Seth Brown | The Pun Also Rises: Adding Insult to In Jury
NORTH ADAMS — Last week I had jury duty, which is something that I look forward to even less than you do. Few people are excited about jury duty, because nobody likes waking up at 8 a.m. to sit in a room and stare at a wall for hours, although I suppose many jobs could be described that way.
Still, my natural schedule is nocturnal, so 8 a.m. falls in the middle of my evening. If you're someone who goes to sleep at midnight, that would be like if you got summoned to a jury duty that required you to wake up at 3 a.m. So now you understand why this is terrible. I am completely unfit to appear in a courtroom during the day. I need some sort of ... Night Court. I feel like there was once a plan to establish such a thing, but it got canceled.
So, on the appointed day, I dutifully trudged into court on no sleep feeling very sick, sat myself down in the jury selection room, and immediately threw my coat over my head to attempt to catch up on sleep. Admittedly, this probably looked pretty weird to the rest of the juror pool, but I suppose if I didn't want people to judge me I shouldn't have shown up to a court.
While I tried to rest a little bit, I had to peek out from under my coat in order to watch the mandatory introduction to jury video, which we were instructed to view as a requirement. This video traced the history of juries from the Magna Carta to the present day, where a diverse cast feigned enthusiasm for their role in the jury trial process, saying things like, "I enjoy jury duty," "It was really interesting," and "I loved it, it was much better than Cats, I'm going to do it again and again."
I remained unconvinced. But the video ended and so I resumed hiding under my coat for another hour or so until we were called in to be impaneled. As we filed into the courtroom proper, it occurred to me that nobody benefited from having me in court at 8 a.m. I obviously wasn't benefiting, as I could barely stay awake and was feeling pretty sick. If I got any sicker, the janitorial staff was also not going to benefit. And whoever was on trial was likewise unlikely to benefit from having their fate decided by someone who can't keep his eyes open. I think sleepy people are probably not the best choice to listen to hours of testimony and then decide whether someone else's life should be ruined. (They are the best choice to sit in church and listen to sermons, homilies, and lullabies.)
As we sat in the courtroom facing the judge, my biggest fear was that I would fall asleep, and the judge would find me in contempt. I could imagine him saying, "This is not a place to sleep. Do you want me to hold you in contempt of court?" And I'm thankful he didn't say that, because all the replies I thought of ("Does that mean I get to go back to sleep? Because if so, yes." "No your honor, you brought a sleeping man to decide justice, you're the one showing contempt." "No, I just want you to hold me.") seemed to be bad ideas.
Conveniently, the jurors ahead of me in the pool were deemed competent to serve on the jury, so my civic duty was discharged without me having to make any decisions that affected someone else's life. Now I just have to keep up that record for the next 30 years.
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