Parallelograms and murder

Parallelograms and murder

A few weeks ago I was called for jury selection.

[Insert “dut dut” from Law and Order here]

Thanks guamcourts.org

Thanks guamcourts.org

This made me more than terrified. You see, I avoid The Law in any possible way I can. I don’t enjoy dealing with anyone in an official capacity. I don’t fully understand why this is, but I think it might be because firm rules, and the systems and people that enforce those rules, by definition, lead to firm implications. In other words, I don’t enjoy high-profile opportunities to mess @#$* up. It’s not that I’m afraid I might break a firm rule, like murdering someone or something, because I somehow have been granted a guilt complex that would mean if I ever did something serious, on purpose or by accident, I would have to take up residence full time in the bathroom because I wouldn’t be able to stop throwing up. If we could somehow grant my complex to the rest of the world, war and crime would end immediately, but health-care costs would increase dramatically because mental institutions would be completely full of people who had hurt someone accidentally. Psychologists, and florists who make “I’m so very sorry” bouquets, would be rich enough to party in Ibiza full-time so it would become boring. You get the picture.

To expand on this fear of being around official-types, though — I feel, when I’m talking to police or judges or lawyers, that I’m going to mess up somehow by saying or doing something dumb, so I want no part of them. I don’t even like doing my taxes in case of screw-up. Big rules. Opportunity for big mistakes. Conflict. No thanks. My hands shake just thinking about it. (Allow me to intervene with a quick story about how a few months ago I got pulled over by a cop for making a right on a red when there was a sign not to, and when I opened the glove compartment to get the registration, somehow my son’s toy gun was in there, and I could just see the black butt end of it so that it looked real. Me: “Sweet Jesus, he’s going to throw me onto the hood of this car in front of my six-year-old and my dog.” He didn’t notice the gun. These are the kinds of opportunities for f’d-up-ery to which I am referring.)

So. I get that letter that is far too official, that explains that I’m an adult and a real-live citizen and that I have to go to the courthouse to be selected for a jury. I think to myself, “Well maybe it will just be tax evasion or something.” But of course, after I’ve gone through the very official metal detector (my mind: “Hm, wonder if I do somehow do have a weapon that will lead to f’d-up-ery”) and sat myself in a very official courtroom full of 150 people, and the very official judge and lawyers and defendant have come in, they very officially announce that the charge is first-degree murder.

Crap.

Do I want to be responsible for deciding whether or not someone spends his life in prison? I absolutely do not. Do I want to answer the two questions that the lawyers have dreamed up to determine whether or not I would be an impartial juror, in front of everybody? (my mind: “I’d end up answering blop blop bleep blop bloop.”) Another nay-nay.

The court-lady (my mind: “Who chooses to spend every single day doing official things and not messing up in front of a judge? She’s weird and we can’t be friends, even if she’s really nice.”) puts all of our juror numbers into a bingo wheel thingy and rolls it, picking people out one by one (my mind: “Not me not me don’t pick me not me not me not me”). Somehow my inner chanting worked and I got into the fourth group. I’m pretty sure I narrowly missed being juror #14, but I squeaked away clean and goosed the judge, kissed the metal detector guys, and danced my way out.

But it was hard to avoid thinking about the trial for the next three weeks (how long they estimated it would take). I’d be with my kids, thinking, “those jurors are looking at life-changing pictures right now.” I keep Googling the defendant’s name to see if there’s been a verdict yet, but there’s no coverage of the trial at all. This makes me wonder about all the trials that aren’t high profile that I never hear about. While we were waiting through the jury selection process that day, one of the court officials said that the courtroom we were in was one of the largest and busiest in Canada. Think of all of the people who are fighting in court for their lives, and all of the lawyers and judges and cops who are fighting to put dangerous people away; it’s going on while you’re not watching, right now. All the time.

My daughter is learning about parallel lines in school, and parallelograms. Parallel paths that never intersect. Completely different perspectives going on within the very same city. On the same streets. Side by side, but never intersecting. Until they do. Through jury duty.

Or stories.

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