Thursday, April 29, 2021

Getting out of jury duty

  Last week, I dyed my hair orange - not red, not the subtle hue of a delicate tiger lily bloom, but bright, shiny traffic cone orange. This is actually not an unusual occurrence. I've dyed my hair various less-than-conservative shades on the color wheel, and invariably I have received contrasting responses that have ranged from "Hey, cool!" to genuine concern from those who believe that I am yet another victim of the devil's crack rock.

  This kind of stuff has never bothered me, though. I have come to realize that there are certain individuals who can't handle discrepancies in what they consider to be "normal." I have also come to realize that I am and always will be one of those discrepancies. In fact, I celebrate it, and occasionally I even use it to my advantage.

  I found the little blue summons perched against the glass fishbowl/plant thingy on the kitchen table when I stumbled in at 5 am one Sunday morning about a month ago. I recognized it immediately because my mother had gotten one only the week before. My initial response was one of helpless outrage as I cursed the gods of the almighty Juror's Summons and their dispassionate selection of my Social Security number. I HAD to get out of this.

  I went over my options: Should I flee? Should I move again for the third time in two years? Could I get away with bribing some crack head to take my place with a six-pack of beer or a carton of cigarettes? Quickly, I came to the conclusion that avoiding this thing was not worth the potential legal repercussions that would follow any attempt at flight, and if I'm gonna buy a carton of cigarettes, then I want to smoke 'em, dammit!

  So I began to search for other, less punishable options.

  I don't really have any major health problems, and my ability to lie is often inhibited by a sporadic train of sputtering that leaves me sounding like I have a speech impediment. So of course, making up some sad tale to avoid this was out of the question. But after contemplating my situation further, I realized that I didn't have to worry about lying. I could get out of it with just the plain, simple, unadulterated, emergency-cone-orange truth.

  It's difficult to explain the reaction I received as I entered the small county courtroom full of good, simple, God-fearing folks who had taken time out of their jobs as factory workers, farmers, secretaries, and middle-class housewives to appear. But in order to form a proper mental image of the events preceding my entrance, one must get a proper description of this tiny little courthouse nestled in the center of this tiny town.

  It looks like it jumped straight out of the Andy Griffith Show, except this version of Mayberry includes African-American citizens, a lot of out-of-work people who rely on the welfare system, and way more than just one town drunk. However, just like Mayberry, there's a seemingly endless supply of upstanding, moral people who just happen to be severely shocked and threatened by any hint of variation from their tidy little lives.

  So just imagine, if you can, the reaction of Andy and Aunt Bea as my short, round, orange-haired (with two bright pink strips in the front no less) self sauntered in at 8:30 am. People literally turned all the way around in their seats and began to murmur in unison.

  My favorite reaction was that of the lawyers, who armed with their note pads, were perusing all of the potential jurors and scribbling furiously as each of us stood up and gave our occupation descriptions. I don't even think they heard me say, "College student, Auburn University Montgomery," when my turn came. Actually, I don't recall seeing even one of them scribbling on their little yellow pads as I spoke. They just stared. One of them even had his mouth open.

  The reaction of the judge was pretty cool, too. He looked over at me and just chuckled. I guess he's seen a lot worse. However, he seemed to let out a sigh of relief when he was able to dismiss me because I had not lived in Lowndes County long enough to serve.

  Yes, the ending is rather anti-climatic, and even though I was happy to be exonerated, I was disappointed that I didn't get to be cross-examined. That would've been a hoot. And now, even though my beautiful hair has faded to a semi-respectable strawberry-blond, there's always another jury summons, and there's always hot pink.

  Editor's note: This article was published in the April 17, 2000 edition of the AUMnibus.

  About the author: Renee Lee is a contributing editor for the Capital City Free Press and former features editor for the AUMnibus, the student newspaper of Auburn-Montgomery. 

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