Jury Duty, Babies, Funerals, and Car Trouble

So I spent last week in jury duty. Have you had this delightful opportunity yet? You go in for what you assume will be just a day, a blip in your life — you reschedule, postpone, mush things, sit awkwardly in a packed waiting room full of fidgety folks, look at your watch one too many times. Maybe you bring some work to keep busy, or a book, but mostly you people-watch, sigh, look at that watch again.

This time, though, it was a really long blip in my little life — four days, as a matter of fact. We were chosen (I say “we” because soon enough, the strangers were an “us”) to weigh in on a man’s life, one loose cannon whose little joyride cost a lot of people their sense of security, their prized possessions, and their peace. This person I’d never met nor heard of, dozens of witnesses and attorneys, legal clerks, a judge, and 12 other lucky jurors all became my central focus for the better part of a week.

Meanwhile, one of the cars died. My husband and the kids were stuck at home, just…stuck. More things cancelled, shuffled. More lives affected. (Can I just say, the frustration level caused by a piece of metal is ridiculous!)

My good friend called in with periodic maybe (maybe not) going-into-labor updates. Another friend’s mother slid closer to the end of life until, this morning, she died. Car trouble? Appointments shifted? Little lower on the magnitude scale.

The whole surreal week seems to be screaming for my attention. Life, the whole messy pile of it, dumped in my lap to be sorted. I heard so many stories: funny stories, pitiful stories, gut-wrenching, beautiful, hopeful stories. People I’d pass without a second glance (and have I? A dozen times? In traffic, at the mall? One of the jurors, buying doughnuts for the jury, ran into the judge, also buying doughnuts for the jury, at the store. How many times had they passed each other before in aisle 9?)… these people, all with their intricate stories, suddenly reared up in my face as if to say hey, stupid. Notice us.

So life is barreling along, 100 miles an hour, like our buddy the defendant on his wild ride in a stolen car. Usually in my own little world, I walk right by a lot of hurting people, oblivious. Wonder what I’d see if I paid better attention?

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