For years I have somehow managed to skirt my way out of jury duty, but a few days ago I received a card in the mail that changed my path as US citizen (and mammal) forever. Yes. Today I was summoned to report to a courtroom in the ever-icky city/suburb of Gresham to maybe serve as a juror on a civil trial amongst two people who supposedly don't like each other much at all.
It was dull, arduous procedure that involved lots of sitting around and staring at people who were all in the same position I was in. Few of them wanted to be there. And everyone wished they had brought a cushion for their sore rumps.
And amidst the waiting and unknowns as to what would soon happen to us obligated US citizens, we all managed to find a way to occupy ourselves. I flipped-flopped through Essays by Wallace Shawn and Harpers and Facebook, then texted with friends who also had friends on jury duty in another part of town. A woman, three rows in front of me with a silver bob and salmon colored cardigan, made neat little piles of receipts and bank statements then filed them in folders for her CPA. Two women to my right, both plump with barretted ponytails, cracked open romance novels and continued to read them even during a very special screening of the featured film, What it means to be a juror in the State of Oregon. A guy with dreadlocks and facial piercings slept with his head between his hands. The lanky man next to me perused stocks on his iphone and scanned a paper on endodontics. A couple in the back of the room talked in whispers and giggles with their arms around each other. It was obvious that one lover was accompanying the other to keep them company in all of the dismal drear of jury duty. This struck me as one of the more romantic gestures in the world and I immediately cursed my manchowder (and cats) for not being there for me.
At some point after reading an article in Harpers about eating rats, I had to poop. I got up, went to the bathroom, emptied my bowels and tip-toed back into the waiting area. The jury administrator was calling the names of all the jurors who would be moving onto the next round of waiting and interrogation. A woman next to me asked if my name was Felicia (which it is to my mother and the state of Oregon). I said yes, and she said that the administrator had called my name while I was in the bathroom. Oh boy. I said. Goodie. My name had been chosen along with another 23 names to move onto the next round of juror waiting and questioning.
But as the room emptied, the administrator approached me and told me I had been excused as juror because I wasn't present when my name was called. I was in the bathroom. I said. She gave me a lopsided smile, took the juror badge from my hand and said It happens sometimes. Her tone and smile made it seem as though going to the bathroom was a rare, but totally justified reason for being excluded from jury duty, that I wasn't in trouble and wasn't required to do anything further, that I could go home.
I left feeling slightly baffled by my experience as juror and by the immense power of my bowels.