I had jury duty on Tuesday. I hadn't been to the courthouse for a few years and was surprised at the changes that had been made. First of all, they moved the entrance around the block...but they didn't move the juror parking lot so you have to walk twice as far as you used to. Security has been bumped up since the last time I was there, too. I had gone in early so I got a good spot in the jury parking lot and I went through security without too much hassle. Then I walked down the hall to the juror assembly room, a huge room with about 200 chairs facing a counter with four stations on it. There was a sign telling us to form a line down the center aisle and proceed to the counter when called forward. There were two or three people in front of me. I checked in, turned in the questionnaire that came in the mail with my summons, was given an identical questionnaire to fill out, and then I sat down to fill out the form and wait for whatever was next. The summons said to report before 8:30 am. It was about 7:40 am when I sat down. After I finished the questionnaire, I set it aside and picked up the book I brought along (I have done this before!). More people started filing in; I heard them talking about the line to go through the security check wrapping around the building and the line for the check-in counter winding down the hall all the way to the security area. So coming in early was smart. Some things never change. Thank you, U S Army, for making me paranoid about being late.
As I sat, eaves-dropping on half-a-dozen different conversations, I also had a chance to watch a lot of people - one of my favorite activities. My first observation was that most of the people who worked for the jury commission were very professional and...well...nice. Much nicer than at the DMV. They were dressed nicely, too.
My second observation was that the people who came in for jury duty were an odd mix. Some dressed like they were there to do their civic duty with dignity. Some weren't. I mean, some were just a half-bubble above jammies and mules. I am not a dedicated follower of fashion; I wore a polo shirt, levis, and boots. Combat boots - long story. I was being comfortable and expecting to be there for a very long day. Not making a political statement or vying for notice...just being comfy and warm. There were a couple of ladies in front of me who looked like they expected to get to the gym before the day was over. Another looked like she was expecting to go out to dinner soon. Several of the ladies wore the standard Colorado winter uniform: skin tight levis, bulky-knit sweater or puffy parka, muk-luks or high-heeled boots, and either eighties big hair or ponytails. Most of the men were dressed like me, with minor variations. A few of the men were in coat and tie, a few were in levis and sports coats, and a lot of them were in "work clothes"...construction-worker chic.
Then this little fella walked to the front of the room. He had gray, shoulder-length hair that was wet and slicked back. He wore a "cowboy-cut" suit, a white western shirt with a bolo tie, and cowboy boots. Not just ordinary cowboy boots, but the kind you usually see at Saturday night dances south of the border. Long and sharply pointed toes and with heels that were at least four inches tall and sloped at about a 45 degree angle. I know a thing or two about boots - I am not an expert but I do know that the tapered toes are designed to facilitate putting your foot in a stirrup and the higher heels are supposed to keep your foot from sliding through the stirrup. These boots were way beyond the original design functions. But the worst thing about this guy was his walk. With every step he would clunk the heel down as his foot was on the way forward...don't know if you get the image of that but I know you have seen it done before. Every time he ka-thumped...ka-thumped...ka-thumped up the aisle I wanted to take him to the floor and work my ground game on him. He went into the room marked "Jury Commissioner", and every fifteen minutes or so he walked up and down the aisle with a cup in his hand. I don't know if he was the commissioner or if he was some flunky who had to bring the commissioner his coffee, but he became the focus of a lot of my frustration about being there. At about the time I was rising up to do a rear take-down on him my number was called and I had to stand in line.
I know that we fought a war for our independence some two-hundred-plus years ago. The battle cry was "No taxation without representation" and we drubbed the Brits over all sorts of grievances. But being a semi-student of history and having lived large chunks of my life in Europe, I can't help but think that one big reason settlers came here in the first place was the archaic dress codes they had to suffer in the old country. The colorful "costumes" from Bavaria and the Black Forest areas of Germany were required wear back in the day. And if you watched the premiere of "Downton Abbey" the other night, you had a good illustration of how important proper dress was to folks from both sides of the pantry. We are free from all that nowdays, mostly. It seems as if the pendulum has swung clear over to the other side.
Out in the hallway, on our way to the courtroom, we were halted and had to wait for awhile for whatever it was we had to wait on. I had a couple of other observations. Lawyers are very easy to spot in the halls. They all look like TV characters. I don't know if TV characters are modeled after real lawyers or if lawyers model themselves to look like TV characters...but all the types are present and on display. The lady lawyers, too. Paralegals dress like they want to be lawyers...or they dress like they are on their way to a disco.
The folks who are in the courthouse as defendants...well, I don't understand their thinking. They look like TV people, too. The ones you see on "Cops" or "Wildest Police Chases" or ...you get it, I guess. It was way cold out and people were in wife-beaters, flip-flops, women wearing sweats and mules or mini-skirts and tube-tops, and this on their way to the courtroom to convince a judge or jury that they didn't do whatever they did.
And the snippets of conversations that wafted over as they walked past: "I TOLD that mutha-f+++++ cop that sh** wasn't mine...that sorry son of..."......."Wasn't my fault, I wasn't aimin' at him...I was aimin at ******..." "...can't do that, can they? I can't do 18 months for some bogus...." "...illegal search, they gotta show you the paper, right? That'll get the gun tossed, right?..."
After about 15 minutes of standing in the hall with the soap opera passing us by on both sides, we had to turn around and walk back to the jury assembly room. Turns out our trial was cancelled. We were released and I was home by 10:30 am.
I guess I am an old fuddy-duddy. People are still free to dress any way they want and long may it be so. I just don't see why you would want to wear pants with the beltline below the cheeks of your butt so you have to hold your pants up when you walk and you make folks nervous when you sit...looks like you are dumping on the chair. But that's just me, I guess. I like the ability to walk down the street with two hands free to carry stuff or hold MC's hand...sigh.