Jury Duty

Early January I receive a letter from the Ministry of Justice. I’m a bit startled, but when I open it, I quickly realise that I have done nothing wrong. It’s a summons, for jury duty. According to some it’s an honor and a privilege, not to mention fun …  Really?

However, the dates mentioned are highly inconvenient as it coincides with my parents’ visit from the Netherlands.

Normally I don’t procrastinate, but in this case … What will happen when I ask for postponement?  They might forget about me. It’s a risk I’m willing to take.

The bureaucratic system never fails if you want it to. I still have to fulfil my duty. I have to show up, just a couple of months later. Congratulations! I’ve been requested not to bring any sharp stuff. I think I’ll have to leave my notebook with my nicely sharpened pencil at home. I don’t want to cause any problems  …

Of course I don’t want to be late, which translates into me being at the court half an hour early. As well as a very old wrinkled man with a walking stick. Getting through the security checkpoint takes him a bit longer than expected. I can’t overhear the conversation, but he looks pretty annoyed. Eventually he sits down, his fist clenched tightly around his stick.

Slowly but surely, the jury waiting room fills up. The jury pool consists of  a hundred people, more or less. The chairs are way too close together and I’m squashed between two corpulent candidates. Nice.

A little while later one of the officials announces a procedure that looks like “Bingo”. Thirty five names are drawn from a big bowl. My name’s not among them.  I can go home, but I have to call the jury line in the evening, I probably need to come back the next day. The efficiency is baffling.

Of course I’m back the following day. And guess what? Bingo! I’m one of the thirty five people that might end up in the jury. Now it gets really exiting.

All of us are silently waiting until we are herded into the courtroom where the prosecution and defense lawyers are. All of the sudden an other official comes in and says: ‘You can all go home, the defendant has pleaded guilty at the last moment.’ Elvis (or whatever his name was) has left the building. Well, that’s an anticlimax. I’m not sure whether I’m relieved or disappointed …

I’m spotting the old man again. He intrigues me. Once outside he starts talking to me about the inefficiency of the whole jury system. Well, he’s preaching to the choir. He would have liked the experience of being in the jury, but was not impressed with the security people. Well, actually, he didn’t call them people, he called them a very bad name …  Aha, he’s talking about yesterdays’ conversation.

‘Those bossy boots were trying to rob me of my stick. What on earth were they thinking? That I was going to hit somebody with it? How stupid. I’ll fall over without it.

With a grin, he says: ‘Although … I was so angry, they nearly made it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. I almost swung my stick at those preposterous security people.’

‘Well’ I say, ‘I’m glad you didn’t. Imagine you having to go to court and me in the jury. I would have to judge you. I think you are very nice, but caning people is a crime’

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