If you live in a country where it is your duty to serve on a jury, than you probably already groaned as you read my title.
The thing is, serving jury duty, is more than a duty. It is an honor and a privilege.
I am the last person who you will normally find lauding America’s justice system, especially due to my own experiences seeking justice for my pain and suffering following being the victim of a hit and run. However, there are many countries in which people do not have the right to a fair trial, or a jury of their peers, where one person is in charge of deciding the fate of another, and I believe that is not just.
I am proud to be able to serve on a jury, and help someone who needs an objective opinion to deliver appropriate justice. After all, as I believe so many forget, I would want the same. So when I was called to serve, I was happy that I was finally able. When I was first called, I was unable to sit for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces, due to my injuries from being hit by the car. I had to put off my duty several times, with a medical excuse written by my doctor, until I was physically able to serve.
It’s not that I am some saint, and enthusiastically sat around for hours waiting to maybe be called onto a jury. I was bored at times like everyone else, and found the orientation video just as hokey. Although, I was able to appreciate a forced day where nothing could get done except sitting in that room waiting to be called, and I took advantage by using the time for writing.
Since jury duty is random, people of all ages, ethnicities and walks of life come together in one room. It is a strange thing, seeing a thick man with tattoos all over his neck and arms, next to a petite, elderly asian woman, both simply reading. Despite the announcement of the woman in charge of our orientation and calling our names should we be chosen to become part of the official jury pool for a case, a few people, still felt the need to conduct private business calls in front of the entire room, instead of stepping outside. I know that one woman is concerned about someone killing themselves, and thinks they should be moved to a facility. I know that one man likes to conduct business loudly, and rudely, yelling at those low on the totem pole, and demeaning them in their jobs while demanding unwarranted refunds on flights that he mistakenly booked.
Despite these distractions, I kept typing away on my keyboard, noticing that my clacking was echoed by the woman sitting across from me. I looked up, realizing that I had noticed her already, out of the hundreds of other people on our way in to the security line in the morning. There was something about her vibe, her clothing, her demeanor, that I identified with. Falling back into my writing, I didn’t notice that she had relocated, but shortly before lunch, I had to move to plug in my laptop. I mumbled an “excuse me,” as I kneeled by her feet to plug in my chord next to hers.
Earlier, I had admired her sleek, understated backpack, that was actually a laptop case, so I decided to ask her where she got it. After she told me, she complimented me on my system of using a carabiner to group my belongings together. I thanked her, briskly mentioning that it was due to my climbing experience that I always used carabiners, and this led her to asking me if I had ever climbed Mt. Whitney.
This question made me pause, and I looked at her, smiling as if she would already understand why the questions was surprising in this moment. Only ten minutes before, we had been typing across from one another when my cousin had texted me asking the very same question, and if I could share my tips and experience with her. I informed this woman of this coincidence, and went on to tell her my experience. She had to excuse herself to lunch with a friend, but asked if she could inquire more upon her return.
She arrived back from lunch just as I was pondering whether I smelled of the garlic I had on my veggies at lunch, thinking that it was impolite to have had so much garlic in a stuffy, crowded room. As she sat down, she began to apologize, in case she smelled like Fajitas from lunch. These seem like small details, but it serves to show how similar we are as people, and the subtle moments that made up a day that felt as if it was fate for us to meet.
When she sat down, she asked me where I liked to hike locally. Since it had been over a year since I had been able to hike, it took me a little while to think. I didn’t want to come right out and tell her what had happened to me, because part of moving on is not talking about it all the time. I ended up telling her of some fire roads that my boyfriend likes to bike, and I could see a shift in her eyes as she said that she wanted to get back into biking. “I have to get back on the horse, as they say.” It was words I had uttered myself when trying to find a way to express to strangers what had happened to me. I watched as her eyes betrayed that her mind was flashing to some traumatic event.
It was as if I knew before I asked, “why, what happened?” She told me that she had been in a bike accident. I couldn’t stop myself from blurting out, with a slight chuckle of disbelief, “you’re kidding, right?” Things got more surreal when I found out her accident was during the same month as my trauma. We both could understand the pain and the journey of healing of the other person so well! I could not believe as we shared our stories, and reviewed our injuries, how similar the lasting effects of the traumas are. It felt as if the world had always intended for us to experience these events and to meet one another.
In order for us to meet, we had to both have been chosen and able to serve jury duty that day. We both had to be not chosen for the official jury pool for the case being heard that day, and we both had to notice details and be drawn to the other in order to meet. In fact, as we sat, in awe of our serendipitous encounter, I told her how I had noticed her, and her awesome backpack, and she shared that she had noticed me and my Swiss laptop case. She had been in Switzerland when she had her bike accident, and it is only now that I fully recognize the weight of that symbolism.
She asked me if I wondered what the meaning of my accident was in my life. I told her that in therapy, they had spent a lot of time trying to get me to understand that the world is chaos, and that good things can happen to good people, and we will never know why. But sitting there, in that jury holding room, having this conversation with this new friend of mine, I had to wonder. How could the world be pure chaos when in a world this large, with this many people, she and I could find one another on some idle Monday serving jury?