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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Friday, May 20, 2005

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

This year, I've spent a lot of time teaching my 3rd graders all about probability. They're intrigued by this concept mainly because of THE CUP. THE CUP is a cup containing popsicle sticks, each one bearing a child's name on it. THE CUP is unusual in the fact that it can be both a source of "good" and necessary "evil". It's good when I'm picking names to sit on the pillows during silent reading, but "evil" when I'm looking to see who was paying attention to a lesson. Either way it's a good teaching tool for the concept of fairness.

When you think about it, there are many examples of THE CUP in everyday life. In fact, life itself is one big cup of possibilities, both good and bad. Unfortunately it's the good ones where the odds are against you. Why? Well it's because everyone wants the good things silly, thus decreasing your chances of getting them to work in your favor.

All of this is a long, convuluted way of explaining my summons for jury duty this week. At 27, I've already been called for jury duty twice while friends who are older than me haven't even been called once. Ironically, where's the justice in the justice system? If they can figure out who pays their taxes from year to year, you would think they could develop a system that allows everyone to pass through jury duty who is eligible before recycling names again, but I digress. I wish I could say this was an indication of my being an extra good citizen but I think instead it's just a case of how the cookie crumbles. As Rod Stewart once said, some guys have all the luck.

If you've ever been summonsed for jury duty in the state of NJ you would know there is a list of top 10 excuses of how you can be exempt from jury duty, one of which being if you are a public school teacher. So when I got my paperwork a few months ago, I submitted my excuse and I was shot down, which makes me wonder why they have the damn excuses listed if that list is prehistoric now.

Most people think the worst part of jury duty is the waiting. Most people are right. Seriously, I can barely get through it so I can only imagine how hard it is for those adults that still suffer from ADD. Waiting is agony. I've never been through Chinese Water Torture, in fact, I'm not even sure I know what it is, but I know it's bad. It might not be as bad as that though, but it's bad. If you watched the 3 hour finale of The Bachelor on Monday night you might have an idea of the kind of bad I'm talking about. You might think, "Well what can be so bad about waiting around in a room for your name to be called? At least you're not working!" Those people I know are the ones who have never been on jury duty, otherwise they wouldn't make such a dumb ass comment.

Recall if you will, the longest time you ever had to wait to get in for a doctor's appointment. Oh sure your appointment is for 2:30, but you don't get to see the actual doctor for a whopping five minutes until 3:45. How did that happen you wonder? Where did the time go? The difference in this case being you know what the light at the end of the tunnel is. You know you will eventually get in to see that doctor. With jury duty, that is just not the case, no pun intended.

I invite those people who think jury duty is cake to sit and wait, day after day in an unbelievably cold room with complete strangers, some of whom you may be lucky enough to strike up a conversation with, but most often not. Watch as people slowly become more and more lifeless, helpless to the lack of control from their surroundings. In fact, I think this would make an excellent Fear Factor like segment. I'd go for it because I hate Fear Factor and jury duty pretty equally.

For me though, jury duty has taken on a whole new level of suckage. There are some judges that don't give a damn that I am a teacher and in fact prefer jurors who are teachers because they know there is a substitute filling in for them back at the school. But what they DON'T know is that a warm body and a CAPABLE one are not always mutually exclusive, not to mention the fact that I'm a first year teacher with a 3rd grade show coming up and that teachers are still required to plan their days, even if they are not there. If they want to get paid, that is.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that you have NO IDEA how long you will be on jury duty. I didn't know until Sunday night that they didn't need me on Monday and I didn't know till 4:30 on Monday that they'd need me on Tuesday and so on and so forth. As far as I can see it, the only good thing that comes out of being on jury duty is getting to sleep an extra hour or so because it's not that far away.

Since I've been to jury duty before, I roughly knew the drill coming in. I checked in and made my scan of the room. You know the scan. It's when you determine what's the best seat you should sit in for the next some odd hours. You make the scan when you go to college for instance or even to a club. Who do I want to associate myself with for the rest of the semester or, the rest of the evening? Decisions like these are small, but crucial. Unfortunately for me, I scanned the room and noticed maybe 20 people under the age of 40, ten under 30. Not that this matters, but compatibility wise, you look for patterns. People just naturally gravitate towards certain people. Whatever. I don't make the rules.

The first day I was there there were "a lot" of cases so inevitably, I was called. I will say one good thing about being called for a case: it sure does break up your day. A few jurors were dismissed before I was called into the jury box. By this time the judge had broken the news that this trial would extend into next week and he was asking for excuses. It was then I had a chance to plead my case, so to speak. I told him I was a first year teacher with end of the year assessments and a school show coming up. He said he knew plenty of school superintendents, so he was sure it would not be a problem. Meanwhile, he was dismissing others on far less.

Luckily, it ain't over till the lawyers have the final say and one lawyer excused me and on my way out he said to me, "I want to let you get back to the kids." See, there are nice lawyers out there after all! Of course that lawyer is only one man on one trial. And just because you get taken off of one case, doesn't mean you can't be put on another. Once you're sent packing, you're sent back into the jury pool to wait. And wait. And wait some more.

Back in the waiting room, it's business as usual. Once again I perform the scan: Didn't I go to high school with that girl? Wow! I didn't know Nick Nolte lived in my county! Other than that, I've got nothing. The tv is on. I find it a bit ironic that out of all the choices on the television, some idiot decided to put on a court show. I don't know if they were intentionally trying to be ironic or they just take their civic duty seriously and I should put on a copy of Eye of The Tiger while they prep for their jury duty moment in the sun.

Day one was bad, but day two was sheer agony, mainly because no one was called for a new case until 3:20 pm, a mere 20 minutes or so before we get out. I wasn't on that list. Then at around 3:30 the woman gets on the microphone and announces that anyone who filled out the survey (not me) can go and come back at 9 am the next day. So for a split second the rest of us think we are in the clear as she steps away from the mic. But lo and behold, she comes back and says, "Oh and the rest of you can come at 8:45 tomorrow". It's that "oh and..." nonchalance that really gets me. I swear some people take sadistic pleasure in playing mind games.

On day three I was bitter and two free coffees away from disgruntled postal worker territory. Day three was more of the same, waiting but no calling. The jury I would have been on had I not been dismissed got up and went to their trial, only to come back down again about 20 minutes later, grinning from ear to ear. Somehow, someway the trial was over. Mistrial, plea bargain, I don't know. Hey, these things happen. Of course the irony here being those people got to walk before me anyhow.

Finally 11:40am rolls around. A second set of surveys are distributed and we are then broken up into two camps, just like in American Idol fashion, not knowing which camp was the better one to be in. Those who had the survey were instructed to complete it and return at 1:30. Those who didn't were instructed to leave then and return at 1:00. So off I went and returned at 1:00.

On the dreaded walk back into the court room I passed a familar face. After staring at the same faces for three days straight you would think some would start to stick, wouldn't ya? Going in the opposite direction back to her car she says, "Hurry up because they're letting you go." I was like, "What?!" How is that possible? She said, "Did you have to fill out a survey?" I said no. She said, "Well then you can go swipe back in and leave." I said, "Let me get this straight. We were told to go to lunch only to come right back to be dismissed?" She shrugged her shoulders in agreement. I don't mean to be difficult, but I mean really. I drove all the way home for lunch (I needed a chance of scenery, BADLY) only to come back to go back home? Now that doesn't seem right. I'm not arguing with it, it just doesn't seem right. In fact, it seems like a case of our justice system's inadequacies at its finest.

So there you have it, my civic duties completed, I returned home to blog about it, of course. Now I can finally return to my classroom and all the chaos that comes with it after being out for three days.

Oh and did I mention today is field day?! Greeat.

No need for further explanation, I rest my case.



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