Jury Duty and Allergies

I have always loathed getting my jury duty notification. Why? In my eyes, it was one more thing the government was forcing me to do. I am forced to pay property taxes if I want to keep my home. I am forced to pay registration fees if I want to drive my car off my property. I am forced to pay sales tax if I want to purchase just about anything. So, when I received my jury duty notice last week I was angry.

This was the first time I have received one since all the kids moved out of the house (damn, can’t claim an exemption for that). I have severe allergies to various chemicals but the ones that get me when I am in public are perfumes or cologne (oh, look. I need a doctor’s note … like I can get that in a week). So, none of the exemptions applied so I began chanting a mantra: “Jury Duty Free.”

It didn’t work. Well, no, it did (sort of). Two nights ago, we checked and there it was: I was to report for jury duty the next day. Oh, I was stomping around the house like a moody teenager. I had to get ready for “battle.” I cleaned out my purse, surprised to find only two knives in there. 🙂 I filled my bag with a physical book, my Kindle (the physical book in case I couldn’t use my Kindle because it’s new and I have not tested it away from home), my inhaler, my epi-pen, my masks, my coffee and something to snack on. By the time I left the house, I was ready.

So, I showed up, made it through security without setting anything off, descended to the basement (which wasn’t as dark and dank as I had envisioned) and settled in. Things were going good (I was amazed I hadn’t run into a wall of perfume). That’s when the rest of the people started filing in. My tranquil mood lasted for about 5 minutes, when I had to get up and go out into the hall. Then more women came out of the elevator and that’s when I realized my mask was no help at all.

So, I hit my inhaler, tried to find the least populated spot, and did my best to slow down my breathing. That is what I continued to do for the next hour, until I was called into the court room. I have only been inside a court room twice before (and neither of those times was for jury duty) so I had no idea what to expect.

There was roll call, then the judge came in. Then, I actually started paying attention. There was the District Attorney, the other woman was obviously the defense attorney, and there was the defendant. I’m not sure why I didn’t think they would all be sitting there. They gave us a piece of paper with the defendant’s name and the possible dates (and times) of the trial, then the judge began speaking.

Since I was clutching my purse way too hard, focusing on slowing my breathing, I pretty much heard, “Blah, blah, blah, Our county has the highest rate of jury duty summons responses in the entire state, blah, blah, blah …” Then, he said something that made me wish I could actually serve: “Jury duty allows us, the people, to actually participate in a branch of the government.”

He finished this up, then went row by row, asking if people needed to be excused or have their jury duty service postponed. I was shocked at how many businesses do not pay anything for jury duty, since it is required by law. When he finally got to my row, I raised my hand, then stood, swaying a bit, and explained my allergies. I sat back down and started to cry. I didn’t know what I would do if he didn’t excuse me. The trial we were there for was slated for almost three weeks!

After everyone pleaded their case, he began reading off the names of those who would be excused or postponed. He read my name and I began to sob. I have never felt so helpless and vulnerable. By the time I made it out of the courthouse, my hands and feet were tingling, due to lack of oxygen. It has now been three days and I am still not 100%. This is also the allergic reaction I have to cats. Too many cat people think I will be alright if they lock their cat in the room or vacuum really good. Whether or not that would work, I can’t take that chance.

Monday I will finally make my appointment with a new doctor.

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