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I had jury duty on Wednesday. Despite Alex's belief that a court-ordered summons to report for jury selection is "optional," I dutifully joined the other potential jurors in Room 1125 of the Supreme Court of Manhattan on Wednesday morning.
The room caused me a bit of anxiety considering it was the same room where I sued Alex's landlord last year and was subsequently berated by the landlord's defense attorney "Larry," who accused me of being a "fake lawyer." But, that's beside the point.
The morning started like any other morning where you're shoved in a room with a hundred other people. Every one sat every-other-chair and rolled their eyes at the old woman up front who asked, yet again, how to fill out the three question questionnaire. Sitting in silence, we were then led like sheep to another courtroom, escorted by a policeman John who whistled as he walked.
Now sitting crunched side-by-side, someone went over the procedure in a monotone voice. Twelve names were then called to sit in the Juror Box. Despite the fact that no one wants to actually serve on the jury, I felt victorious when my name was called. YES! I almost squealed, pounding my fist in victory when they pronounced my name wrong, and turning to gloat at the 38 other people before realizing that being selected for a 2 week medical malpractice suit may not be a "win." Regardless, I sauntered to my seat in the front row of the box and awaited till ten more names were called.
Then the "voire dire" started, which is a fancy word for "telling strangers about what you do and why you're a bigot with bigoted opinions."
The first question was a trick question, so I had to answer carefully. "And what do you do Ms. Doshhertiii?" the plaintiff's attorney asked inquisitively.
"Like now? Or like before?" I asked slowly, weighing my words carefully.
"Before what?" the attorney responded confusedly.
"Before I did what I do now?" I asked.
"Well I don't know what you did before you did what you do now, so what do you do now?"
The onset of an identity crisis was brewing.
"I'm a mindfulness coach..." I said quietly. Then blurted, "I mean a lawyer! I'm a lawyer!"
The attorney looked flustered. Impatient really. "Well, those are quite different fields Ms. Doshhhertiii. Do you, in fact, do litigation or meditation?"
He was annoyed. He obviously needed a mindful mentor. "I'll give you my card?" I suggested, then I winked.
Well, I actually didn't wink or give him my card. Instead I confessed that I identified as both. He made a note and moved on.
In the next two hours, the eleven strangers surrounding me soon began to be, well, not strangers. I learned about their professions, their children, their former lawsuits, their medical conditions. I learned their habits of falling asleep after lunch, how they thought that doctors shouldn't be sued, or that they'd be too sad to hear testimony about the patient that died because they just lost their father-in-law.
At lunch time, I ate falafel with potential-Juror #3; a girl my age named Laura, who was a nurse, and who inspiringly and openly shared about overcoming her eating disorder, confiding how anorexia had shaped her decision to enter into medicine.
Returning to our seats as fast friends, we then talked Hunger Games with Miko (Juror number 7) and encouraged Nancy (Juror number 9), that her narcolepsy may not prevent her from serving. This may be my family for the next two and a half weeks, I thought to myself, knowing it could be with them that we decided the outcome of a serious and tragic matter.
And then, suddenly, I was excused from the case. I grabbed Laura's hand. "No," I said firmly, as the lawyer waited for me to get up. "We were supposed to go through this together!" I exclaimed frantically.
"Come on, Kerry," Mr. Stonehill, the 70-year old man who invested in liability insurance said slowly, touching my sleeve gently. "We're free now."
The five of us--the excused jurors--left the courtroom in silence. I looked over my shoulder one last time to see Laura, still stationed in Juror Seat 3, looking at me with wide eyes. "Write me!" I mouthed as the heavy emblemed "In God We Trust" door shut behind us. The rest of us proceeded to the elevator. Once crammed in, we instantly started to share our feelings--relief, disappointment, annoyance, noting how that one attorney was like so confrontational and didn't the other lawyer kind of badger Ms. Chung?
The elevator door opened. We were free. We walked out of the courtroom to go our separate directions. No longer strangers.