Thursday, October 19, 2006
Not Everyone's Dreading It
THIS WEEK I GOT HIT WITH what many consider to be the most dreaded of all civil services. Eight long hours, one short check: Jury Duty.
Reporting time was 8:15. So, I rose with the roosters to make the rush hour drive downtown to the zoo which masquerades as the Fulton County Justice Center.
After security clearance and the 7-story elevator ride, at 8:00 I checked in with the clerk and, with the rest of the pool of groggy jurors, joined the drone of bureaucracy. All was relatively quiet, that is, until one of the elevators opened up and a 5 1/2-foot tall cannonball shot out.
A bearded Black man carrying what appeared to be all of his earthly possessions: On his legs, two pair of pants. On his back, every shirt he owned. Over his shoulder, a dufflebag stuffed beyond recognition.
"Where I need to go for Jury Duty?" he asked - about ten times too loud for 8 o'clock in the morning and to no one in particular.
Someone answered, but he didn't hear it. After gathering his bearings, the homeless man found himself a line and stood in it.
The room murmured a little, and then a little more until the man made his way to the front of the line.
"Here for Jury Duty?" the clerk asked.
"Yes," the man said, suddenly articulate.
"May I have your summons?"
"Yes, ma'am" he said. He fumbled through one pocket. Then another. Yet another. "Oh, oh, here it is."
Before asking the man for his ID, the clerk studied the summons. True, it was printed on the same baby blue paper as everyone else's, but then she looked back up at the man, confused.
"Sir, you're in Group 18," she said, as if speaking to a child. "Only Group 19 was required to report. You're free to return--"
"I know. I know that," he said. "But what I need to know is, am I still getting my $25 check?"