So here's a weird story.
Yesterday morning I dropped Alex off at her school and headed off to Blacksmith Café. It was a gorgeous day, and I thought I'd spend a couple of hours having some good coffee while working on my laptop for a few hours, just sort of enjoying the first day back to work after a long weekend.
The baristas there were their usual cheerful selves, and in no time a perfect latte was on the counter in front of me, placed directly in the morning light. I grabbed my iPad, took the photograph above, and set up my laptop to begin my morning's work. On a whim, I looked at my calendar, expecting to see my day wide open.
What I saw, instead, was the following:
I had totally forgotten that yesterday was jury duty. I had received the summons about a month ago, and was originally scheduled to appear the week we left for Orlando; since I had already postponed it once, I knew I needed to go. Thank heavens that I wasn't scheduled to appear until 12:30 p.m. -- had I been required to show up first thing in the morning, I would've been toast.
I finished off my coffee and headed home to change, slightly more despondent than I was when I arrived.
Once home, I stood staring at my closet. It wasn't that I didn't want to go, you understand -- I mean, I'm a lawyer, for heaven's sake, I understand it's my civic duty to go, it was an opportunity to see my former profession in action again, that sort of thing. It's just ... well ... fine, I admit it, I didn't want to go. I mean, part of my reluctance was because I had work to do, yes; but also I suspected that watching the court proceedings would be a bit depressing. After all, it's rare that you're called to be a juror for a happy occasion: generally someone is being accused of breaking the law, or someone is suing someone else. The legal profession, for all of its noble purposes, is just so full of sadness, man. I wasn't looking forward to being in the middle of that again.
Karen, I thought to myself, you're being an idiot. Besides, it has been over 10 years since you've been called. I think you've dodged this bullet long enough. Besides, I had actually been called to a Justice of the Peace court -- I didn't imagine that any case that would be decided by that court would take a very long time, so it was likely just going to be an afternoon of my time, tops.
I got changed and pulled out the juror questionnaire I was required to fill out before heading over. Under "profession," I paused: in the past -- when I was called for jury duty 10 years ago -- I had filled in "lawyer," which was certainly accurate at the time. In that case, during voir dire I was drilled pretty extensively by the lawyers on both sides, asking me all about the kind of law I practiced, and eventually I was dismissed from the jury panel. Since then, I've always suspected that my day job is what got me cut: I've never been a trial lawyer, but my impression is that (with a few notable exceptions) litigators generally hate to have other lawyers on jury panels. We're too argumentative, I presume.
But nowadays, even though I am still licensed to practice, writing "lawyer" in that space would've felt dishonest -- it's not my day-to-day work anymore. So instead, I wrote "writer," feeling slightly uneasy that I was hiding information from the attorneys that they might consider important.
I continued filling out the form, until I got to the part under "education," asking me to check the appropriate box. I checked "post-graduate."
But then, on a whim, I wrote "J.D." next to the box -- the professional designation for my law degree. I figured one of the attorneys during voir dire would ask me to explain myself, since I had also indicated I wasn't a practicing attorney. I figured he'd clarify that I actually had a law degree, and ask where I'd earned it, and where I was currently practicing. Then at that point, once they had learned that I wasn't currently practicing and hadn't practiced in 5 years (and that my past work experience was completely unrelated to any subject matter likely to be dealt with in a Justice of the Peace court), each attorney could make an informed decision as to whether or not he wanted me to serve on the jury, or even whether my law school education or past experience was relevant.
After I changed clothes, I drove to the courthouse. Here's the thing about courthouses: while the Supreme Court of the United States probably smells like mahogany and Nobility, as far as I can tell all the others, for the most part, smell like Bureaucracy, with faint notes of Conflict. This one was no different.
There was a sign posted at the entrance, telling all jurors to report to Room 7. I did.
"Hi, I'm reporting for jury duty." I handed the woman behind the desk my form.
"Here you go, put this on." She barely glanced at my form, handing me a badge with the word "JUROR" on it, in large, bold type.
"Um, do you want to check my ID?"
"No. Just go to Room 3 and wait outside for the bailiff."
I did as I was told, and soon a large group of people with JUROR badges was waiting with me. After 20 minutes, the bailiff came outside and led us into the courtroom, where we sat and waited some more.
An attorney was already sitting at one of the desks. Another attorney, with a person who I assume was his client, entered the room, and sat at the other desk. They were all quietly reviewing the files in on their tables, paying no attention to us jurors. Voir dire would begin after the judge entered the courtroom.
We all waited some more.
Suddenly a woman -- a court administrator, but not the one I met when I checked in Room 7 -- entered.
I stood up.
"Could you come with me, please?"
I grabbed my bag, and followed her into separate, side room. She had the juror questionnaire I had filled out in her hand.
She smiled. "There's been some sort of computer glitch. You shouldn't have been called today, and we have enough jurors, so you're free to go. Don't worry, you'll still get your jury check for serving."
"Wait, what? That's it?"
"That's it. Thanks for serving today."
I handed her my JUROR badge, and then I walked out. I never spoke a word to either of the attorneys in the case, and I never saw the judge. I was home by 1:15.
I have no idea if anyone other that the court administrators saw my questionnaire. So to this very moment, I'm still not exactly sure what happened.