For the last two weeks I’ve been serving my queen and country, making the streets a safer place for your children to live in and listening to middle class white men in wigs droning on, all in the name of jury duty. Naturally I’ve had a lot of waiting around to do. When in limbo, I began to pen my observations; not about my case as i’m sure you know the first rule of jury duty is…..but my thoughts on the whole process, and mainly, the behaviors of people within it.
If there is one thing you learn from being locked in a room with over one hundred,very varied members of society, it’s that human are animals. I mean so in regards to our instincts, and needs.
In the same way a cat stretches out its chin in search of a stroke of validation, humans allow unsolicited vulnerability to consume them, until they bear all to make them appear just the opposite.Not that it is always that deep, of course, yet for the most part I felt and saw an underlying theme of people craving acceptance, in one way or another.
A good place to start on such a quest is common ground; we all stand on it, but it’s never beneath us in the game of passing time and making friends. “My son is starting university next week….Dave’s in his second year down in Bournemouth…daughters getting married in the spring….oh, I got my hat from there for my Simon’s…..can’t stand this place, what’s with all the waiting around?…bloody joke this is……..yeah, Henry Fonda. What’s it called?…12 angry men….lunch?”.
Magnitised by social class, groups crowd around circular tables sipping instant coffee and groaning in unison. The term opposites attract gets thrown around a lot, but in this case that’s an unfulfilled prophecy. Two men,of a similar age and build, both in burgundy t-shirts and faded jeans, are engaged in conversation. They hit it off over an agreement of minds, too boring for me to remember exactly what, though it happened moments ago. The conversation flows; drier than a towel washed without softener and left out in the sun to crisp, but relentless all the same.
The person in the room talking the loudest is often the one with the least to say. On this occasion a women; loud and liberal, acting as a platform for others to spark conversation. That way she doesn’t have to say too much, but is still emitting an air of importance. The business men and women in suits sit alone in the corners of the room, arched over laptops. Their bony fingers frantically forming emails; the fruits of which they hope will line their pockets. Phones to flesh, they pace sporadically. Umming and eering, yes this, no that.
Wondering how long i’ll be here, just like everyone else, I drop a coin in the honesty box and make myself a tea. The sink is making a loud, continuous chugging noise, like the gargling of a possessed infant. The women beside me laughs, and as I meet her gaze I smile. I’m not sure either of us find it funny, but we’re obliged by social graces. I scuttle back to my seat, looking at the floor to avoid any further eye contact. I’ve done well not to engage in small talk thus far, I don’t want to ruin it now.
The speakers crackle to a start, bringing much desired news. “The Jurors for court eight, due to further delays you are permitted to leave the building for a cigarette or some fresh air. Please be back and signed in with me in 20 minutes”. A dull cheer echoed around the room. Now is when the self-categorisation becomes obsolete, for everyone has their vices.
Prowling to the exit like a herd to water, they acknowledge this commonality they share, pleased that they’re not the only ones. Moaning once more, between puffs and breaths, they talk, tiny words, until conversations dwindle. As the cherry meets its end, a sense of relief washes over them and they retreat back to their comfortable groupings in the assembly.