normal. Sort of.