We showed up at 9 a.m. at the courthouse, half a courtroom full of varied individuals. The man sitting beside me, Sean, was an art director maybe in his late 30s.
In front of me were two black women who seemed to know each other. A lot of men in shirtsleeves, not a single tie. One 65ish woman in a tres svelte suit and a killer good haircut. A tired-looking blonde girl within days of having a baby. A very tall lanky young fellow with a Dutch name several rows ahead. (I know his name because he was one of the nine mildly stunned when their names were drawn, not for the trial of the day, but for a year-long appointment to the Grand Jury which meets once a month.)
At about 11 a.m. we were dismissed for three hours for the court to do preliminary business. I worked on my novel–minor changes on hard copy in pen–first at the hip, granola-ish General Store Cafe (caramel apple cake and decaf) and then when the Council on Aging started pouring in for their lunch meeting, at Hardee’s (medium-sized sweet iced tea, if you must know; could have done worse.)
At 2 p.m., we all returned and filled the pews again. All of us on time, nobody skipping town. The judge Narley Cashwell, who’d done an impressive job of being clear in his explanations without being condescending, then dismissed us. The defendant, charged with assaulting a policeman, possession of drugs, etc., had decided at lunch to plead guilty. The jury pool erupted in applause at the news.
While it was an interesting little adventure in, for me, a different town than usual, none of us really longed to be there, it seemed. We were all taking time away from something else.
My point: we have a bold system of government that relies on people showing up, I do know there’d be trouble for anyone who didn’t, but trouble is not always a deterrent. Our system really does rely on any and every person. I know it makes mistakes, but still… It made me kinda proud to see it again, genuinely democratic, in action.