Monday, February 3, 2014

summons


being at a jury summons is not all too dissimilar to being in an airport, or any confined space with a group of strangers with no immediate means of exit.  the difference being, of course, when you are at an airport it is mostly by choice, but a jury summons is rarely if ever a endeavor of gleeful choice. in fact, sitting with your id number clipped to your front with a plastic badge holder, you become a nameless no one, just a number, and as you see the fellows to your right and left get called to stand in line for a 29-day court case, you can’t help but feel as if you are watching a comrade line up for the showers at a concentration camp, you sympathize but can do nothing to aid them in their fate…it was nice coexisting with you briefly…

most of us here are filled with internal groans of the great inconvenience of being ripped out of our routine, taken away from the task list of our lives: our activities and social/work obligations.  and most are equally flustered by the not-knowing of our immediate future: will we be asked to serve on a panel of jurors or not? how long with the case be?  we are uncomfortable with our uncertainty.

as you sit around in the room, you assume everyone’s story is the same as yours.  i mean you don’t, but you do.  you assume this because it is your only frame of reference – your story – and we are primarily egocentric creatures.  understanding our own story is complex and exhausting enough without trying to consider the differences of the stories being woven around you.

but, if you are stuck in such a confined space with a group of strangers with no immediate means of exit, and you did not bring sufficient distractions to occupy your thoughts, you begin to wonder what everyone’s story is.

the yuppie to your right, for instance, the one in a stiff suit and forehead in hand as he feverously navigates his iphone is making no attempts at disguising his displeasure.  you are anxious that the depth of his scowl may leave permanent scars on his face.  he is likely internally chanting, “time is money!” and he has no time for this, and he will never have enough money.

the young girl in the mustard cardigan and a “got science?” sticker on her BPA-free water bottle is clearly a college student.  she is not bothered by the environment, just making the best use of her time.  after all, with her highlighter and study materials in tow, being here is just as good as being in a library.

then there is the white-haired man seated nearby.  wearing weathered leather shoes and a faded blue flannel button-up.  he’s reading the paper and looks as cozy as he would look in his own kitchen, eating eggs and bacon.  he wouldn’t admit this to anyone from a sense of stubborn pride, but he hopes to be kept here all day because he so rarely gets to be among a group of people anymore. 

and if you are not sufficiently distracted and let your thoughts wander, you might meander deeper into how well you know the story of those in your life, those who are not strangers to you.  how often do you sit and read the details of their internal ambitions and hopes, the ones they barely whisper about?  how frequently do you seek to know the inner-most depths of what weighs heavy on their hearts?  do you ask the hard questions that will require a sacrifice of your time?  do you look for ways they need you to become part of the story? a co-traveler on their journey to a ill-defined horizon? maybe our routine and our plans for our day are not always as impossible to abandon as we might  imagine.

a jury summons is a call to a civic duty, it is an obligation to lay down your routine for a confined period of time because we legally have no means of escape.  but, it can also be a medium of awakening to the ways you might live more actively in the present, and an illumination of all the ways we chose not to do so.