Jury duty is widely regarded as a huge hassle to most people, and has about the same reputation as the DMV. So when I received my summons letter in the mail, I felt a huge wave of dread wash over me. I tried to postpone it as long as I could, but eventually I gave in and set a date to attend. I went into it expecting the worst, but I’ve got to say, it was actually pretty awesome. I’d like to preface this with the fact that I did not get selected for a case, and that may have affected my overall experience. Here’s why jury duty is actually pretty awesome.
1. They show a hilariously dated instructional video that was made in the late 80s to early 90s.
I’m not exactly sure why, but it seems like every instructional video ever made was made in a five year span from 1988 to 1993. The video they showed at the start of jury duty was no exception. The guys at foundfootagefest.com have scoured VHS tapes from all over the country to find some of the most hilarious ones. Here’s an example of a McDonald’s instructional video on how to be a janitor. I’m not sure if an entire video is necessary to explain cleaning, but it gives you an idea of what the instructional video for jury duty was like.
At one part of the video they interviewed a lady who said, “I didn’t mind jury duty. You just wait around. I bought a book so it wasn’t bad at all.” This is great because they’re trying to sell you on something that you’re already legally required to do and have shown up for. They also noted that many jurors stay in touch afterwards and remain good friends, which I find slightly hard to believe. It should also be noted that the jurors in the instructional movie looked as if it was the role they were born to play: jury duty members. It’s hard to explain, but people serving jury duty all look like people serving jury duty. It’s kind of the same way that all rodeo people look like rodeo people. There was also a guy featured in the video that said, “I felt good about myself actually putting what I thought was common sense into people’s minds.” This sounds normal if you glaze over it, but what he is essentially saying is, “I had to try and convince crazy people to use logic and reason.”
2. The people watching is on point.
People watching is probably one of my favorite pastimes, and there’s no shortage of people watching in the jury duty waiting room. Even the people running the place are fascinating. There was a guy there whose whole job was seemingly to tell people to grab a piece of paper when they came in. I know there’s a lot of talk on how robots are going to be replacing a lot of jobs, but in this particular instance even a sheet of paper that just read, “Please take one” would have probably done the trick.
After the video, they brought up an 83 year old judge that welcomed everyone. Much to my amusement, he treated it much like an open mic, often pausing for laughter at “jury duty humor” punch lines that never quite landed. I appreciated the effort though. After the brief opening, he went off on a strange tangent about how he loves the show Law and Order and that Jack McCoy is a real handsome guy which is like the most perfect thing that an 83 year old judge could say. Of course he loves that show. He probably wants to be Jack McCoy. Honestly, after hearing him talk him up, I think I’d like to be Jack McCoy.
3. You get a two hour lunch break.
I don’t know any other job where you’re given a full two hour lunch break. Even when you’re given one at most jobs, you’re not paid during that time. I lived close to the courthouse so I walked home, grilled some food, and had a beer on our patio before returning to serve my civic duty. It was probably the best lunch break I’ve ever had at a job. Then, when I returned at 1:30 we just sat around for about another hour and were then dismissed before 3:00. The announcement at the end of the day was met by some audible exclamations and even got a few people applauding that it was over. It was the easiest and shortest work day I’ve ever had, and I once worked as a lifeguard at a small town swimming pool.
4. You get to strike up a conversation with someone you’ll probably never see again.
I’m fascinated with the idea of how many people you come into contact with or cross paths with in your life that you’ll never see again. I think it’s why I love airport bars so much. If you didn’t have to go through security, I’d go to airport bars all the time. While waiting to see if my name was called, I had a great conversation with a guy who got a flat tire on his way to jury duty. By the way, getting a flat tire on your way to jury duty sounds like the opening montage you’d see in a movie where a guy is down on his luck. The only thing missing was someone driving by and splashing a mud puddle onto his only pair of dry clothes. Unlike most of the other people in the room, this guy seemed to understand that by sitting and chilling in this room for a couple of hours you’re basically just getting a day off of work. Thank you man whose name escapes me. It was great talking to you, and I’ll probably never see you again in my life.
5. You can finally do that thing you’ve been meaning to do.
This is probably the most important reason on why jury duty is actually pretty great. If you don’t get selected, jury duty is a very stress free event. Over the course of about 5 hours, the only thing I was required to do was write the date and my name on a piece of paper and then tear said piece of paper off and fold it into a plastic name badge. There is no better place to get something done than being stuck in a jury duty waiting room for multiple hours. You could start that book that you’ve always meant to read, catch up on a new Netflix series, or search for and apply for some new jobs as you realize you’re enjoying jury duty more than your current job.
So when you get that envelope in the mail, don’t look at it as a sentencing, look at it as a chance for you to get that thing done that you’ve been meaning to do, and enjoy some people watching along the way.