46-Race to the Bottom

8:30 A.M. It is still cool out, and the city has provided free parking for potential jurors if you do not mind the shuttle back to the courthouse, which I do not. I didn’t sleep much the night before and left in a daze so that I forgot my book and didn’t get a shower. It was okay though, there were plenty of folks there to chat with.

So…we all sat down in the courtroom, and listened to the head bailiff give us instructions on how to fill in our paperwork, how to place our jury badges around our necks, how to check the guy next to us to see if he put his badge around his neck, how to recognize other bailiffs if we ran into a problem not already covered, and how to tell the difference between a city bus, which might want to take us back to our car, and a Bengal tiger, which might want to eat us. All of these were interspersed with requests for forbearance on our part for the slowness of the speaker, being that he received his education at Florida State. My best guess would have placed that education 40 or so years behind him, which ought to have been enough time to catch back up to speed, but maybe that’s just me.

When all this was done we took a break.

Upon returning we learned that no break had been called, and those of us who had left had just taken an unauthorized break. As soon as everyone returned, we took a real break. The biggest difference was that our break was ten minutes, and theirs was an hour.

Once folks were settled once more we watched a movie, and then took a break while we waited for the judge to show up. (He was less than an hour late!) The judge repeated most of the information the head bailiff had given us…except for the bit about Florida State…and then we waited while a line of folks went up to him one at a time to try and get out of jury duty.

Once this was finished the first group was called. We watched them get up and file slowly out the door on their way to a second courtroom where 12 of them would be selected to serve. Then we waited.

About an hour later I got called up in the second group. We were led out and across the hall into a conference room. There we were informed by Captain FSU that our original judge had left on a family emergency (her father had just died) and that we should all go to lunch while they sorted out which other judge would be handling her cases. We were to return after an hour and a half lunch break.

When I got back I was alone in the courtroom except for a small gaggle of non-head bailiffs, so I wandered over and struck up a conversation. Turns out that Captain FSU was lying, no one had died, and our judge was simply extremely late coming in to work.

Everyone returned from lunch, and we sat and waited another 45 minutes until the head bailiff returned. He launched into a lengthy, and I am certain amusing for him, speech that in the space of ten minutes managed to say, Your case settled, go home.

I returned my badge from around my neck, found the bus stop where the shuttle picked up to take me back to my car, managed to avoid any tigers who might have wanted to eat me, and left. My civic duty took me seven hours from start to finish, accomplished nothing, and shot my day right in the ass.

But you know what? It still makes me proud.

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