September 16

May I be excused? (The freelancer and jury duty)

shadowIt’s been years since I felt it, but there it was today like an old friend – the “hooky” joy.

When I received my summons for jury duty, it weighed heavily on my mind. Should I try to get out of it? A few years back my partner was a juror on an ugly three-month murder trial. Sounds like it might be interesting, and it did have its Breaking Bad moments, but in the end there was just sorrow.

Still, I wanted to do my civic duty blah-blah-blah. There’s something else, too. When you do jury duty, you’re on an island. It’s an automatic pass from dog walking, school pickups, mom’s doctor appointments and, oh yeah, work. Twenty years ago I served for two days and it was like a vacation from crazy.

But that was 20 years ago and I don’t do crazy anymore. My clients and I worship at the altar of mutual respect. My pace is slower and I am a happier freelancer.

Being called for jury duty presented a problem then. Do I attempt to get excused, or do I embrace the experience?

This morning, sitting in the courthouse with dozens of my fellow citizens, waiting for the day to unfold, I was still undecided.  I was enjoying reading, knowing I couldn’t be anywhere else. Of course, it was costing me – being there meant I wasn’t making money. The reality is that the majority of people who generously fulfill their civic duty as jurors have jobs that pay them to be there. (Whoa, think on that! In order for it to be a jury of “peers” the accused needs a sweet job with lots of benefits – but I digress.) Sitting on a jury could potentially cost me thousands of dollars. And if I’m out of commission even my most loyal of clients will have to go elsewhere.

So when the court attendant told us to raise our summonses if we had a good reason to be excused from jury duty, up went my hand. Not with glee, but with resignation. When I was called to explain, and for some reason I was one of the first, they asked for proof (I provided tax documents), and then they dismissed me kindly, with a smile even.

Out I went into the sunny morning. No responsibilities, no obligations. And there it was: the wicked pleasure of truancy.

And it was time well stolen. I grabbed myself a latte and read for a long time before I told anyone I was available.

You know, I’m sure being a juror would have given me insight and perspective – a front-row seat to the judicial system in action. I’m confident, too, that it would have given my cocktail party chatter a little extra sparkle. Oh, and wouldn’t I be smug with the knowledge of secret details unavailable to the likes of you.

But really, I’d rather be playing hooky.