by R.T. Lawton
It came in the mail.
Writers generally look forward to the mail arriving. Not the bills and junk mail, but the contracts and checks a writer gets for creating work good enough to be put up in print. And sure, we get a little ambivalent, with both hopes and fears, upon receiving those first envelopes from an agent, or editor since they could be a positive or a negative. They could be a glorious validation of our creative genius (also called an acceptance) or the dreaded rejection (what do they know?).
This particular piece of mail I got last month could be called an acceptance of sorts, but not one I was looking for at the time. Can't say I was too surprised to get it though because it's happened twice before in the ten years since we moved here. But why now? After all, we had a trip planned with non-refundable airline tickets, and as everyone knows, airlines recently raised their prices for a customer to change the dates on their tickets.
You see, once again my name has come up and I have been summoned for jury duty. My juror number is 1197 and I am supposed to appear in county court at 8:30 AM on a specified day. A lot of instructions are listed in the letter, plus there is a questionnaire form I am supposed to fill out and bring with me. The first part of the form is all background on me. I've known me for a long time, so that part's easy. Next, I check the box for Post Grad and then the NO box for Previous Jury Service.
So, the night before, as instructed in the summons, I call the designated telephone number after 5:30 PM. The taped message says numbers 601 through 1,000 must report on the following morning for jury service. Numbers 1,001 through 1,250 are on standby, must be prepared to respond at an hour's notice and are required to call the designated telephone number again at Noon on the following day to see if they are needed then. Okay, looks like No. 1197 has got a second chance with the standbys. I sleep well that night. Comes Noon, the taped message now says the standby group does not need to report, our service obligation as jurors has been fulfilled.
Ah yes, rejected again.
Now, we all know people called for jury duty often make jokes about trying to get out of jury service, some of them serious about their trying or their success. I have even laughed about some of the ploys people used or claimed to have used to get off jury duty. In fact, I found one set of circumstances so bizarre that I used it in a short story ("Independence Day") about one of my Holiday Burglars who ended up on a jury panel for a fellow burglar. In short, it seems a real-life potential female juror raised her hand when the judge asked if there was any reason why any of the potential jurors in front of him should not serve on a jury.
"I'm not feeling well," was her reply.
"Not feeling well? What is the problem?"
"I think it's the medicine my doctor is giving me for my cocaine addiction."
"Ma'am, you are excused."
Okay, becoming a juror can be an inconvenience. And, okay, people can joke about different ways to get off jury duty. But, I am pretty sure those same people would quickly be screaming about THEIR RIGHTS if the peer jury system was somehow abolished. So, if a little of my time being spent as a juror is one of the requirements for me to live in a free society, then I'm willing to to have the inconvenience of being called. I know that if I were innocent of an accused crime, I would want some jurors who were fair-minded and interested in true justice, not someone who is aggravated about being summoned and is trying to get out of their duty.
Now on the other hand.......