we all sit together in the room, equally inconvenienced, as we prepared to be selected for a jury.
the receptionist, a sweet woman who wraps her sweater around her extra tightly to keep warm, is a woman who probably has a few cats, and loves them dearly, as she would children. who drinks coffee with milk and extra sugar in the faded mug she bought on a camping trip in 1983. she assures us, a few times, that we are more than welcome to help ourselves to the coffee and tea. she wears cheap makeup and out-of-style clothes, her black and pilled sweater has been washed one too many times. her roots are showing and her lipstick is cracked and has stained her lips and her eye shadow is electric blue. she seems like the kind of woman who loves her grandchildren fiercely and who may enjoy one too many beers on a saturday night.
she is sunny and friendly, smiling as she directs yet another incompetent potential juror who, despite the multiple signs posted around the waiting room, just can’t seem to find the restroom.
her job, though simple, is extremely taxing. imagine the barrage of complaints she gets on a daily basis from middle-class residents whose jobs and lives are way more important than everyone else’s. who simply are above the rules and everyone who sets them. who simply don’t have time to be here right now. despite all this, she maintains a semblance of understanding and warmth.
in the darkest of ironic contrasts, a woman approaches the receptionist clutching her laptop case and balancing her grande soy latte. “it just took me and incredible amount of planning and arrangements to be here today”, she explains dolefully as the receptionist, her head turned slightly left, nods sympathetically.
this woman is dressed in a tori burch sweater and seven jeans. her hair is freshly dyed and styled. her makeup is crisp, clean, and airbrushed.
she is not a pretty woman, but she is flawless.
as she stands, looking down on the receptionist who is sitting in her cheap and fraying swivel chair, she continues to mournfully explain her struggle with spending the day here.
“you see,” she continues. “it’s just that i have an eleven year old and a two year old. i had to make a lot of calls to arrange their day. and, it’s just that, i work on commission so if i don’t work i don’t get paid. i cannot possibly sit here all day, i never sit!” she laughs superficially, high and nervous. she searches the receptionist’s face for an inkling of what she hopes to be understanding. after a brief pause, she continues:
“and, it’s just that, my kids are upstate and i have to drive all the way out there. it’s just that i really can’t afford to be here today, never mind for an entire trial.”
she spoke as if “it’s just that…” was a good enough reason for her to be let go. immediately.
the receptionist, who compared to this woman now looks like a cheap atlantic city casino waitress, never waivers. she is empathetic and allows this woman to continue to rattle off entitled excuses without even blinking, all the while nodding along with this woman’s bratty complaining. the receptionist has seen it all before.
the receptionist allows this mindless suburban mother who has lost all sense of reality to continue her afflicted excuses as to why she is more important than the rest of us, how she is above the constitution of the united states, and how jury duty is simply not on her list of things to do today.
after this woman has exhausted all excuses, she has run out of breath, she looks longingly at the receptionist to give her the go ahead to leave.
after a pregnant pause, the receptionist heroically knocks this woman from atop her mile high pedestal of tori burch sweaters and michael kors key rings with a simple, but genuine response:
“i understand and i’m sorry, but you’ll have to just wait in here with everyone else.”
the woman is wounded, her eyes flash, as if being referred to as ‘everyone else’ was the worst insult this sunny receptionist could say.
our receptionist smiles genuinely and takes a sip of her lukewarm morning coffee as the woman grudgingly walks away and sits back down among everyone else.
jury duty — 010515