this is what happens when a novelist enters the jury pool

(Or, this is what happens when a novelist who happens to be me enters the jury pool.)

You get random observations jotted down in a spiral notebook.

First, let me say that the entire process was fascinating. It was my first time, you see (yup … jury duty virgin, y’all) and the only things upon which I could base my expectations were what I’d seen in movies or on TV and what I’d read in books.

Of course things moved along more slowly than they do in those instances. Lots of sitting around waiting for stuff to happen. Which left me with lots of time on my hands and no electronic devices. Just me, a spiral notebook, a pen and my brain.

Danger, Will Robinson …

I starting writing down my observations about the other people in my pool:

  • The pool was mostly white and largely female.
  • As people arrived, in the early moments, everyone chose seats that were not next to people already seated. As the room began to fill, though, and there were fewer seats available, people chose seats that were “comfortable” … i.e. women sat next to women, older people nearer people their age, same with younger people. There were few ethnicities that I could tell, but they also tended to gravitate toward one another. Men tended to sit toward the back and women toward the middle.
  • The people in the front row didn’t seem to occupy themselves with something they brought. In the other rows, I counted two people with newspapers, and several people with books. All the people who brought books were women. There were several hardcover books, several paperbacks, and one textbook. I bet more people would have been reading books if we’d been allowed electronic devices. The switch to digital means a lot of readers no longer have physical copies. Intriguing. I also bet more people would have brought newspapers if print readership hadn’t fallen off. The two people with newspapers were definitely of the oldest segment in the room.
  • One man brought a mini-cooler.
  • The room was cold and a couple women who may not have normally been coffee drinkers got up to make a cup to “keep their hands warm.” After they came back from getting coffee, they chatted. Nobody else was talking to anyone at this point.
  • Several of the men at the back were sitting with their arms crossed, eyes scanning the room, with closed expressions. No men in the room were sitting directly beside another man; there was always either an open chair or a woman between them.

After we were finally told they would start the process in a few moments, people loosened up and began talking to one another. Lots of people got up to take restroom breaks at this point.

  • Median age seems to be mid 40s.
  • One thirty-ish dude with a hipster beard. Noticed him in the parking lot when we were walking in.
  • Several men wearing ball caps, which I didn’t notice until a woman came in and asked all the men to please remove their hats while in the building. All complied, which I found interesting. I wonder if any younger men, if asked to do something like that, would have done so without question. Seems like one of those traditions sort of going away.
  • Most people were dressed casually. One woman in a dress suit who is very perky and peppy and talking to everyone in the room … almost like she’s a hostess circulating at a party to make sure her guests all feel welcome.
  • Hipster guy is now sitting in the front row looking around. Occasionally glances toward me and my notebook, but looks away when I make eye contact.
  • A young professional looking guy finally showed wearing khaki pants, a dress shirt, no tie. He looks decidedly annoyed, or like he just smelled something bad. Sat near the middle and is fidgeting and strumming fingers. Looks like a douchebag.
  • A mid-thirties Latino guy walked in. he has a chinstrap beard. So far the only obviously Hispanic member of the jury pool.
  • Young professional just walked up to one of the clerk of court workers and explained that he is “central to the needs of his organization” and that he has to go. (Good call on the douchebag assessment, deneane elise.)
  • Hipster dude keeps getting up and wandering to the door that leads to the designated smoking area (which happens to be right beside me.) He opens the door and looks out, glances toward me again, and then goes back to his seat. Has happened three times so far.
  • Speaking of the smoking area, we’ve been here a couple hours and nobody has taken a smoke break at all. Fascinating. We are in South Carolina, after all.

They finally came in and began giving us instructions, so I put my notebook away. After the instructions, the lawyers and all the clerk of court staff came in and we began roll call. We were to stand up, state our name, our occupation, our marital status and our spouse’s marital status (if applicable.) Several things made perfect sense after this happened:

  • After I stood and stated that I am both an analyst and a novelist, hipster dude nodded to himself as if it finally made sense. I got why as soon as he stood and stated that he is a staff writer for our local newspaper.
  • Peppy hostess chick is a cruise director.
  • The oldest-looking dude in the room (who was dressed all in black, shiny shirt, gold chains) gave his marital status as “single.” Not divorced. Not widowed. Single. (Not shocked.)
  • Young professional again let everyone know how important he is to his organization.
  • A clump of women who had gravitated toward one another when we were all getting seated all turned out to be stay at home moms with professional husbands. It’s like they could smell it on each other. (Or maybe it was that they were all wearing the same uniform: French manicure, caramel brown hair with strategic highlights, and some piece of jewelry with the South Carolina palmetto tree on it.)
  • Tiny girl talking to nobody had on the cutest pair of gray Blowfish boots I totally wanted to steal.
  • A guy tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I’d said I did modeling. (Good lord, really? I’m sitting here with no makeup, I’m 5’3″ and ~delicate cough~ curvy.) I told him no, that I’d said I’m a novelist. He apologized and said he’s an amateur photographer, and then waited a moment (for me to be impressed? for me to be flattered he’d mistaken me for a model?) before returning to his seat.
  • Young professional began pacing at the back of the room.

They finally came and herded us up to the courtroom. Jury selection was completely awesome … loved every single second of it. I’m half tempted to see how and if I’d like to get into some line of work that would put me in a courtroom … just for the people watching. I adore any chance to observe human behavior, and jury selection is one of the best ways, because you actually get some of your guesses about their lives answered.

Now. Break over. I have to put the finishing touches on my rough draft (totally unrelated to anything jury-ish) and send it off to my editor (who probably thinks I’ve fallen off the face of the earth or maybe into one of my parentheticals.)

TTFN, lovelies!

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