My Civic Obligation:
January 25, 1999
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The term "jury duty" has a ring to it.  And a ring was exactly what I got in late October when my mom called to say I received a summons for jury duty in New Jersey.  Due to the fact that I'm six hours away from home, I was able to postpone the obligation and move on with my juryless life.  It feels much like moving on with your life without ever getting a root canal or being locked in a campus bathroom stall...

Three weeks later, I received a letter at BC with the words "Jury Duty: Your Civic Obligation" typed on the envelope.  This letter had my room number handwritten on the envelope, apparently because it wasn't the court's duty to find that out.  The letter read that I had been summoned for jury duty in Massachusetts.  Am I that important that I had to be summoned in two different states within three weeks?  Sure, I've watched a lot of People's Court and have even agreed with the judge a few times, but I've also watched E.R. once or twice, and they've yet to bang on my door to offer me a hospital internship...

Being an RA has made me familiar with what duty is all about.  Still, one big difference between RA duty and jury duty is that jury duty starts at 8 a.m.  So, the arrival time didn't make the task seem any more appealing, which I guess is why I woke up late and arrived at 8:15.  I was planning on getting some work done while there, but knowing that I had to sprint to the T station convinced me not to bring any books, except one -- my notebook...

The plan was to keep a log of events so I could share my joyous experience with others -- an experience that ranks up there with waiting in the book-return line or trying to feed a folded dollar bill into a vending machine.  The difference is these other activities don't take all morning, unless of course the dollar is Monopoly money, in which case you may as well take a Chance card, maybe two...

My morning started when I was handed a card listing my panel number and seat number.  I could bask in the glory that for one day, I was on panel number 14 and in seat number nine, which translated into "You will sit in a room all day doing nothing."  I was there with at least two other BC students, including my former roommate, so I knew others were sharing in the excitement.  If only we had a board to go with that Monopoly money, we would have been well-equipped for action (but probably not sodas)...

At 9 a.m., the judge told us how important we were, how much they needed us and how the trial system couldn't exist without us.  I thought, "Really?  You mean people wouldn't volunteer to do this for five bucks a day?"  The judge then introduced a 17-minute videotape that reconfirmed what he just told us.  I was hoping he could say it for a third time, because then maybe I could write it on my resume or brag about it over the Internet...

The judge asked how many of us were experienced with jury duty, and more than half raised their hands.  I felt like a rookie.  I wanted to ask the person next to me if she could give me some firsthand tips on how I should go about doing nothing for four hours.  But then I realized it wasn't necessary to ask, because this was something I had mastered over winter break...

The line I remember most from the videotape is that "trials are different from television and movies."  I didn't think this was completely true, however, because I've watched four hours of static before, and the experience was quite similar to jury duty...

The judge told us they would be pulling people out of the jury pool at 9:40 a.m., which put him on the same level as a lifeguard.  Then again, most individuals wanted to leave this particular pool in order to stop the monotony -- or maybe someone urinated in the water.  I'm not sure, really...

At 9:45 -- five minutes after his promised time -- someone read a panel number every five minutes or so, starting at number one and moving upwards.  Couldn't they at least call the numbers randomly to make it more interesting?  Knowing I was on panel number 14 made me realize my chances of leaving my chair were about the same as buying that soda with Monopoly money.  My friend sitting next to me was part of panel number four, so he was able to leave the pool pretty early.  I, on the other hand, was left with no way to entertain myself except to look directly at the wall and count how many times the second hand on the clock goes around on one rotation.  It seem the answer is 60, but I kept losing count amid the excitement -- you know, the breathing and all.  At the very least,  they could have shown some Perry Mason or Matlock re-runs on the TV, just to remind us that what we were experiencing was nothing like how it's portrayed in show business.  I was trying to prove that line wrong by coming up with the title of a movie about a guy who stares at a wall, but I'm pretty sure they haven't made one of those flicks -- yet...

I wish I could write about what I did from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.  However, I did nothing.  This fact is not an exaggeration.  In reality, I was in such a complete state of nothingness that I myself became nothing.  I had to go to the bathroom at one point to make sure I still had a face.  If only I was on a different panel -- then maybe I would have something interesting to share.  But no, I was nothing.  I was a wall-staring, clock-watching, bored college student.  But that was last week.  On this day I was nothing...

The lady next to me wasn't nothing, however.  She managed to read a Christmas novel for most of the time.  At the rate she was turning the pages, I figure she'll be done by Christmas of 2002.  And who wants to read about Christmas anyway?  There's lots of great jury novels to read these days...

At about 12 p.m., I was informed by a fellow BC student that my friend was selected for a seven-day case.  It was like finding out your hamster had to be operated on.  I couldn't help but feel bad that he'd spend the first week of the semester as a juror.  But when 12:30 rolled around and they told us we were free to leave, I almost felt like staying to show my support for the trial system and for those who weren't allowed to leave quite yet because they've been "selected" by force...

But I didn't do that.  I left like everyone else, because at that time everyone was the same.  We were clones of each other.  We were men, we were women, we were old and we were young.  And each of us wanted nothing more than to get out of that room before it was too late and the judge changed his mind...

My story isn't an interesting one, and if you've read this far, I'm sure this fact is obvious.  However, I do hope that you've learned a few things: bring a book with you, prepare to sleep and know that being in panel number 14 and not getting selected doesn't mean you're not important.  At least, that's what the movie said...

But I digress.

Progressive Revelations
the weekly saga

By Greg Gagliardi
Progressive Revelations
Greg Gagliardi
has been writing "Progressive Revelations" since 1998. 

All columns are © Gregory Gagliardi 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.

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