12th August 2018
In a break from the updates of what’s been going on recently, I thought I’d share something a little different, after I recently mentioned it on my Instagram story. I was rooting through some notes and I found a little bit of short writing I did about a year ago, which I had named “Purgatory”. It recounts the two weeks I spent in the waiting room in court as part of my time on jury duty, and everything included is true to real life. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it!
On the first day I, as did the rest of the law-fearing citizens who’d been summoned, arrived early at the courts. After a dose of my completely irrational worry gripped me as I shuffled through a metal detector wondering if I’d accidentally left a butcher’s knife in my shoe, I was directed upstairs and down the world’s drabbest 1970s corridor. I still find it difficult to accept that exposed concrete, olive carpets, stained pine roofs and chrome embellishments were ever actually fashionable, as even in this era of Trump I still refuse to believe that humanity ever stooped so low.
Anyway, at the end of the corridor of misery I was confronted with a welcoming heavy wooden door with a tiny window of fireproof glass, the kind which you can barely see through anyway due to the square grid of metal wire contained within. After entering using the code that the pot-bellied man next to the metal detector had given me, I noted that I was the first to arrive, and sat down on an uncomfortable chair which I don’t think even my dentists would have welcomed into their shitty waiting area.
This was the room where we were to wait to be called to trial, if indeed we were “lucky” enough to be selected to attend one. Little did I or any of the others know, as they slowly began to arrive in dribs and drabs, that it would take us the best part of a week for any of us to actually be asked to sit on a jury. That’s why, just in my own head of course, I soon began to refer to this room as purgatory.
The first week in purgatory was nothing to write home about. Hell, nothing happened. I twiddled my thumbs, read some second-rate novels which I’d found at home, and prayed each day that my ageing phone would survive the seven hour wait. I conversed with some of my fellow would-be jurors, but it was mainly chitchat to distract me from what I really wanted: to be allowed into the VIP room.
The VIP room was basically what used to be the smoking room, a glass box at the far end of purgatory which was reserved for people who had been suffering there for at least one week already. After this first week of being bored to within an inch of our lives, we all left on Friday night rather excited to return on the Monday, because we would then be able to tread the golden floor of the VIP room – much more exciting than a weekend of inhaling fresh air and seeing daylight, which by this point had all become foreign concepts to us.
Well, Monday came around, and upon entering the much revered VIP room, I was soon disappointed. The sofas were just a touch spongier, there was a small screen displaying upcoming trials, and we found a set of dominoes, chess pieces and playing cards. All of these games were missing a good few of their components, and the information screen made about as much sense as the conversational drivel we were poring over. With topics ranging from metal detecting to the nightmares of finding childcare whilst on jury service, I soon became disinterested.
It’s little wonder then that during this second week I managed to fall asleep on one of the suspiciously stained purple sofas within fifteen minutes of my arrival. I was eventually awoken by a suitably displeased court usher, and told I was to march to the front of the line as I was juror number one. I informed said usher that I was first going to go to the toilet, and proceeded to delay everything further. Well, how am I supposed to listen to evidence nay pass judgement whilst shuffling around in my chair praying that my pelvic muscles might just be strong enough?
Urination was, it turned out, my most powerful weapon in my arsenal of tools for annoying the court staff. During the giving of evidence at one point, I really needed the toilet once again, and so I raised my hand. The judge, it transpired, was just about to call a comfort break anyway and so I didn’t cause too much of a scene, however I did let the usher know afterwards that if it’d had been left much longer, I would instead have been asking for a mop.
It’s not just the jury usher that I managed to wind up, but also the jury officer in charge of us whilst we were in purgatory. Having threatened to commit a crime just to be sent into a courtroom for the better air conditioning, I was soon attempting to rally my fellow jurors to start a riot in protest of the lack of access to coffee and snacks due to the shuttering of the court canteen.
We had been sent letters the week before beginning advising us of the closure, however one Monday we were held in the abandoned canteen whilst a bunch of new jurors took up all the space in our usual purgatory abode. Here my nosiness, lack of respect for authority and tendency to get restless led me to discover that the access door to the kitchen hadn’t been locked, and so I wandered in without a second thought. Having failed to find any food in the darkened fridges, I reported back to my fellow jurors that I’d instead found the knife rack, and that we could just hold court staff hostage until our demands for snacks were met. Somehow nobody seemed interested in my plan, and so I was forced to cause mischief elsewhere.
This came in the form of an attempt to bribe court security into letting me through without the faff of a bag inspection by means of offering them some crisps from a large bag of flamin’ hot Doritos. Needless to say this didn’t work, but I wasn’t too fussed as it meant I kept the Doritos to contribute to the buffet that me and a fellow juror had begun to assemble. She surpassed even me by going to the trouble of buying a plate from Aldi on which to arrange the selection of biscuits she’d brought along. That’s commitment.