Not like the Flying Nun, or the Flying Wallendas. More like the Flying Dutchman, doomed to sail the sea without ever finding port.
What happened was, they called me for jury duty. This has happened twice before in my life, on both occasions when I was up for some sort of surgical intervention. The third time, we were in the middle of a pandemic and I was allowed to defer by checking a box affirming that I was over 65.
So in our new Vaccinated States Of America, the deferment expired and they called me for today, two days before my cataract surgery. Someone in Management obviously got the program back on target.
I was about as eager to do this, two days ahead of getting a fork in my eye, as I was to get a job Simonizing seals, but I filled out the questionnaire, dutifully read the handbook and watched the fifteen minute video about court procedure. Most of this shit I already knew from a spree of true-crime reading in my 30s and a couple of locally set murder mysteries I churned out the year I hit 50, but it’s been a while. Then I had several meltdowns considering that I am already terrified about the eye operation and my most recent memories of the local Justice Center involve a bitchy deputy nearly yanking my arm out of the socket during a routine fingerprinting for my professional license, apparently under the impression that I was a garden variety arrestee (who shouldn’t be treated that way either).
Also I no longer have any “business casual” clothes to speak of, considering I do my job in a tee-shirt and gym baggies and have for 35 years, and made space in my closet years ago by getting rid of all the dress-up crap. I finally cobbled something with a maroon L.L. Bean tee, matching baggies and an old Deva Lifewear jacket left over from my spell of guerilla street theater as a protest campaign manager, which sort of feeds back into the county government thing, but that tale is told elsewhere.
The Engineer dropped me off at the Courthouse (it’s been over a year since I became too blind to be behind the wheel of anything) around two-fifteen, a solid quarter hour before I was required to check in. The usual drill: deputies screen you through a metal detector, which I set off shriekingly. Twice. It is a credit to my hip surgeon that I completely forgot until the end of this adventure that I am rocking a set of titanium tuchus, but apparently wanding me down satisfied the guy. I double checked where the jury coordinator could be found (my e-mail said 10th floor, but I find these things often lie). Two people gave two different answers. I set off on my quest.
The tenth floor was as echoing and empty as if it were after hours. A large neon-pink sign with large black letters — which, to my horror, I realized were the only signs in view that I could read at all — pointed me to the JURY ASSEMBLY ROOM.
Which was locked and, viewed through the glass of the door, dark and unoccupied.
I poked into an unmarked adjacent door. Utility closet.
A door on the other side of the lobby was marked as a courtroom. A police officer sat in the vestibule. I caught his eye and waved.
He waved back, and disappeared somewhere.
Finally a live human passed. I presented my plight and he told me to go to the Clerk of the Court’s Office on the sixth floor. “Does anyone know where Toni is?” yelled the genial young woman at the counter. Toni is the Jury Coordinator now, but back in the day when I was writing mysteries about the county government she was the secretary of the Board of Supervisors and had a minor supporting role. I decided not to mention it.
I was told to go to the 11th floor and report to courtroom 11A. I did that. Trial in progress. Hard nope.
A sheriff’s deputy makes an appearance and tells me to go to the sixth floor. I try to tell him that’s where I just came from. He starts to get in my face — “you asked me, I’m telling you” — because he is Law Enforcement and we are all there to make trouble for him, right? Finally he calls someone on his Bluetooth and tells me to go back to the tenth floor and someone will be along shortly.
I go back. There are benches, empty halls, and utter silence.
Finally Deputy Dawg shows up again. He is looking a little chastened by now and makes another call. Go back to the clerk’s office, he says. Nice Girl asks and I tell her. By now we are half an hour past my reporting time and I am envisioning citations and fines and possibly a mental health eval when I melt down. Finally someone finds Toni.
“Oh,” she said. “I sent a text about one-fifteen and told people not to report, they selected a jury from the pool that was already here.”
She texted my landline. In this great 21st century it is apparently assumed that all God’s children go through life 24/7 with a mobile phone up their asses.
At least I made thirty bucks on the deal, for showing up. “And,” I remarked, feigning affability, “I read the handbook and watched the video, so I learned something for if I ever write another crime novel.”
She didn’t drop a stitch. Probably didn’t read them.