I did my civic duty this morning–I showed up for at the county courthouse at 8am for jury duty. And after a full fifteen minute pep talk from a judge trying to convince us all about the importance of our presence and the value of the jury system…and even quoting (from memory, as he pointed out) from the Declaration of Independence (not the preamble–the “stuff” in the middle), the mood in the room still seemed that of obligation, anxious waiting, and whiling away time.
The next fifteen minutes were spent on a video that reiterated the importance and value of serving as a juror and explained a bit about how the courtroom operates. (Don’t take it personally if the lawyer excuses you, it’s all part of how the law works!) And then we spent the next ten minutes or so filling in the back of our summons assuring that we were legally qualified to be jurors, signing our names and including a contact phone number. As we passed the paperwork in, the approximately 300 potential jurors were entitled to our first ten minute break (we’d been there less than an hour).
As you can see, the jury lounge is not a particularly comfortable or visually stimulating place. There are a few tables around the edges of the room for those who want to work on their laptops (although not nearly enough electrical outlets) and some free, although spotty, internet access. People read, chatted, knitted, played with their devices, slept, and some did work (I can raise my hand for that one!). After about another hour we were granted another break–the difference between a break and not being on a break is that you can wander out of the jury room although the coffee cart in the hallway wasn’t much different than the vending machines inside.
After three hours in the jury lounge, we were summoned for an announcement. There would be no need of jurors today and all 300 + of us were excused. Be sure to clock out on your timesheet and leave your badge holder and pencil for others to use.
Whew! I was relieved to be dismissed. Not because I don’t want to serve on a jury, but because the uncertainty of the when and how long make my life complicated. As a teacher, it’s hard to be at the courthouse wondering if I will be asked to return tomorrow–and then needing to arrange for a sub, make plans for someone else to carry out and miss all the intangible evidence of learning that can only be understood by being there. So I’m happy to have finished my duty for at least a year. But I do worry about how this system works…and who is actually willing and available to serve on juries.
After being dismissed I took a little time to walk through the buildings and take a closer look at this public place. To be honest, the place is bleak. Long hallways with institutional white walls. No decoration, harsh lighting, guards at the doors, and lots of worried looking people waiting, and waiting, and waiting.
As I left the building I took a few minutes to appreciate the beautiful fall day. Warm with a little breeze…and some silky, billowy clouds in the sky. As I looked back at the courthouse I noticed that the clouds were reflected in the high windows above the entrance. This bit of beauty remains imprinted on today’s experience.
Taking time for a learning walk always changes my experience…for the better. Slowing down, looking closely, and taking time to reflect creates opportunities for learning and new perspectives. I hope you make time for a learning walk soon.