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Monday, July 21, 2008
Breathing a Sigh of... Escape?
...Last Monday I was cleaning out a closet with the kids while lunch was being made. I was cleaning out an old briefcase and found an envelope with an old jury duty notice and my notes on times where I had to be.

That's when I realized something I had forgotten. I was on jury duty call. That day. I quickly dug up the reminder and called in and found that I had 45 minutes to make it to the local Hall of Justice downtown.

Add to the fact that I was not feeling well and making several trips to the bathroom that morning. This was not a good thing.

So I raced upstairs, I raced downstairs, I cursed my computer as it decided to take it's time bringing up directions and grabbed a thick book to read. I ran out the door and drove carefully to the courthouse. Luckily there was parking across the street that could be validated and I was checked in with 5 minutes to spare.

Luck was on my side. Until I read the piece of paper that they gave me when I got there and realized that everyone else in the room was assigned to the same panel number. And another group was going to be brought in two hours after us. This spelled 'jury duty' all over it.

So I sat and read. I played a game on my phone. I actually broke down and texted DH (and I hate texting for the most part - especially trying to text on a Motorola KRZR). And exactly one hour after I arrived my panel was called.

We filed in, we sat down. We stood up, we were sworn in, we were told to turn off phones. That's when DH's return text of 'you brought the right thing - a thick book' came in. I laughed at the irony and turned off the phone.

Then we were given the calendar. Criminal trial. 4 weeks, assuming everything went according to plan. 4 weeks and I had two job possibilities pending, and one I needed to be available for the phone screen. Then the judge went through all the usual stuff about excuses and told those who didn't think they had hardships to return at 10:30 the following morning.

Half the room got up and left. The other half stayed because either they had a hardship or weren't sure. I decided I'd had enough so I quickly shuffled out of the door to be one of the first in line to go before the judge.

That's right. We all lined up outside the courtroom and everyone went in one by one to present their hardships. People outside were sharing their stories of what they were going to say. One particularly insistent woman kept trying to get my story out of me but I said nothing. Especially since she was in front of me in line.

Her thing? She just didn't want to serve. My thing? I had plenty of time to serve *IF* I didn't have the job thing looming over me. And to be honest I wasn't sure that the judge would excuse me. Did I really fall under an extreme personal hardship?

Finally it was my turn. I had my book in front of me with my hands crossed over holding opposite corners and I faced the judge. I let her know my last name and she asked me, seemingly already tired, "What's your story?"

So I told her - both DH and I are unemployed, him for 4 years and me for the second time in a year and that we were actively seeking employment. She sat up a little straighter and said "That sounds like an extreme hardship" and told me that I would get a 6 month deferral. She also seemed a little shook by my statement.

I turned to leave the courtroom and she addressed me again right before I got to the door and wished me luck that I find something. I thanked her and the baliff wished me luck as well.

I thought that was rather nice. And I was rather lucky getting out of jury duty. It's not that I don't want to serve, it's just that it wasn't convenient considering what I had on my plate, which turned out to be nothing, sad to say.

So I'm back at square one looking for a job, and I could have served my time without issue, assuming that I would have been selected for the jury the next day. I didn't know what the criminal trial entailed, because I missed the name of the defendant. That's OK though. What gets me is something that I said a paragraph ago.

It wasn't convenient. I think that's the problem of most people who head for jury duty - it's not that there's another hardship (although I know that there are those out there, because apparently I am one). It's that you don't want to serve at that time because you have other things that are going on. There was one man in front of me trying to figure out with his office if the financial closing calendar coincided with the couple days off that we would have had from the trial. Another was wondering if they could juggle the development calendar so he could serve, otherwise he would plead hardship being he was the project lead on something significant.

Someone else in line was going to plead that they have served on a jury every 13 months for the last 9 years to see if they could get out of it. 'Let someone else have a turn' was this older gentleman's plea. A woman was hoping that the fact she hadn't enrolled her children in summer camp and thus no one would be watching them would work for her. Considering her children were 14 and 15 she didn't have a chance (she came back out and let someone know she'd be back the next day).

It's not convenient for some, and some just don't want to do it. I don't mind being someone who would do it and I hate that the "it's not convenient" applied to me this go-round. But I really don't like the folks who just don't want to serve because the "it's not convenient" is really trivial - like it's going to destroy a tee time or a hair appointment or some random day off that they don't want to be in the office.

Ah well, that's my story for today - the sigh of escape, albeit temporary, from jury duty. We'll see what happens in 6 months (hopefully I'll have a job by then).