Monday, March 17, 2008

Civic Duty my @$$

Today is my first day on Jury Call. It all started back in the fall of 2007, when I got my slip in the mail with a bunch of questions that I needed to answer. The questions weren't rocket-science - just general questions which included my date of birth, my profession, whether or not I spoke any or both of the official languages, and some other forgettable questions. After I sent in my form, I thought nothing of it...until mid-February, when I got a letter in the mail indicating that I'd been selected for Jury Call. This basically means that I have to go to the courthouse for at least one week, and sit in a room full of other unlucky souls until I get selected to serve on a jury or until I get excused.

Needless to say, when I got my letter in the mail, I was PISSED. First off, I was pissed because I didn't want to miss work. Sitting in a room for 8 hours a day with a bunch of strangers in lieu of doing interesting work was not exactly my idea of fun. Granted, my company compensates me fully for my time away at jury duty, but to me, that's not the point. Secondly, I was pissed because I had no idea how much this would eat into my life. How long would this trial last? Would I be sequestered? Most importantly, I was pissed because I am pregnant (almost 5 months now), and will be going on maternity leave at the end of July. In January, I started leading a team of developers. Knowing that I would be going on maternity leave at the end of July, I knew that I would have 7 months (give or take) to prove myself in the role and hopefully get some upward career movement out of that. It was already looking tight, but doable. This jury duty thing just throws a big curveball into my life, essentially foiling my plans.

Regardless of how I feel, however, there's not much I could do, so here I am. I am currently sitting in the jurors lounge. I'd heard from others that this tends to be a very tedious process, so I came prepared: I brought a book, my laptop, my lunch, a water bottle, and some snacks. I think I left my sanity at home though.

I was supposed to be here for 8:30am, but I ran late because I decided to cut through a large snowy field to reduce my walking time to the subway, and it wound up being a lot icier than it looked. Note to self, I will not go through the field tomorrow. To add to my tardiness, when I got to the courthouse, there was a huge security lineup outside the door. Even though there were several metal detectors and x-ray machines, however, there was only ONE SET in operation. The weird thing is that they had a crapload of people working at that one station. One would think that this would at least lead to better security, but honestly, I don't think that those security guards were doing their jobs. I asked to bypass the metal detector and just have the hand scanner used on me because of my pregnancy. I don't think that they did that thorough a job, to be honest, because I was allowed to keep my jacket on, and when the scanner bliped when it hit metal, he just took my word for what was underneath the jacket. Good thing we don't have very creative evildoers strolling into the building too often.

Once I finally got past security, I had to find my way to the jurors lounge. It's a huge room lined up with chairs, tables, and little cubbyholes for laptop users. Reminds me of my days as a student studying in the library. I had to check in at a long table, where a court worker looked at my court summons and signed me in. Once I was done with that, I had to find a seat. Fortunately there were people who walked in later than I did, so I found a seat at a table. Some people didn't find a seat, or had to find creative seating. The only crappy thing is that the seat I took was nowhere near an outlet, so I was stuck with battery power, at least for the time being. Fortunately I brought my beefy laptop battery, which gives me 4 hours plus or minus an hour. I was hoping to get a network connection to the Hydro One wireless network set up in the downtown core, but I wasn't so lucky as I was too far from the window. I finally did manage to get a connection when the lunch break started, as the masses left the room for 1 hour of freedom outside. I used the opportunity to move to one of the cubbyholes close to the window, which finally got me connected. It's $10/day for the connection, but it's better than being bored out of my mind. I did bring a book, but I find it hard to stay awake with a book if I'm not sitting very comfortably.

Apart from being bored out of my mind, I have made a few interesting observations:

1. Propaganda
When I first walked into the jurors lounge, there were TVs blaring inside the room. They were playing a video about jury duty FAQs. It was funny that they'd do that because after the video was done, a guy walked to the front of the room and pretty much gave the same spiel minus the video propaganda. He was lively, but at least didn't try to brainwash everyone into thinking that jury duty is the greatest thing ever. I didn't see what was on the TV screen since my back was to it, but I did hear a fair bit. The video made me think that I'd been transported into George Orwell's book, "1984". Seemed like a load of propaganda bullcrap to me. With testimonials about how wonderful and rewarding jury duty is and a way-too-cheery narrator, it just made me want to hurl.

2. People
Most people have kept to themseves today. I think some people alredy knew each other and therfore spent most of the time chatting and complaining about this crappy situation. Others are just talkative and stike up conversations with whomever they wish. I hope that nobody decides to talk to me. Hopefully my belly scares off the makes. By the same token, I hope that the belly doesn't cause the females to start talking to me. I don't talk to strangers. Call it the introvert in me. :) I did have one strange encounter. Just around lunchtime, a woman came to me frantically, waving around her cell phone. She started telling me how the clock on her cell phone was messed up and how when she tried to set it, she made things worse. I proceded to attempt to help her, but every time I'd go near the phone, she'd move it away from me and wave it around frantically telling me what she'd already tried to do. Now I know how my husband feels when I pull similar stunts on me. :P I did manage to fix the time on her cell phone, and she ended up more pissed than grateful, because I had fixed it and she hadn't. Whatever. I guess you get people from all walks of life in a courtroom.

3. Laptops galore
It seems that I'm not the only person with the brilliant idea of bringing a laptop to this shindig. Interestingly enough, however, most of the laptop-wielders are male. Even though I've got my laptop here, I haven't been able to connect to work via VPN. I'm hoping that it's because the VPN server is down, and not because this network is finicky. So I guess I'm stuck surfing the Web, checking Facebook, and writing blog posts. I know I will pay for this with a million e-mails to go through when I do return to the office. Either that or I'll have to check messages at night from home to save me a bit of pain.

4. Boredom all around
There are quite a few bored people. Some came prepared and got bored anyway, and some came completely unprepared and had to find some other form of entertainment. I heard one guy talking about bringing in a deck of cards to play euchre. A few people sitting behind me are currently playing Scrabble. I don't find Scrabble to be particularly entertaining, but whatever keeps you from wanting to hurl yourself out the window, I guess.

5. Interesting demographics
I wouldn't say that the population spread here is even, at least as far as age is concerned. I'm probably one of the youngest people in here. Mind you, I'm 28, so I guess that that's an inevitability. By the same token, I don't really see too many 18- or 20-year-olds. If I were to graph out the age distribution, it would probably be bell-shaped, with the young 'uns and the elders at the tails, and your 40-somethings in the middle. Apart from age, the male-to-female ration appears to be 1:1, and the ethnic spread seems to be even. I don't see any predominant racial groups here.

6. Nice government employees
Yeah, I know. It's almost an oxymoron to say "nice government employees", but I swear it's the truth. Of all the times I've had to deal with government employees, this was the most pleasant experience. The employees were actually helpful, patient, and even tried to crack jokes to ease the tension in the roomm. Mind you, the jokes were corny as hell, but you can't have it all.

I guess that's it for day one. I just got word that I can leave - and it's only 4pm. What a total waste of a day. I got nothing accomplished, I sat in a stuffy room all day, ate a cold lunch, and was afraid to get up to use the washroom because if I did, I'd lose my spot. If wasting valuable employee and company time is the government's idea of putting our taxpayer money to good use, then I have lost all faith in The System. Not that I had that much faith to begin with. People say that it's my civic duty to serve as a juror. How can I be excited about being a juror if it's being forced upon me? How can I be excited about being a juror if I don't see justice served anyway. It seems to me that every time you turn on the news, someone who clearly is guilty of a crime gets acquitted due to this technicality or that. Sure, you may turn to me and say, "Well now YOU can make a difference!" Well, BAH HUMBUG, I say. I don't give a flying pig. Forcing me to come here won't cause me to serve with a smile. Especially when it infringes on the plans I've made regarding the near future.

I still have to come back to this bullcrap tomorrow, so keep your fingers crossed for me that a) I get a good spot with a decent wireless signal tomorrow and b) I get the hell out of this jury duty crap as quickly and as painlessly as possible!


Anonymous said...

the best part is... if you check out the section of the room where they have some board games or magazines for people to pass the time with....

.... you might notice they have 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles. Doesn't it encourage you to see they having 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles in the waiting room?

Anonymous said...

so... I was thinking... you could really let your PK help make sure you don't get picked for any upcoming trial.

If PK is becoming very noticeable, and it looks like you need to take your time in walking around and stuff, I doubt any attorney will want to put you through a 2-week trial. If your name gets picked, I bet one of the attorneys will waive you for that reason.

Adam S. said...

Bring your Nintendo DS. I suggest playing the Phoenix Wright series of games.. appropriate, for the setting :->