Today, I had the honor of partaking in the civic duty of jury duty once again. If you’ve never experienced it, imagine waiting in your doctor’s waiting room the whole day instead of just a few minutes — minus the part at the end where you get something to make you feel better.
I wrote a column for the Tampa Tribune several years ago on my first experience with this mind-numbing process lamenting the amount of hours jurors are required sit in a large room on uncomfortable chairs waiting on their name to be called. The lucky ones are those who get to wait the whole day without their name ever being called — sort of sadistic isn’t it?
After that first experience, imagine my surprise this morning when I was in the first group to be pulled out of the large waiting room to go through the actual juror selection process. Regardless of if I was going to be picked or not, I would be getting through this quickly this time!
That moment of hope quickly dwindled. We were led into a lobby outside our designated courtroom, where most of us sat down for more waiting. Another group later followed us, and their accompanying bailiff asked them to line up in three rows ready to enter their courtroom. They stood there for at least 30 minutes without being called.
In the meantime, my group was also asked to stand and line up — at which point the other group had to scoot over for us, which made it feel more like being crammed into a subway car. After standing for a while, our bailiff returned from our courtroom to inform us, in the nicest way possible, that the judge apologizes but we would not be able to go in until 1 pm; it was then around 10 am. Basically, we were told to take a long lunch and come back in the afternoon. Though I was somewhat happy for an extended lunch, did I mention that every time you re-enter such court houses (like after coming back from lunch) you have go through a TSA-like security experience?
In the end, after sitting on more uncomfortable seats in the courtroom, I wasn’t picked this time. I did, however, have to sit through the juror questioning session in which the defense attorney prefaced every new question for us with, “And my final question.” Three out the four times, it wasn’t his final question.
At least after my last experience I was able to feel good about actually serving on a jury and rendering a verdict. I felt proud to perform my civic duty at the end of it all. This time, not so much.
It was a lot of waiting and lining up — an exercise in government inefficiency and inconvenience. Just so you can picture it better, imagine waiting in a long line for a ride at a theme park and then finding out in the end that you won’t be riding … oh, and while waiting, you can’t eat or drink anything or talk above the level of a whisper.
Needless to say, I didn’t feel so patriotic this time. Did I mention it only pays $15?