Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jury Duty

Yesterday one of my life long dreams came true. I got to go downtown for Jury Duty.  Everyone tells me I'm crazy for WANTING it and I don't know if it's all the legal drama tv shows I've watched, but it's always been something I couldn't wait for.
     I had to report to the room no later than 8am.  Knowing from my time working downtown (6-7 years ago) I know that the 7 o'clock hour is not too great for traffic. So my plan was to leave at 6:45am and I figured if early I'd kill sometime at Starbucks or something. Well, I left at 7:10am and checked traffic on my awesome app and it looked good. And since I was beginning to get a headache I stopped and got coffee in Fairview. I knew this might be a long day and I wasn't about ready to sit in a potentially hot room with a headache and have to leave early because it turned into a migraine.  I'm nothing if not thorough and an over planner.
     Traffic was actually pretty good the whole way in. I had air conditioning and my iPhone plugged into the stereo.  I reminded myself in freeway traffic that it is a bad idea to leave a ton of space between me and the person in front of me.  It made me nervous to follow so close (I am a far different driver than I used to be, it was really odd!) However, I made into downtown incident free.
     I also used to live downtown...physically and figuratively.  I could give directions easily and had road maps memorized. Now I only go there for very special occasions and although I know my way around, I've completely forgot where the SmartParks are located and the order of the named streets (as opposed to numbered.) All I remembered is that the courthouse was on 4th Ave and there was a big blue building (Noteworthy: I actually thought the blue building was the courthouse.)
     I wanted to park close since I was bold and wore my business-appropriate-heels and being seven months pregnant did not want to walk for in them. My feet have begun to swell.  I called Nick once I make it downtown and in the middle of the convo I saw the Wells Fargo Building parking and it was across the street. Yes! That's perfect! Who cares if it's more than SmartPark? I don't even know their rates anymore, the extra money is worth the comfort and convenience. Well, it's underground parking and mid sentence I lose cell coverage (no worries, I should've mentioned I was on speaker phone/being hands-free.) Whoops! Small concrete jungle won this one, haha. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a $15/day max. That's not so bad! I assume SmartPark must be up to $12/day by now??? I get a great spot and head upstairs.
     The elevator opens up to a small lobby with no real directions to get outside, and since I wanna seem like I know what I'm doing I just start walking. I ended up making a giant loop when if I'd gone left instead of right, it would've been approx 10 feet. Whoops! I'm starting to get a bit warm at this point. I walk outside and it becomes apparent to me that I am mildly lost. I concentrate to get my barrings, see the blue building and start walking. As I get closer I see it is not the courthouse like I thought, panic in my brain ensues and I only have ten minutes to get there.  Please tell me I didn't just come to the completely wrong place or that just maybe the courthouse was moved back to Pioneer Square due to some renovations that I've never heard of. I look a block ahead of me and see several police cars...phew! That must be the building!
     Heading there I start paying attention to around me and remember that this is where Occupy Portland took place. I groan internally and the memory and think "Well, at least it looks better now." Then I look around me and see all the homeless people that have lined the streets and are sleeping.  Homelessness, especially in this economy, really really tears at my heart. Being tucked away in my cocoon in Gresham I don't really encounter it anymore. I know it exists, but it's very easy for me to get wrapped up in my world.  I don't know if it's this pregnant nose of mine, but this was the first time too that I've really smelled homelessness. It really broke my heart when I walked by a family with two small children snuggled up together. It even brings me to tears just writing it.
     I had an errant thought of "Gosh, aren't they hot though?!?" I had walked one block and was already beginning to perspire it was so muggy. But then I realized they weren't corralled together for warmth, but for safety and security. I know there's a portion of the "transient community" that choose this lifestyle, but I just don't believe that anyone would choose it for their kids. These children were my niece's and nephew's ages. I just wanted to scoop them up and take them with  me. So heartbreaking.
     OK, enough with the heavy (sorry, I just still can't believe it!) Long line to get through security, I have to walk through three times before I just get wanded (my term, not theirs) and am clear to go. I walked into a room the size of a large banquet hall with office chairs lined up from wall to almost wall. It's totally like that first day of school; quick scan to see if you know anyone you can sit by, clearly you don't so you find the best seat you can that hopefully has no one next to you. Then more people file in. I was shocked at the number of late people! Like up to a good 45 minutes late. Really? I'm looking at you little miss hippy-dippy flowing shirt/skirt combo with greasy braided hair who lives just across the river. It really seems like that fits the description, or similar, to half the people who were late. I digress, a judge sans his robe steps up to the podium and greets everyone. You can tell they do their best to show Jury Duty as such a great thing. You can feel the internal eye rolls that a good 90% of the room was giving when, through microphone issues he says it is our opportunity to be a part of the judicial system, to be a part of something that makes this country great!
      I however, am buzzing in my seat. I agree with EVERYTHING this man is saying. I have dreamt of this my whole life for the last fifteen years! They show a great pro-jury duty propoganda video with a history of why we do this and what all it entails. It is worth it to say that baby Karyanna is going nuts. The whole time I was in the room she was almost non-stop action.  She's never been that active in one day...ever! Of course it makes the experience even more exciting. The video finished up and the judge explains how Multnomah County has a courthouse in Gresham as well and that he is going to call a list of names and those people are excused for the day and are to report to the Gresham Courthouse the following morning. Everything in me wanted to volunteer, but I held my breath. Maybe my name would be it didn't sound like you could volunteer.
     Alas I did not get called to go to Gresham, but the people who did? Whoa! There was a general grumble of frustrations with a few of the following quotes:
     -Where the heck is Gresham?!?
     -Not Gresham!
     -This is bulls***!!!
According to the judge, the Gresham courthouse is new, like brand new and really nice. But, if you're from Gresham, like myself and the two ladies behind me, you know that it is actually in Rockwood, not Gresham. It's totally different. It's practically Portland!
     Back to the story. And I'll condense a little. They go through a couple times of calling out names to possibly get selected for a trial. Fingers crossed everytime. Never does my name get called.  I have to move around so I walk across the room, go to the bathroom and decide I really need to get my feet up! So I sat in a gaming area, took my shoes off and put my swelling feet up. I get some side-eyes but I don't really care. If I'm going to make it this must happen. I'm super bored and decide to pull out my own deck of cards (so thankful they happen to be in my purse!)  It is still super silent in the room. You'd think that two hours into it conversations would have struck up, but the only person talking is "that guy." You know? The guy who has an opinion on everything and likes to talk just to hear his own voice? Yes him, and all the people around him are trying desperately to get him to notice they are reading/listening to music/aren't at all interested in what he's saying.
     Anyway, you know that feeling when you go to the movies and you pull out your candy and just happen to pick the quietest part of the movie to open it? So you do it as slowly as possible while cringing at the slightest sound and start to get all flushed and flustered because you're sure you're ruining the experience for everyone within 100 feet of you? Imagine that but shuffling a close to brand new deck of cards. I can't really remember ever feeling so self conscious in my life! So I put the cards in my lap thinking that may buffer the shuffling sound. (It doesn't, in case you're ever in this situation.) I end up shuffling them by hand dispersing half the deck randomly into the other half and set up to play solitaire. I don't know how, but I set it up wrong. I think I put an extra pile out. It wasn't winable so I was in the shuffling predicament again. I decided to just do it as quickly as possible, the whole time praying people weren't judging me on my shuffling skills. Since solitaire was actually quite boring and is a game that can quickly be over I set myself up to play kings corner against my self (two hands.) I felt like such a nerd. I tied myself. Shocking! 
     I realized it was fairly ridiculous and silly of me to be doing that so I cleaned up after that game. Besides it was almost lunch time and since I had an hr and a half for lunch, I became grateful that I had brought extra clothes, specifically sandals, to change into. It was announced that only one case remained and the lady in charge called a list of names of people to stay, everyone else was dismissed for the day. Hooray! My name was called! I still have a chance. 
     I leave for lunch and it's not only muggier but also warmer. By the end of the almost two block hike to the parking garage I'm pretty sure about all my make up is gone and I'm super tired. I get to my car and change into jeans and sandals (I really didn't think my shorts would've been appropriate.)
     While changing I realized how uncomfortable my shirt was too, so I looked it up and the Pioneer Square H&M carries maternity. Sweet! So I start walking. After a few blocks I realize that my whole perception of distance and location in Portland is way off. It is not a short distance to Pioneer Square from where I was and with every block I get swampier. That's really the only thing I can think of to describe it. I wasn't sweating to the point of dripping, but the moisture on my skin matched that of the moisture in the air. Swampy. Also, when I walk for long distances I get round ligament pain, primarily on my left side. So I'm basically waddling down the street, swampy and in pain, I'm sure at this point I've got raccoon eyes due to make up running and my hair looks like a frizzy, unkempt mess. It's OK if you're shaking your head at me. I'm sure it was adorable hilarious. Naturally, I enter the mall at the opposite end of the store I want with little to no relief from the heat, but at least the air is dryer. After three shirts and twenty minutes I walk out of the store with a new shirt, but decide I should probably eat and drink something and cool down in a restaurant before changing and getting my new shirt swampy.
     As previously stated, my sense of anything geographically in Portland is completely gone, but I did remember that to walk the thousand miles back to the courthouse it is mostly uphill, and I thought of taking the bus, but I couldn't remember which street they ran on and I didn't have hardly a prayer of choosing the right one that went straight south without taking me east or west so walking was, in my opinion, my best option. I had forty minutes to get back so I decided something quick to eat would be best.
     Praise the Lord! I found a Subway! And more importantly that Subway could give me unlimited amounts of delicious, iced, bubbling drinks! I scarfed down my sandwich, inhaled my soda and cooled off a little bit before going into the bathroom to change my shirt. I headed back for the courthouse and was so relieved to find that it was the coolest place I'd been inside of all day!
     I sat around for a couple more hours, this time on a couch with my feet up. Of the fifty or so people left, about a quarter of them were napping. Very dangerous I thought, but I curled up with my purse tucked in my lap and let my eyes clothes, never fully getting to sleep. When I checked the time it was 2:30pm and yes! Ellen was going to be on in a half hour. I love that show. At least it will give me something to do, as my phone battery was drained to 12% (I was a facebook, pintrest, instagram and email maniac in the morning and forgot a charger.) and I was super bored. At 2:50pm they call all of us up to the fourth floor, the case we were waiting around for was actually going to trial and it was time for Jury selection. 
     Oh man! This is it! Notice I said fourth floor? Without thinking I followed everyone up the stairs. Shut the front door, I was super panting by the time we got to the top. Luckily I still beat like ten people to the top, but I really should've taken the elevator. Also, I had no idea how long this would take, and I hadn't peed in approx two hours. I better go now! So I duck in to the restroom while trying covertly to take two puffs from my inhaler and do my business as quick as possible (I wasn't the only one thank goodness!) I tried to stealthily sneak in the courtroom, but naturally everyone had already been seated and turned to stare as I walked in; judge, lawyers, defendant, bailiff, clerks and fellow potential jurors. Awesome. I'm pretty sure I had my hand on my belly anyway and received a knowing look and smile from both the judge and the defense attorney as I muttered "Sorry!". Phew! I'm not gonna get thrown in jail for contempt of court!
     Of the fifty or so of us the judge dismissed about seven because of hardships and the rest of us gave our name and background info on ourselves. This was pretty much the only time I talked, but I was so excited!  Then the lawyers gave different scenarios and asked about them. We then got put in two jury rooms and they decided who would be picked.  The half that was in my room kinda talked and had fun. Some of us said if we wanted to do this or not and just had idle small talk. Someone brought up me and the baby and I answered the normal questions (It's a girl, her name is Karyanna and she's due in ten weeks.)  In the end a clerk came in and read a list of names of people to stay who would be serving and if not called to turn in your badge and leave.  My name did not get called. I almost stood up and said "I volunteer as tribute!" but I figured that wouldn't work. My jury duty dreams were shattered.
     As I was leaving the room someone told me to go home, put my feet up and get some rest. He'd noticed my feet turned blue while we were sitting in the courtroom. I'm pretty sure he was either a nurse or doctor that worked at OHSU. I had noticed it too and thanked him. It was quite nice, and sort of weird, that he'd noticed.  I was smart this time and took the elevator down. It was 5:10pm and I knew traffic would be horrid so I decided I better go to the bathroom again before heading out.
     My directionlessness struck again and I decided rather than stress my now hungry self out I would just take whatever streets were the least busy. I ended up at Barbur and Terwilliger which suited me just fine and I dropped down into Sellwood and was in the Clackamas area right when Nick got off work. So we met for dinner, both of us were exhausted from long days and went home to relax for the evening. 
     I must admit, that although I'm disappointed I didn't actually get to sit on a jury and had to wait the entire day just to be excused, I was quite glad when I got to sleep in this morning. Maybe I'll get called again in two years and then maybe I'll get to sit and participate. Until then, it was quite an experience!

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