So I’ve been called up for jury duty, or at least I have to report to the courthouse to be considered for jury duty, part of a great American tradition of allowing people to be judged by a group of their peers. I’m not sure I’d want to be judged by my peers, although, really, I’m not sure who my peers are exactly. When they made me they broke the mold, and I wish I hadn’t still been in it, but that’s another story. This is actually the second time I’ve been called up for jury duty. The first time I was able to get out of it with the excuse that I had cancer, although I was asked if I could postpone my cancer for a later date. This time, though, it’s federal jury duty, which is not only a whole different ballgame, it’s a different league. First they sent me a letter. Then they sent me an email to remind me I’d gotten the letter. Then one day I was in a coffee shop and a guy walked by me and said, “Hey, don’t forget to report for jury duty,” because they not only know where I live; they know where I hang out.
I know most people are annoyed whenever they get called up for jury duty which is another reason I’m not sure I’d want to be judged by my peers—it doesn’t seem to work on the defendant’s behalf if their fate is being decided by twelve people who’d rather be somewhere else—but I’m kind of looking forward to it. It’ll be a break from my usual routine, I’ll hopefully get to hang out with some interesting people, and maybe even get a part in Twelve Angry Men, but updated and more gender-neutral, so it’ll be Eleven Angry People and me over in the corner saying, “Sorry, I know I’ve got my notes here somewhere.” At least I can be sure that if I have to serve on a jury and we’re all sworn to secrecy about the case I won’t have any trouble keeping my mouth shut. Admittedly I have trouble keeping my mouth shut most of the time but there are things I just won’t talk about and other things I prefer to talk about and unless the case involves a priest, a minister, a rabbi, a pirate, a dog with his foot in a bandage, a horse, and a grasshopper all walking into a bar I’m very unlikely to even want to talk about it, let alone spill what the stenographer heard. A friend I worked with once complained that I never seemed to know any office gossip and I was a little offended that it didn’t occur to her that maybe I knew tons of office gossip. Maybe I was privy to a million little secrets whispered to me in the privy by people who mistook me for someone who cared. Maybe the reason no one ever heard any office gossip from me was because I don’t go around blabbing things told to me in confidence. That’s the thing about secrets: you never really know who’s good at keeping them until you tell one to someone who isn’t.
To get back to the subject of getting out of jury duty a guy I work with told me he’d been called up for jury duty six times, which makes me wonder if he pissed off some petty official in the justice system or if it was just random chance that his number came up so often. Or maybe there was something about his name that made someone think he’d be an excellent jurist or that just drew attention, a hypothesis I could test by creating an alter-ego named Horatio M. Worthyperson and seeing if he gets called up for jury duty. Anyway this guy I worked with told me he always took a book with him and never got picked to serve. “So they don’t want readers,” he said. I find it hard to believe he was the only person there passing the time with a book and I also know he’s a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft so I suspect it was what he was reading more than that he was reading that made the lawyers pass him over.
The fact that most people want to get out of jury duty seems to me to say something really positive about human nature: however much we judge each other on a daily basis most people, given the opportunity, would rather not be responsible for deciding another person’s fate. Or maybe that says something really terrible about human nature that most people, given the opportunity, would rather skip out on exonerating the innocent and holding the guilty accountable. Or maybe it says something entirely different about human nature—that we’re lazy, or, alternatively, that we want to be good citizens but realize the law is complicated and nuanced and worry that we’re not up to the challenge of treating a case as responsibly as it deserves. Or maybe it’s another possibility that I haven’t even thought of. Yeah, I can tell I’m gonna be really popular with my peers.