I wait in a room of gray. Outside the window, the grayness expands into the sky - anomalous for Southern California - like mangoes for breakfast in Nunavut. The first hint of rain came while the world slept unknowing, secure in that nebulous hour between dark and dawn. I sensed the atmospheric shift before waking to the dim light and intermittent splashing on the eaves.
Walking down the sidewalk to the courthouse, I felt its substance - air laced with a hangover of mist. Jury duty. I hope I won’t have to serve, even though I know it’s my civic duty. I respect the law, democracy, am grateful for my relative freedom. As a Canadian, I had an excuse before, but now I’m a dual American Canadian - or as I like to think of myself, a citizen of North America - progeny of a continent. Still, I could be home writing. The challenge now will be to draw something from the experience of being in a room full of my fellow citizens, a reluctant assortment of retirees, students and a sprinkling of professionals who couldn’t wiggle out of it.
Day 1. Lunchtime. Across the room, two men have nestled into the spartan furniture and gone to sleep - as if the Jury Assembly Room were a sanctuary of comfort. One is seated, his head propped against the wall beam. Only the edge of his profile peaks out, his hands clasp a bulging belly. The long limbed Asian guy faces him, his legs stretched out in the aisle, hands thrust in the pouch of his hoodie. I don’t mean to listen, but nearby the girl with the clown red hair and polka dot nail polish is on her phone trying to reschedule a doctor’s appointment. At intervals, she coughs. I hope they’ll see her soon.
In the background, the pings and joyful beeps of a video game make silly music. It’s the guy with the pretty blue eyes, a plumber, he said. We met outside earlier, on the way to report for jury selection in a criminal case. After an hour, the court clerk gave us an update, “Good news and bad news. The defendant pled. We don’t need you for the case.”
Then the bad news. A judge on another case asked us to stick around because he might need alternates. No choice but to comply.
What I’m searching for today, my self-assigned mission, is to gather material - little gems observed to tuck away like pilfered acorns. Some day, they may add color to a future writing project. The only way to salvage the time spent in this gray room where I wait.
If you’re a reader who also writes, I’m interested to know if you consciously look for material as you go about the daily minutiae and the big events in life. Please comment.