The most ridiculous question any writer gets is "Where do you get your ideas?" We get them by paying attention to the things that most people ignore and (this is the most important part) by writing it down. You'd be surpise how many people tell me they want to be writers but don't seem to want to actually write anything. I kept a journal during my stint of jury duty in 2008 -- the most banal experience I can think of -- and I'm posting it here unedited so you can see that story ideas are everywhere if you're looking for them. A fuller explanation is here. -Scott
Sitting in the batcave again. We’re told that if there’s an earthquake this is the safest part of the building, built as a bomb shelter. Nice to know, I guess. We spend a lot of time Not Thinking About Earthquakes in Washington. As if they never happen here. There were two in Pierce County over the weekend. Weak and deep, but earthquakes nonetheless. Guess that’s why they brought it up.
A few people have struck up conversations. Nearby a minister is writing his Sunday sermon. I’m on the laptop (obviously) writing this at the moment. I even have actual work to do open on another window, which I will get back to in a minute.
The introductory speech has been given and the orientation movie watched when a man gets up from the middle of the crowd. He’s the only one in a suit. White-haired and distinguished-looking. As it happens, he’s the presiding Superior Court judge (the boss) and he’s been called in for jury duty. He gives a lovely speech about how much all of our participation means to the jury system and how it all underpins our form of government. Tells us about a pilot program currently running in other counties where jurors are paid minimum wage and how he finds the initial results encouraging.
We still just get ten bucks a day here in Pierce County. Sorry kid, maybe next time around.
The people running the room look a little shell-shocked. They didn’t know he was here. I notice thereafter that they’re all moving with a bit more alacrity than yesterday. The boss is in the house. Hope I end up on a jury with a judge. That would be interesting.
The first culling goes by without my being chosen.
Second culling… still no call for me. (Or the judge.)
Question: If you’re an attorney do you want the county’s presiding judge on your jury? I wouldn’t think so, but if you challenge him during voir dire because you don’t think he can set aside his prejudicial feelings as a jurist to render a fair decision... the 22 gets caught, doesn't it? Because aren’t you casting into doubt the single central salient aspect of the whole system, the ability of a judge to leave his or her bias at the courtroom door? Food for thought.
This is why I hope I’m in the room when he’s called. If nothing else, when the judge and attorneys ask if anyone on the jury has a relationship either personal or professional with any of them there, I want to hear how they handle it…
Get up to fetch another cup of coffee and then back to my seat. Open the laptop again. Stare at the screen.
I’m going to be here awhile, I guess. The gears of justice grind slowly. We’re told to stick around. Everyone will be part of the next call. That will be this afternoon. Get some lunch. Take a break. Come back at 1:30.
I brought my own lunch and just enough money for coffee. Nuts. I should get out there and walk around. Run over to the library and check my email. Instead I spend a few hours working on some things I brought with me from work.
I’m writing a manual for the Northwest eTutoring Consortium. Telecommuting from purgatory in a manner of speaking. Hours tick by in the windowless bunker. The minister is discussing the WSU football team with a woman who sat down next to him. A man is talking to a private investigator on his cell phone with a loud voice. (What?) Another man’s on his phone talking to a kid about losing his first tooth. My phone doesn't work in here. I wonder who their carriers are?
Another day in purgatory. Back to work.
It’s almost two o’clock. The people running room confer, mill around near the door. They don't seem to know what the holdup is. Patience, they tell someone who pipes up to ask. The judge isn't here, he's probably holed up in his office. I would imagine he has work to do too.
Wonder if they’ll ask more pertinent questions during voir dire this afternoon? Or is this what it’s always like? I'll sign off and do some real work. Talk to you later.
2:30... they finally get word from on-high. They call out a list of names. The lucky ones who didn't just waste an entire day leave in train to go get grilled by defense attorneys and prosecutors. People from the first culls enter, mill around and then leave again. What was that about? The judge's name is called but he's not here anymore. The lady makes a few snide remarks about judges being late for everything, living in their own time zones. The boss is away, we can be silly now, I guess.
Roll call. We're all here. (Except Judge Wopner)
You can all go home, we won't need you. See you again tomorrow.
Shut down the laptop and pack up.
I packed a lunch for this?
Another day, another ten bucks.