I had the day off today, the only advantage of having to do jury duty. I tried to get out of it by writing the court a letter in which I told them about my deep belief in the philosophy of anarchy. I also put in my letter that I always favor those that are being persecuted by the law and that I feel like justice can never be served in a court of law because the entire legal system is broken. This seemed to have little effect upon the court because they demanded my presence with the threat of a fine and possible jail time if I did not show up. So much for scare tactics.
I woke up before the sun and tried to talk myself into looking forward to a new experience. I had never served on a jury before and a part of me was proud that my state trusted me enough to hold such a position of authority. I showered, did my morning meditation and put together the nicest outfit that I could find. I gave myself enough time before having to report for duty to read the local paper at my favorite cafe and eat two sunny side up eggs with toast. It was one of the more leisurley weekday mornings that I have had in quite a long time.
After going through the scrutiny of the court registrar (personal history, finger prints and other forms of invasive identity verifications) I made my way into a small room where I took one of the two oaths that I would take that day. A fat man (why are they always fat men?) began to brief the virginal jury on the case that they were about to rule over. An older couple was suing Google because Google’s camera car drove up their private driveway and the resulting pictures were posted to Google’s street view. My first impression was that this could be an interesting case because I had always been concerned with matters of privacy and anonymity. The more I was briefed however, the more my mind began to think that this was just a ridiculous case of a suburban couple, with too much money, who was pissed off that Google showed pictures of their front lawn on the internet. I had better things to do with my time. I began to dread the impending case and wished that I could have fallen into something more interesting like murder, prostitution or a first degree robbery case.
Granted, my attitude was not good upon walking onto the jury stand. It would even be fair to say that I was bored before the case began. In my stated of impatience and agitation I thought about my students who were having to settle for an underpaid substitute teacher. A saying of the Buddha’s came to my mind, “if you can learn to enjoy waiting then you do not have to wait to enjoy,” and I settled into the fact that I was going to have to spend my day in this banal and stuffy courtroom. With my fingers crossed behind my back I was sworn to tell the truth and nothing but the truth to the court for the second time that day. I was able to have a pad of yellow legal paper and a pen upon which I wrote poems while lawyers made opening arguments and the judge briefed the jury on the legal aspects of the case. “Who gives a crap…..” was all I could cynically think. Sitting beside me was a younger Hispanic man who seemed to share a similar disinterest as mine, and for at least two hours while we listened to various testimonies about privacy infringement and the legal rights of Google earth, I noticed that he was drawing caricatures of the balding judge. By the time a lunch remission was about to begin, Johny and I seemed to be struggling to keep our eyes open.
The jury was sequestered into a small room without windows where we were given our boxed lunches. It was more like a lunch fit for lower employees than one meant for a kings and queens that we thought we were. I had known Johny for more than an hour when we began our first long discussion about how the court should have the dignity to feed us better after making us sit through such a boring case. The thought of going back into the courtroom for the rest of the afternoon weighed upon both of our shoulders like a heavy brick- and in a moment of wild inspiration I jokingly suggested that it could be fun to spend the rest of our afternoon hanging out in a strip club instead of a courtroom.
Twenty minutes later Johny and I were sneaking out of the courthouse. We traveled down a long corridor of empty, florescent lit halls and found a back door that led out onto a parking lot for police cars. We casually walked over to the cafe where I had had my leisurely breakfast and we order a lunch that was more fit for us kings. Over burgers and fries and two carrot juices Johny and I talked about immigrant rights, government control, anarchy and social revolutions. We shared similar interests and I was engaged in his stories about being a child soldier in El Salvador and coming to America on an academic scholarship twenty years ago. As we finished our carrot juices and began to leave for the afternoon of bliss spent in a strip club, Johny asked, “you think we can get busted for being runaway jury members?”
Tonight I have done my research and learned that walking out in the middle of jury duty is punishable by a $10,000 fine or a year in jail. I did not know this earlier when I tried to convinced Johny that we had nothing to loose by leaving a courtroom that fed us like undeserving pigs. Johny was not convinced by my conclusions and decided to go back to court after we had finished our lunch. I on the other hand decided to continue on with my plans. I after all work my ass off five days a week slaving away as an underpaid high school teacher who desperately wants to create social justice on planet earth. I deserved not to have to spend my afternoon off in some banal courtroom listening to a couple argue over Google earth. I deserved the afternoon that I would spend basking in the good fortune of an all nude strip club. Right?
Tonight, I am a bit concerned. All the lights of my home are off just in case the police come looking for me. I have received four phone calls from the court letting me know about the severity of the punishment that I face. I have never before been intimidated by legal threats and court ordered bribes (after all I am an authentic anarchists who has read Emma Goldman’s autobiography twice) but now that I am getting older I start to shake where once there was only a trace of fear. I see the damage my anarchist virtues may be doing to my future freedoms filled with dead end jobs because of a police record. What is this sense of responsibility that has suddenly overcome me like a quickly caught cold? Where once I would romanticize running and hiding from the law, now I am sitting in my home shaking in terrible fear, wondering if I should turn myself in for being a member of a one man run away jury.