Tuesday, December 09, 2008

OH, THE HUMANITY!: Observations From Jury Duty

Yes, friends, it's been far too long since I've ranted about anything here, and let me just say I feel your pain. I know many of you have stayed awake some nights wishing, hoping, praying that there would be a new John Eats entry in your Feedburner the next morning, only to have those hopes dashed yet again for months on end. Well, all that is changing, at least for today. 'Cuz I got picked for jury duty this week, and it's time to let loose.

While I can't discuss anything about the case I've been assigned to, I don't see any reason why I can't discuss two things that happened before I was even interviewed for a case, out in the big holding pen/purgatory area known as the Juror Waiting Room, a den of iniquity and red tape so all-inclusive that one could truly call it a Cross-Section of Americaâ„¢.

First came the "mm"-ing. A small man in his late forties, wearing a fuzzy ear-flapped winter hat, fingerless gloves and a dirty flannel shirt chose to sit next to me while we all waited to be called up for our chance to be a part of the justice system. He carried several bags, a top coat, and a newspaper, all of which he set down on the chair he left between us. He spread out some of the contents of one of the bags, laid several sections of the newspaper on the chair, his lap, and the chair on the other side of him, and then proceeded to read. All during this preparation time, however, he displayed a curious vocal tick: "Mmm mm MMM!" came the sound, at no longer than five second intervals. The "mm"-ing continued as he delved into his newspaper, making the sound as he motioned the paper my way a few times as if to get my attention about something he was reading. The tone of the "mm"s was slightly different each time: sometimes joyous, sometimes self-satisfied, sometimes forlorn, sometimes irritable. The man was truly a master of inflection, and if what was coming out of his tightly squeezed lips hadn't been so abstractly unnerving I might have developed an admiration for his skill.

Alas, he was called up before I was, and for the first time he let out another sound: a deeply irate sigh which signaled he was not there for civic duty but rather for the warm place to sit on a folding chair and the opportunity to earn a cool, hard $17.20 while reading the paper and mumbling.

Then came the farting.
During this time, what can only be described as a series of SBDs pummeled those of us who chose to sit in the back of the room; for although there was no sound, there was something decidedly deadly in the air. And while the "mm"ing guy might seem the obvious culprit, my money was on the woman sitting directly in front of him in the row ahead of us -- a zaftig woman also in her late 40s, with more split ends than roots in her streaky blondish hair, a mole on her cheek which helped distract from the twenty-pound bags under each eye, a pink sweatshirt on her back, an unlit cigarette in her mouth, and a dogeared dimestore romance novel in her hand. At the outset of each olfactory assault, her head would (almost imperceptibly) dart back and forth like a cat trying to determine the source of a high-pitched whine, until the smell had enough time to spread for its source to be undetectable. At this point she would lean back in her folding chair and return to her novel, letting some air escape between her lips and the dangling cigarette, making a slight whistling sound. She, too was called up before I was, in the same round as the "mm"er; this offered me the opportunity to switch seats to a less densely populated area, but quashed any chance I might have had to deduce the true source of those noxious air strikes.

This, then, is jury duty. Luckily I will be free of the Juror Waiting Room for the rest of the week, nestled instead in my courtroom's Jury Room -- that internet-free, silent, windowless, nightmarish little hovel with two adjoining bathrooms and no air circulation, where every stomach gurgle is like a trumpet blast, and every flush is like the rain.

Oh, the humanity...indeed.


Blogger Psychictoad said...

That really sounds like a magical wonderland. It sounds slightly better than hearing Jim Belushi speak and do cart wheels...but only slightly.

In my opinion you should pick one of the characters from 12 Angry Men and play it out during the course of your service. I think you should choose the sports-loving dick who keeps trying to fix the broken fan and complaining about the heat. And even if it is cold and there is no fan just do it.

9:34 AM  
Blogger John Eats said...

There *IS* a fan in the jury room! I'm on it tomorrow for sure.

10:23 PM  
Blogger Crispinus said...

I think you should conduct yourself *as* the Belush. It's simple: ask yourself, "What would Jim say about this case?" Then say that, sounding as much like the great man as possible.

4:55 AM  

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