Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jury Duty; or A Government Mandated Break for Moms

I reported for my first ever jury duty on Monday. Between my recent citizenship, voter registration and casting of votes I wasn't entirely surprised to receive the summons a few months ago. My original date had been for the week after we returned from our Costa Rica trip and, having already had to take off 2 weeks from work, I decided that it would be better to reschedule it. So, I had requested this week, which would have been my employers' spring break, were it not for the fact that she got laid off. Sadly, it now turned out to be the week that she'd be starting her new job and, upon arriving at the King County Courthouse, I was quickly informed that my commitment would be for at least 2 days. I was, however, unable to reschedule it again.

There were 250 potential jurors called at the same as I was, and to start us off feeling all warm and fuzzy inside about having shown up, we were shown a cheesy little video about the valuable service we'd be providing as jurors, followed by a rousing speech by one of the judges. They both stressed the deliberate slowness of the process and the mucho waiting around we'd be doing.

As I settled in with J. Maarten Troost's latest book, "Lost on Planet China", I kept hearing grumbled parts of conversations between fellow jurors or on their cellphones.

"...better things to do than sitting here..."

"...stuck for at least two days..."

"...can't be missed at work for that long..."

"...nothing is happening..."

Over the next two days I then proceeded to read more than 300 pages, practically uninterrupted.

Nobody tugged on my pants or shirt saying "mama, mama, MAMA!".

Nobody needed their diaper changed.

Nobody relied on me to entertain them or feed them.

People put themselves down for a nap, without needing my assistance at all.

I ate potato chips out in the open, not secretly hiding in the kitchen and I did not have to share them with ANYONE.

I enjoyed a pleasant conversation with a fellow juror.

I even got to have lunch with a friend - LIKE A GROWN-UP! (No need to cut everything into bite sized pieces!)

And I read. I sat on my butt and read. And read some more. I hardly ever moved. I was occasionally interrupted by the court clerk reading out another list and I once saw the inside of a courtroom, but was fairly quickly released.

There were no trains to be fixed, strollers to be pushed, spilled juice to mop up or the same stories to be read again and again. The only thing that had to be done was sit in the large, windowless room and pass the time.

It was glorious. It felt like a vacation. It was incredible to be able to read something I enjoyed for that long without being needed or feeling compelled to do something useful.

At one point we had to fill out a questionnaire. It stated that the trial would last until March 14th, not including juror deliberations and asked if I'd be able to serve for that entire time. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted. I actually thought about it; nobody would be able to argue with my need to be downtown for the next two weeks - we were dealing with the government after all! But then, the logistics of course proved fairly impossible (Jacob has to go to work at some point, if only to keep our health insurance and I can't just find - or afford - a daycare at zero notice. Besides, two weeks seems like a long time to be listening to people describe and defend a domestic violence case.) so I filled out the "claiming hardship" part and was promptly excused.

When I came home, Joris had stories for me; "Park. Slide down. Bawakuk (garbage truck). Soccerclass - kick ball, daddy! Ride bike." He had obviously been enjoying himself. There were reports of standard naps, extraordinary eating and a full hour of playing with his new tea set. He seemed bigger, more mature, even after just a day.

I helped Joris fix his train, changed his diaper and made encouraging sounds as he was playing basketball. We read the train book and the Dikkie Dik (a cat, it's a CAT!) book at least 5 times. At one point, I believe it was in the middle of a game of tackle, Joris looked at me and said "Dohta miss mama."

"Mama missed you too, sweet pea."

And I had. But I also enjoyed the downtime.

Jury duty comes highly recommended by this mom.


Sarah B said...

I love this entry. I have visions of bored jurors waiting to be called and nodding off to sleep...all by themselves. I think your job staying home with J is way harder than my 8 to 5 at the office. Seriously.

Sarah B said...

...not to mention your nanny gig.

Carine said...

Sarah, I think it's a toss-up. I do get a nice break at nap-time each day and once Jacob is home, I'm mostly off the hook, whereas you at least have to share care taking duties after a full day at work (without the option of taking a nap), and it's not like you're just hanging out reading a book at work.