A Desperate Juror
“Desperation: A state of despair, typically one that results in rash or extreme behavior.”
Four hours ago I stepped through my front door after a typical day for somebody whose blog is entitled “Weirdthingshappentoweirdpeople.”
When my eyes opened this morning, I couldn’t have predicted that by the end of the day, I’d find myself standing in the center of my bedroom floor holding a letter and screaming at the top of my lungs a blood curdling scream. That letter would prove to be the last straw. It would be the straw that shattered my psyche.
I woke up at noon after staying up until three am watching Netflix. While my brother showed me a four year old singing a rap on YouTube, I ate Greek yogurt for breakfast, questioning my decision from the previous night at Target in the yogurt aisle where I had so confidently and health-consciously chosen “non-fat” and “plain” as my desired adjectives among a myriad of fantastical yogurt options.
I then drove to the local community college and let my best friend in the dental hygiene program there tear through my gum line for three hours measuring things I never knew could be measured. I told her she had taken our friendship to a new level when she grabbed my tongue with gauze and said, “I’m going to pull your tongue out now and look at it.” I returned home once more to my brother who opened the front door before I could touch the handle. “Welcome home, Madam,” he said. “Can I show you another YouTube video?” He was met with a glare and a trip to the kitchen, after which I emerged with more of that regrettable Greek yogurt since I’m unofficially diagnosed with IBS and didn’t go grocery shopping last week. My options were eat random food items and have a satisfied full tummy that leaves me doubled over four hours later OR eat another bowl of that yogurt and hang in there with the hunger until I go grocery shopping tomorrow. Obviously, I picked the latter, wanting to avoid the pain, wondering why I didn’t buy more food items at Target the night before.
I went to the gym after that (actually, after rejecting my brother’s offer to show me yet another video as I was trying to leave the house. He was met with a threat that was reminiscent of, “I’ll kill the next person who tries to get me to watch a YouTube video as I am trying to walk out the door to leave”).
I helped in a kids’ kickboxing class.
Then I trained in my own kickboxing class, and I got my right arm round kicked by a girl who had gotten into a car accident two hours prior and was fairly frazzled. I still can’t make a fist while I type this because my thumb tendon (I took anatomy but have absolutely no recollection of what tendon connects to the thumb) seems to have a nasty contusion.
On the way out the door of the gym, my boyfriend suddenly became my brother and said, “Hey, can I show you this YouTube video?” I had sworn earlier that day that if one more person asked to show me a YouTube video while I was trying to walk out the door, I would kill them. I just hadn’t anticipated that the next person to stop me in a doorway with a YouTube video would be my boyfriend. The original threat had been aimed at my brother, notorious for making me late (because doorways are really the best places to share YouTube videos with friends and family). I was starved, my entire forearm was red and throbbing, and I had forgotten my jacket at home. But I doubted I had the energy or willpower to kill the love of my life, so, naturally, I smiled and said, “Sure.”
I then watched a cocky muay thai fighter’s nose get bashed in by a round kick, questioning my “Sure” about as much as I did the nonfat plain Greek yogurt I’d purchased the night before.
When I finally stepped through the front door tonight, I had two things I needed to accomplish before I fell asleep that night: Eat dinner, and binge watch Desperate Housewives on Hulu. That was it.
I am sitting here typing, having not accomplished either of those.
…Because I made the dreadful mistake of opening my mail on the cabinet by the front door when I returned home from the gym tonight before doing anything else.
It’s funny how a letter can change absolutely everything.
A year and a month ago, I got my first jury summons while I was in my first year of nursing school. That’s when I learned letters can change everything, even now in the age of cell phones and computers and other technology.
Being in the middle of nursing school, I of course postponed for a year, thinking I’d be able to serve in the summer. The date I chose to be available for would have put me smack dab in the middle of the outreach trip to Mexico I’d planned to go on with my church, so I cancelled my participation in that trip, sucked it up, and called in every night for a week when the day finally arrived. I never had to appear in court. I considered that fortunate, given that I’d had a diagnostic colonoscopy a week and a half prior for my IBS symptoms, and had complications in my recovery which resulted in me losing ten pounds, a trip to the ER, and the “strong suspicion of a micro-perforation as a complication of the colonoscopy.”
After that I unsuspectingly opened a letter that said, “Thank you for serving in the local court system! This letter is your receipt, proof that your time spent calling in is the equivalent of serving in a trial. You will not be summoned for jury for the following length of time: ONE YEAR.” That “one year” was printed in big bold letters below. I was so relieved. Again, the power of a mere letter, reinforced.
It’s been about two weeks since then, and up until today, my current state of emotion could be depicted by the following motto: “Phew! Dodged that one.” I had spent weeks picturing myself tearing out my life support tubes as I crawled out of ICU to sit through a trial in the local courts with raging sepsis tearing its way through my veins and slowly destroying all of my internal organs. After all that, it wasn’t a full blown perforation, so no ICU for me, and I never even had to go to court! “Talk about drama queen,” I’ve been joking with myself since then along with the “Phew, dodged that one,” one-liner.
Well, in my great genius, after cancelling my trip to Mexico, and planning for the worst case scenario (that I might end up being picked to serve on a jury and that that trial might be a VERY long one), I planned my trip to go see my childhood nanny and Niagara Falls for the opposite pole of summer. I’d end up returning home with a few days to spare before hell, er, nursing school resumed.
With that much margin in between my jury summons and my trip, nothing could go wrong.
Tonight, when I walked through that front door, I was just under a month away from that trip. That trip that would be my first vacation in years. That trip that would have energized me before school. That trip that would leave me with photos to post on Facebook so that all my classmates traveling through Europe, doing nursing preceptorships at the Mayo Clinic, and getting married (where do they find the money to do all that???? We aren’t even nurses yet!!!) would have evidence that I have a life and did something beyond laying on the couch recovering from a colonoscope wreaking havoc on my intestinal mucosa. And I know that makes me sound shallow and superficial, but boy, would that trip have been nice to have had. And clearly, by the way I’m writing this in the third conditional, I’m obviously now longer having it.
So what was in that letter?
Wouldn’t you like to know…
I can say that my plans for the evening of binge-watching Desperate Housewives was now out of the question. Because, just minutes after opening that letter, I threw it on the floor without saying a word, grabbed my pajamas, and threw myself headfirst into the hottest shower I could tolerate. I didn’t even turn the handle of the cold faucet into the on position (which isn’t saying much, given that our hot water heater is probably as old as dirt, but it makes it sound more dramatic if you didn’t know that tid bit).
And then, minutes after my shower, I tore my file cabinet and kitchen apart looking for the receipt from the court saying I’d be free from Jury Duty for one year.
Then, minutes after NOT finding it (and letting out a blood curdling scream of exasperation and despair and my dad breaking the news to me that it wouldn’t apply in my case since I’d never set foot in the courtroom), I was laying on my back like a dead starfish while crying on my bedroom floor.
And, minutes after that (yes, the saga continues), I was curled up in the fetal position on my bed (in a pile of laundry I’d intended to fold while I binge-watched Desperate Housewives). The letter was now in my father’s hands in the adjacent room while I sobbed (loudly and with an open window so the whole neighborhood probably heard) that I didn’t want to be a nurse, let alone an adult anymore, that this was just one cupcake too much.
“HOW HARD CAN NURSING SCHOOL BE?” I blubbered through tears of hopelessness. “Grandma died, I fell behind. I caught up. I cancelled my trip to Mexico because I got called in for Jury duty. Then I didn’t have to serve. Then I got a scope poked up my guts and still no cure. I missed the advanced cardiac life support and EKG classes because I was sick. AND THEN…..this. THIS!?!?!? HOW?????”
So, what was in that letter?
Well, the envelope said, “Administrative Office of the United States Courts, Office of the Clerk, U.S. District Court.”
Inside was a Federal Jury Summons.
It hadn’t even been a month since my last jury summons to the superior court. And because I’d never sat in on the trial, it didn’t excuse me from this summons.
The date of my new summons?
The exact dates of my trip with my brother to see our childhood nanny.
I had made plan A, B, C, D, E, and F when I got that initial superior court summons a year ago, postponed, and planned my summer and all my trips around the worst case scenario with a really long trial…but the U.S. Courts whipped out plan G, a plan I hadn’t even fathomed, a summons to a federal trial just less than a month later.
So when I ran out of energy to cry and threaten my own life and consider a career change or quitting nursing school because I couldn’t handle the stress, I ran through my options like a practical adult with my father, beginning with what I felt was the biggest problem, addressing the fact I’d never even driven to the city on my own (I’m not melodramatic at all, and I’m clearly a fully functional adult).
After we solved that dilemma, we ran through the options for the actual problem. Here’s what lay before us: I respond to the summons, I postpone the summons, I try to excuse the summons, and I ignore the summons, pay $1,000, and spend 3 days in a federal prison.
We DID consider all of those options. I’m totally not even joking.
ALL the options.
I had planned on watching Desperate Housewives tonight. But now, I didn’t have to. I had my own show to watch: it was my life, and it was entitled, “A Desperate Juror.”
I had won the statistically improbable unlucky hand of cards, and I had to deal with it.
Option one: respond to the current summons.
Pros: I would get it done right away and have this out of the way. Plus, I’d get to sit in on my first trial, something I’d been dying to do (…up until nursing school. In fact, I’d been telling people that I was really hoping to serve on a Jury in a Federal Court for my first juror experience). Cons: I’d cancel my trip, lose out on seeing my nanny and a vacation. I’d risk being stuck on a long trial, and that close to the beginning of classes (we’re talking just days), I could miss the first part of my last year of nursing school which would either set me back and affect my GPA and add stress to my plate at best (which means awesome bowel fun when you have IBS), or at worst, set me back in the program (depending on how long of a trial we are talking here, and how much school I miss), leaving me graduating with the class below me.
Given my current statistical luck, I didn’t want to gamble with getting picked for a lengthy trial and missing any school (especially given the fact that we have a pharmacology exam, a BIG one we’ve been studying for all summer, on the first day of classes).
So, I moved on to consider my next option, postponement: If I postponed, the max time they allow for postponement is six months. I did the math. I’d be smack dab in the next semester then. There’s no question about if I would miss school if I got picked. At least I had a few days’ margin if I responded to the summons now. If I responded then and got chosen, I’d be guaranteed to miss school. Plus, I’d be missing those days out of my last semester.
That was an even worse scenario than the first one. That idea was definitely out.
My third option: Excuse the summons. I DO have a medical condition. And yes, sometimes it means I’m doubled over in severe pain for sixteen hours and can’t eat. And yes, sometimes it lands me in the ER. And yes, sometimes it leaves me screaming “I’m not going to make it!” in my carpool’s car as diarrhea threatens to destroy my last ounce of self-esteem (thank God my carpool is a fellow sympathetic nursing student). And yes, sometimes my condition leaves me in so much pain I nearly faint in nursing school and end up in the student health center.
BUT…and this is a very big BUT, as my former basketball coach used to say, that’s once in a while. It’s not every day. I can obviously hold down a job and make it through nursing school. It’s a day here, a few days there, a week here, an ER trip or doctor visit there.
So I’m not sure how well the medical card will fly. Although, I can honestly imagine myself triggering an episode because of the stress of being called in, and then flying out of the courtroom to find a bathroom screaming “I’m not going to make it,” very reminiscent of my carpool days with a much less understanding audience.
But that’s just my imagination.
Therefore, I considered this and emailed my physician asking that since he knows my condition inside and out, he write a detailed explanation of my condition with the request for me to be excused from serving.
But, if I were playing devil’s advocate for myself here, I could put myself in the juror selection committee’s shoes and see myself reading that letter and saying, “We got another IBS one here. Yeah, her and a thousand others. She’s fine,” and then stamping it with a big red “REJECTED,” or whatever kind of thing they use to indicate that somebody’s medical excuse isn’t valid enough to excuse them from jury duty.
“My patient is undergoing end-of-life palliative care for stage four cancer,” is something I could see a juror selection committee having no problem approving to not serve.
However, “My patient may shit herself or be in immense pain during a trial…or she may not if you hit her on a good day,” is a less-than-convincing argument.
So, for the sake of gambling, I’ll email my doctor, send in the letter to the court, and make the argument. But, again, given my luck, say it doesn’t work?
I’m back with option one, or….option four, one that we hadn’t considered yet:
“What’s the consequence of NOT serving?” I pointed to the letter and asked my dad to read it out loud.
“You may be fined up to $1,000 and be imprisoned for three days,” he read to me.
Knowing both my health, my vacation, and most importantly, my education were on the line (I recalled how hard it was for me to make up two missed days last year after my grandma died), I was officially a desperate juror.
After some silence on both our parts as we ACTUALLY considered this last possibility, I said, “I have a thousand dollars in my savings. And I survived boot camp. I can survive three days in a federal prison,” I offered up as a suggestion. “Would that guarantee they wouldn’t summon me again that year as long as I served my time?”
My dad paused and then said, “Well, maybe…Oh wait, but then you’d have a criminal record with a federal offense.”
“Aaaaaand then I wouldn’t get my RN,” I finished.
“Well, there go my options,” I sighed, and laid back on the floor.
“Do you realize you just considered going to spend three days in prison to get through nursing school?” My dad asked me.
“It really doesn’t surprise me,” I replied.
And then we both started dying of laughter that it had actually come to that.
“I can’t believe I was really considering it there for a second,” I said, my eyes watering up from the laughing.
“You have really got the best luck of anybody I’ve ever known, kid. I’m not gonna be taking you to Vegas with me any time soon.”
Again, I sighed. “I’ll email my instructors, email my doctor, play the medical card. If it doesn’t fly, I’ll just gamble with fate and hope that I don’t get stuck on a trial that interferes with classes that start just a few days later. And hope that I don’t poop myself in a federal courtroom. And hope that I don’t get set back a year in nursing school for missing too much material.”
That thought really sunk in. That made me reconsider the prison option all over again.
“Dude. If I have to take a year off of nursing school to jump in with the next graduating class because I missed too much school from a trial…I might really consider changing careers. I don’t think I could spend another year in nursing school. I just don’t. This career choice has literally dragged me through every ringer possible. I think I might actually quit if it came to that. I never thought I’d get to that point. I have no idea what I’d do instead. But might actually consider quitting.”
“But what would you do? What could you do?”
“I don’t know. Teach high school biology and settle for a life of mediocrity and lost dreams.”
“You realize you’re considering a career change and giving up on your dream because you got a jury summons?”
Ah yes. Dad: the voice of reason.
We both died laughing again.
Then, we wished each other goodnight.
And I was left alone, among my papers and lost dreams, and I decided it was time to blog about the last straw.
But first, I had to email my doctor about my predicament.
“If you think you have a medical or psychiatric emergency, please call 9-1-1,” it said when I logged into my account to send the email.
“I think I might be having a psychiatric emergency,” I called out after my dad. “I considered both federal prison and a career change tonight. Should I dial 9-1-1?”
And those, my friends, are the words of a desperate juror.