Adventures in Jury Duty 

Being civic-minded has its challenges.

One of the consequences of being a lifelong voter is that occasionally one gets called for jury duty. This is not a negative thing; the opportunity to do one's civic duty by judging the carefully laid-out merits of a case is an honor and a privilege. It's also one of those things that I'm obviously never going to get to do.

I got called for jury duty last week. Actually, I received the letter in the mail several weeks ago. I filled out the questionnaire (No, I'm not a convicted felon; no, I'm not an illegal alien; no, I don't think Lara Flynn Boyle looks even remotely human) and sent it in.

(A lot of people grumble about being called for jury duty, but those are mostly those people who have ... well, jobs. A few weeks back, Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen graciously mentioned the girls basketball team I coach in his Sunday column. The kids won a school-record 24 games and made it to the Final Four in State. But Greg threw in a line about my being a columnist and how I "somehow found the time" to coach the team. After reading that line, several of my friends had to be hospitalized with extremely sore sides from prolonged, uncontrollable laughter. All I have is time. I'm like the poster child for being able to do jury duty.)

The day dawned bright and sunny, perfect for sending somebody to jail. I dropped my son off at school and then drove downtown.

Did you know that you have to pay for your own parking when you do jury duty? They let you park in this municipal parking lot near the downtown YMCA, but you have to pay, and then, to get to the court, you have to run the gauntlet of pigeons and some of their less-intelligible human friends who occupy the Main Library grounds.

I tried to hurry past the library, but this one guy got the angle on me like a linebacker tracking a running back to the sideline. I thought of jaywalking across the street, but then I saw a law-enforcement vehicle heading my way and I didn't want to get stopped. (As it turned out, it was a police car from the Tohono O'odham Reservation. Why do I always see those cars in town? Do they have branch reservations like Pima College?)

So Library Guy cuts me off and says, "Can you loan (sic) me a couple bucks so I can get a place to sleep?"

"You say you want me to lend you a couple bucks," I replied. "Does that mean that you'll pay me back someday?"

Puzzled, he replied, "Yeah, I guess, if I ever see you again."

"Dude, I don't think you're seeing me now. Go ahead, what's your story. I love these."

He sighed and said, "I lost my van and I don't have anywhere to sleep."

"You lost your van? That's hard to do. I can see losing a moped, but a van? They're big."

Flustered, he said, "Well, how 'bout so I can get something to eat?"

"Look, I've got jury duty. When I come out for lunch, I'll buy you something."

"I don't like the food around here."

"Well then, why do you hang out here? If I were panhandling, I wouldn't camp out in front of 'Haggis 'R Us.'"

He shook his head and walked away. I wanted to stick around and ask him if he realized how his BS routine made it harder for people who really need help to get it by hardening the hearts of good people who don't like getting burned, but I was running late, so I darted for the building.

This was the fourth time I've been called for jury duty, but the previous three times, I had just spent the entire day in the waiting room, reading books and waiting for a call that never came. But this time, my name was called and I joined the group that would walk across the street to the Justice Court Building.

When we got there, we were handed forms to fill out. Some of the questions were innocuous, but others were infuriating. How many newspapers do your read every day? Which magazines do you read on a regular basis? Do you have bumper stickers on your car?

I was going to goof on them, because it was completely obvious that somehow our justice system has been distorted by lawyers who are deathly afraid of intelligent, well-read jurors. Why, if we get people with actual brains in that jury box, it will be infinitely more difficult to get away with my usual routine of obfuscation and sleight-of-hand!

They asked if I had a background in physics, which I actually do. Apparently, they'll only take the people who answer that question with, "Yes, I was good in the rope climb, but I hated doing jumping jacks."

Do you have a background in chemistry? What does that mean, exactly? Did I take a couple classes on the subject in high school and college? Or do I have a meth lab in the shed out back? Do you know anyone in law enforcement? Who doesn't? Besides, I've got this guy from the Tohono O'odham Police Department who cruises through my subdivision all the time. Did you know that it is not against the law in Arizona for someone to consume alcohol and then drive a vehicle? What, am I a dolt?

As it turns out, I had written a column on drunk driving just the week before, so I got sent home. As I headed for my car, I saw Library Guy. He had found a pigeon. Not one of those so-fat-they're-going-to explode winged rats that walk and eat popcorn off the ground; it was some poor woman who was giving him a dollar so that he'd go away.

I yelled at him, "Yo, are we going to lunch or what?"

He flipped me off and walked away. Just doing my civic duty.

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