Don’t Take Freedom for Granted!

Laurie in front of a large outdoor fountain
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I admire the Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain in Grand Park
on my way to fulfill my civic responisiblity by reporting for jury hanging around – er – duty.

No One WANTS Jury Duty

Well now that I am off my leash, and my civic duty is complete, I am free to express my thoughts about jury duty and the lessons it taught me. (We are not allowed to describe our experience while actually serving).

I live in Los Angles County, which means I get summoned to jury duty pretty darn often. To compare, my mom, in Washington state, has NEVER received a summons. I have been summoned about 8-9 times in the 25 years I’ve lived in California. The time before this one, I got out of it completely because it was too soon after my bike accident.

In fact, I went to report that day in order to ask if I SHOULD serve, because I was worried that the stress and the lights of a trial might trigger the horrendous headaches I was then prone to. Back then, even the reporting triggered in me an aphasia event that necessitated my going to the hospital to make sure I hadn’t suffered a stroke. No joke. My Dr. signed me off of jury duty for the entire year. This is unique in that ALMOST NOTHING GETS YOU OUT OF JURY DUTY! And I mean nothing. There is even a lengthy process to get your dead relative off of the jury list.

You might think I was happy to get out of jury duty back then. Not really. Jury duty is not fun, but it super scared me that I could not control my speech or communicate. Remember, I had already been back to work at my corporate job for a few months at this point. They were super accommodating, removing the fluorescent bulbs above my work station, and letting me take breaks as I needed, But I definitely did not feel at all my old self. I felt fragile, and scared, and I never knew just what my mind and body might throw at me. My bike accident was one of those lines in the sand — Laurie’s life before the accident and after.

You BCs for the most part did not know the old Laurie. To you I seem fine and normal and doing really, really well. Well mostly, well, outside of my whiny ‘why me’ moments. What you don’t realize is that I am significantly different in how fast I can think, how fast I can process information, and even in the types of emotion I display after a triggering event. It is a significant thing to lose trust in yourself.

Add to that it is taking me quite awhile to integrate this new me. I still expect my old self and run bang into the new one time and time again.

Secret Fear

Mark was scared that my getting summoned might result in another trip to the hospital. That was not a fun day for him, either. He hoped I would run down to the Dr. and get another note. Half of me loved that plan, but I did not feel my symptoms have been that severe for quite awhile and I didn’t want to ask my Dr. to provide a note that wasn’t true.

But it has been a very long time since I was exposed to flourencent lights or downtown traffic and noise. I haven’t been unable to go where I want to go, or to take care as I need either. Once you are in the jurisdiction of the court system, you don’t have much choice in any matter. So I was more than annoyed to have to spend my time kicking my heels at the courthouse. I was pretty scared of what this might trigger in my post-accident brain.

Quick Overview

Here’s the deal with jury duty in LA County. You get summoned for a week of service. You can postpone the first time, no reason needed, because you have to assume at least a 5-7 day trial. (That’s the average here). After that, you need a reason.
Jury duty consists of calling in or checking online every day of your reporting week. If you win the jury lotto, you are not called any of those five days and are off the leash for one calendar year. If you ARE called, you must go report to your location (which can be any court they need in a 20 mile radius from your home. It takes an act of God to transfer to one closer to you. Convenience is NOT an excuse). My court location was the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center – read its reviews on Yelp! (Surprisingly accurate).

This is very near where I used to work downtown.

In fact, I watched the Frank Gehry designed, Disney Concert Hall being built from my corporate cubicle and THAT is where one parks for jury duty in downtown Los Angeles.

Once you report, you sit in the jury assembly room waiting to be called as a possible juror on a case. You wait all day long. If you ARE called to a jury panel and are released by the judge, you go back to the assembly room until the end of the day. You are called to as many panels as required until you are seated on a jury, or you make it to the witching hour that ends your ‘one day or one trial’ service. If you make it on a jury you serve until that trial is done – even if it takes months.

The court does its best to match prospective jurors to trials with prospective length that somewhat correspond to the number of employer paid jury days – but no guarantees. Self-employed sole proprietors and unemployed folks like me, just have to eat it and hope for the best.

The fee for jury service is a whopping $15 per day and milage (one way as the crow flies, NOT how far you REALLY drive) and begins on your SECOND day of service. So the first day is on you. Though they DO pay for the parking at the Disney Concert Hall about half a mile away from the courthouse.

No one makes rent in LA from jury service. In fact, you are lucky if that pays for a downtown sandwich (why I brought snacks).

Pondering on Freedom

Since I knew The Disney Concert Hall is half of a mile away, I knew to wear my new running shoes to make the trek tolerable for my back. None of my “Biz Casual’ shoes would have made the grade. I also knew that for LA jurors, brand new running shoes with business slacks and a non-torn-non-saying type of shirt would actually be on the dressy side.

I actually enjoyed my jaunt cutting through Grand Park and exploring the sights. One of which was very apropos.

US Flags from history against the sky

These various historical flags of our nation did make me feel pride in what we’ve accomplished as a nation. I know, I know, we’ve made some whopper mistakes, but overall, the USA is a unique place that has a lot going for it.

Plaque that tells about the Court of Historic American Flags

Here is the plaque at the Court of Historic American Flags in Grand Park at Los Angeles

At the site of the Court of Historic American Flags I pondered about how rarely Americans feel constrained. Like it or not, much of our culture is built on the idea of personal freedom. The right of free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to assemble. For the most part we are free to be who we want to be and to do what we want to do. That isn’t true for all of the world. I pondered how much I take the freedom that our forefathers designed and shed blood for, for granted. I know, I know, there is much broken and not all rainbows and unicorns in the good old USA. Our democracy can feel that it goes to the highest bidder in our capitalistic frenzy and that teachers are undervalued compared to Kardashians. The news is filled with government and corporate wrongdoing and police that have crossed the line. We shudder to hear time and time again about ‘ugly Americans’ and how we are regarded by world opinion. And yet… so many come here searching for a new chance at life. Much of that is due to freedom.

The price for freedom can be very steep. But for me, I didn’t need to shed my blood or to give up my life in the line of duty. For me, my contribution was to go sit in a jury assembly room, ready to be assigned to a jury and to be unbiased and to try my very best to fairly apply the law to a fellow citizen’s situation.

Would I rather be bike riding? Eating Twinkies? Junk watching endless Surivor reruns?

My first instinct is to say, SURE (well maybe not the Twinkies). But as I write, I realize that even sitting all day in a room with a couple hundred of my fellow citizens who have been likewise unwillingly plucked from their daily routines and for us to be polite and even cheerful with one another is a miracle. We sit there waiting for the call. We hope we don’t hear our name. We hope if we do we can be impartial. We hope we won’t make a mistake with our fellow citizen’s life. We all take it very seriously.

We play cards. We stream Netflix, we sit in silence as the clock ticks on. We chat quietly, we do work via the free wifi that keeps us connected to the office. We jump as the next panel is called. Please Lord, let it not be me. Please Lord, if it is me, let me serve well. Please keep my stuttering at bay, let me find my wits. Let me do my part. I am not worthy, but I’m all there is. Me and 11 other citizens. We have to decide the fate of another. We are not perfect. We are not judges. We are just citizens.

What does THIS have to do with Compulsive Eating?

I realized the natural chaffing at being under the micromanaging control of our government during jury duty explains much about my reaction to dieting. I LIKE feeling free. I was born free and have had freedom inside myself all of my life. I don’t know what it is to be under a different system. I have had it pretty good. I can go where I want and pretty much say what I want and it is rare that I have no say in matters. Even when what I say is ridiculous and not good for my long term life goals, I HAVE THE FREEDOM to go there.

When dieting, I chaff at that. It doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel right, I GOES AGAINST MY GRAIN. Part of my reaction is to overeat perceived junk at the next opportunity and to start again “tomorrow’. I’ll show YOU DIET, that I, Laurie am the captain of my ship and I don’t HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOUR RULES! But sometimes rules are good. Like the price of democracy is to actually VOTE and to serve on jury duty when called. I’m not saying I want to diet again, but I have been pondering this new wrinkle to what I eat and why I eat. Since I enjoy fairly healthy foods, what’s up with some of the things I eat more than I feel is good for me?

Sometimes I am very in tune with my body. Sometimes I am not. There are many triggers for when and what I eat. Ditching diets and working on my emotions has done a stellar job of revealing that. Now I may just have to sit still in my own jury room and consider my own price of freedom. How might I balance my newly free life with where I want to go? Too bad I don’t have 11 other citizens to consult with – but in this case, I’m judge, jury and the executioner. It’s all the hard-won part of being free.


Comments box:

2 thoughts on “Don’t Take Freedom for Granted!

  1. Cheryl

    Well that was an interesting experience! I’ve been called six times in 43 years and have managed to get out of all six of them for some reason or other. They’re kind of lax about it here. Three of those times I didn’t have a way to get there. One I’d just gotten out of the hospital. One I’d just had a baby. The other I claimed mental instability. (No, I am NOT kidding…) The thought of being empaneled in a case that might decided someone’s life or death sends me right into a panic attack. (I think that’s what the last one was about.)

    Your observations at the end there were very interesting…

    1. Laurie@CompulsiveOvereatingDiary Post author

      It used to be easier to get out of it in California too. But back then, jury duty was 10 days with as many trials as they could fit you into, so the 10 days was BEST case. If you were still sitting on the jury when the 10th day rolled by, too bad. So they were more amenable to switching you to a different location, and sole proprietors were often excused or mothers who said child care was a reason etc. Now, since it is one day or one trial, the court doesn’t accept that a citizen cannot find one set of two weeks in advance and make other arrangements for child care etc. Even medical conditions need a Dr. to say when they will abate. Can’t come now, how about in 6 months? Of course some people simply toss the summons. But that is Russian Roulette and pretty bad fines etc. if you are caught at it. I would probably tell the judge the same if I were a prospective murder jury member. I’m not sure how my brain would function with THAT amount of stress. It is really a big responsibility. Over all, I’m glad I went again, but also glad I have a whole year before I possibly have to think about jury service again. xoxoxoxox


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