Sunday, September 28, 2008

Service with a smile

I grasp that a basic sentiment of the previous post (and an outright tone in last Sunday's post) was this: Jury duty is an unpleasant task that one should seek to avoid whenever possible. However, when I stop and reflect on the two and a half days I spent assigned to that, I must admit: it wasn't that bad.

I had to sit in a room, then I had to go sit in another room and listen to others answer questions, then I had to sit in a different chair and answer some questions myself. Then I had to show up the next day (later than I would have to report to work), sit in the same chair and pay attention. Then I had to go back the next day and not make a decision, waiting around in the first room where I could read or jot down some thoughts or just stare out from a rooftop patio. In between I got 90 minute breaks for lunch. Each day I got out by 4:00 (well before I get off work) and see what it's like to be home during daylight hours. And because my employer still pays me for my time spent at jury duty, I didn't have to worry about losing money by not being at the office for those hours. Sure, I spent some time in the evening checking my work emails to not fall behind on things, but ultimately they were able to get by without me for a couple days.

Had my summons required me to report at a different time, when I was right in the middle of a big project, yes, it would have been more of an issue, but as this one more or less occurred after I'd wrapped up one project and just before starting another, the timing was about as good as I could have hoped for.

I admit not everyone has such circumstances. I'm not saying jury duty is never unpleasant. I am, however, conceding that the knee-jerk reaction that I had when first getting the summons—something along the lines of, Crap, I have to serve jury duty—was not really justified by how this or previous experiences with serving have gone.

In last Sunday's post I more or less complained about the likelihood of being assigned to a case rather than "getting out of it" (a phrase that clearly implies ideally it would be best avoided). That complies with what I know from listening to others is a fairly common attitude about jury duty: Because it interrupts one's normal routine, against one's choosing, it's a nuisance.

While that interruption is true, I think it's also common for people to complain about their jobs (it's the true American pastime). Also, I think many people lament being "in a rut" of the same thing, day after day. Thus, for at least some people, it stands to reason, the nuisance is actually something that only takes one away from the job about which one complains by breaking up the doldrums of the proverbial rat race.

So, really, we'd rather complain more about not having to go to work than actually complain about work. We are a strange lot.

I rescind any complaint that was implied earlier.


I'm still jaded as hell about the jury system, but that's no reason to complain about a break from the office.


  1. Doug:

    So what's your take on having a system of "professional jurors," i.e. people who serve on jury duty as a job? One advantage touted is pro jurors would be in a better frame of mind to pass judgment, unlike a person with an everyday job who hates having his routine disrupted to serve on a jury.

    That's not to say that a pro jury system wouldn't have its own problems...


  2. It would take some doing to be worse. Not that it couldn't be. In fact, give it time and undoubtedly it would be.

    It's as though entropy controls all systems.

    In the meantime: Plea bargain.


So, what do you think?