This morning went much better than yesterday, the first day of jury duty. Today there was an entertaining pair of pants on the curb at the bus stop. A fellow bus traveler wondered if their owner had been vaporized by someone else or was practicing disapparition and had forgotten his pants. I discovered the bus has a scrolling monitor that tells the time and the cross street for the next stop, so I didn’t mis my stop like I did yesterday. I got to the jury room early, so there were plenty of seats to choose from.
After a while, I wen to get a hot chocolate from the machine in the kitchenette. Upon returning, I found a heavy smoker occupying the formerly empty seat next to mine. Gagging on the smell of stale cigarettes, I left to find another seat, which is what I should have done much much earlier than I did yesterday.
Speaking of the yesterday, I passed by that jerk on my way back from the kitchenette. He was sitting up by the main desk, so, when I moved, I went back to the place I was sitting yesterday. I actually just heard people talking about him back here, so I guess I’m not the only one who returned to this area. The woman who first spoke up is here, sitting in the same seat. She jumped a little when she saw me, which makes me feel bad all over again.
I haven’t told you about yesterday yet. Let me back up.
At the very back of the jury waiting room, there’s a little alcove with four round tables. The chairs are even less comfortable than the ones in the main jury room, but the tables make up for that for people with laptops or notepads, like me. I ended up back here yesterday simply because it was the only seat I could find, but I liked it. At first, anyway.
After orientation was over, a man at the next table began to talk on his cell phone. Loudly. In French. Continuously for what felt like an hour. I realize now that this probably was not annoying to most of the people around us. But after a 45 minute bus ride with people standing in the aisle and missing my stop because I couldn’t see street signs and a long walk with an even longer line to get in to the courthouse, meaning I was late, which is why there were no other seats available and nowhere I could move to get away from the French phone call, I was pretty much one big exposed nerve. I couldn’t concentrate to write, which didn’t really matter anyway, as my legs were bouncing away (one of my stims) and I was trying not to touch the table so that I wouldn’t make it shake.
Eventually, the woman sitting next to me – the one who reacted when she saw me today – said to me, “Is that bothering you, too?”
As I replied affirmatively, so did a second man, who was sitting behind the woman, in a seat not affiliated with a table. He added that it’s really rude and how people have no consideration for others anymore and how he had been accosted by people in the line to get in the courthouse simply because he refused to let a woman cut in front of him. The woman who asked the question gave him a blank look, which is when I realized she was talking about the intermittent squeaky noise coming from the wall opposite us.
“Oh, you mean the noise,” I said.
“Yes,” she said, as the man behind her said, “No, the guy on the phone.”
I nodded at him and said, “Me, too.” I told the woman I thought the noise was one of the air vents or something with a joint that needed oil.
The man behind us got up and down a few times, sometimes saying stuff about rude people on phones, while the French man went right on talking and consulting his iPad as if this were his private office.
There were four other women sitting at the table with me. The upset man finally said to us, “Is it just me?”
This is the part I regret. I said, “No, it’s not just you.”
He nodded, got up, and began to berate the French man, who ignored him for a few minutes, then stopped talking into the phone and looked up from his iPad. “Are you talking to me? I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were talking to me.” He said that a few times while the other man continued to rant, and then the French man left the area. Pretty graciously under the circumstances.
Everyone in the area was stunned. I was ashamed by my complicity.
Over the next hour or so, the women at the table with me would try to talk to each other. Not to me, which was fine by me, but each other. The angry man would invariable insert himself into the conversation, talk over everyone, and not notice that the original conversants had gone back to staring at their devices.
There was one point where he began talking about how we’re not supposed to talk to anyone or seek out news regarding a trial we’re on (that was part of the jury orientation) and how he would disregard that were he chosen because they don’t tell you everything in a trial. They throw out the information you really need to make a decision, so he would look that up on the internet or watch news programs for it.
You know I couldn’t stay silent for that, right?
I said, “And you think you’re going to get the information you need from the media?” He missed my point and kept right on talking.
One by one, the other women at my table got up and left the area. In fairness, two of them were called to courts for jury selection, but still.
New people wandered in to fill the empty seats, including the one vacated by the French man. And people began to talk on their phones. Not like the Frenchman; these people were making an effort to lower their voices and the calls were short. I even made one to cancel an appointment I’d forgotten for today. I went over by the bathrooms to do it because I thought that would be quieter, but a woman just did the same thing a few minutes ago and it actually acts like a microphone. Oops.
The angry man began to grumble again. As I took my seat after my phone call, he bagan to rail at a man sitting at the French man’s former table. This time, though, people around the alcove defended the man on the phone.
“Hey, his mother just died and he’s making arrangements.”
“He’s not bothering anyone.”
“We all have to be here, let’s just be tolerant.”
The angry man escalated. He yelled about how he has sick relatives and is missing work, he’s not bothering people with his phone calls. “People should take it outside! Maybe I should just call my friends and talk really loud for an hour. See how everyone likes that!”
One of the other men said, “Go ahead. Nobody’s going to say anything about it. You’re the only one who’s being rude here.”
So he got on his cell and began to pace around, telling the person he called about his new “friends” (quotation marks his) and how they were persecuting him and everyone is out to get him.
That’s when I walked away to another area. Shaking. They let us go for the day not long after and I was still shaking when I got home. I was still arguing with him in my head this morning, even though I said nothing at the time.
I found out today that the man whose mother had died has been on a jury for six months and they wouldn’t let him leave to take care of business for his mom. They have run out of alternates and, if they’d let this man go, it would be declared a mistrial and the six months would have been a wasted effort for everyone involved. Apparently jurors on that trial have had all kinds of things happen: one fell off a ladder, one’s mother had a heart attack, one woman’s job refuses to pay her while she’s serving. There were others, but I couldn’t write fast enough. I don’t know what kind of trial it was because you’re not allowed to say – because they don’t want people giving you their unsolicited opinions about whatever the alleged offense is – but I’m guessing murder. What else would take six months to try?
At noon today they let all but 20 of us go home, having completed jury service if you hadn’t been called by that point. Guess whose name was called last to stay for jury selection. Me. The angry man isn’t staying, but the woman who reacted when she saw me this morning is. I really hope we aren’t both chosen for the jury.