The Post reports today that Colorado employers can now verify their workers' jury duty summonses online -- a service that presumably makes it more difficult for employees to play hooky under the guise of serving their democracy. But having spent several hours in Denver County's jury room this week, I've come to the conclusion that no one would ever tempt the jury-duty gods by lying about such a thing. Because jury duty -- not being on a jury, but everything before it -- is a life-sucking endeavor.
My question is: Does it have to be that way? (Answer: Probably, yes.)
I reported for duty Monday morning on the heels of a weekend-long bachelor party. Horrible idea. The Theory of Hungover Relativity tells us that the number of days spent treating one's liver like a speed bag = the number of days it takes to recover from said speed-bag session, meaning I needed until at least Tuesday to feel normal again.
But I'm a patriot, and I thought maybe I'd catch a three-week murder trial and get sequestered in a Holiday Inn, which sounds like a slightly cooler version of prison. So I showed up. Once in the jury room -- a slightly less cool version of prison -- I found a seat in the middle of my fellow miserable patriots.
And for the next four hours, we sat there, staring straight ahead. Some people had books, some smart phones, others magazines, but believe it or not, most everyone there just sat there praying -- either praying their number wouldn't be called, so they could get back to lives, or praying that it would, so they could know the perverse power of holding a fellow citizen's life in their hands.
I was in the second camp, but it wouldn't matter. Escaping the jury room was not in my fate; my number would not be called. So I just sat there with the rest of the Stare-Ahead Gang, contemplating why the experience -- which shouldn't feel that different than sitting under a tree with a book, something I don't mind at all -- was so excruciating. Here's the conclusion I came to:
If you're under a tree with a book, other people are only a nuisance. But there's something inherently sad about 200 strangers sitting silently in a room together and nothing happening -- no connections being made, no problems being solved, no jokes being told. Just a big beige room of get-me-the-fuck-out-of-here.
If it's going to be like that, they should send Paxil with the summonses. Otherwise, they should consider changing it up.
If it weren't for the whole meting-out-justice thing, I'd suggest the tapping of several kegs. But considering that some percentage of the people will be called before a judge, maybe they could just switch the rows of chairs so they face each other and people are tempted into talking. Or maybe bring in some bagels, so everyone can bond over the shared joy of free food. Or maybe bring in a yoga instructor, turn up the heat and get a little sweat going.
I guess that wouldn't go over as well as the bagels, but it's something. And the jury room needs something. It's our obligation, sure, one of the few we have to our democracy. But still: Nothing goes better with democracy than bagels.
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