I’m sitting in a room in a district court with about twenty people who have zero affect. It’s the most stone-faced and quiet group I’ve ever been part of. It’s my worst nightmare.
“Would any of you ladies happen to have a steak knife in your bag?” This question is asked by an older man in a security uniform, the one who body scanned us in the small vestibule as we entered the building (For the record, I have never uttered or typed the word vestibule in my life.) A man sitting to my left says, “Why, are you going to be serving steak?” and bingo, I had found my other human.
It took about 5 seconds for my brain to register that there was no question that I had to be the one who would inevitably become known during dinner conversation as that “old crazy lady with the knife. I mean, she looked so NORMAL.” I picked up my bag and worked my way through the lenswipes and pencil case, makeup bag and small Tupperware of blueberries, two paddle brushes and my paisley pill box and there it was, a steak knife that I had brought to work WEEKS ago to cut into a piece of leftover chicken (It is important to mention here that there was also a butter knife which clearly the security guard didn’t think had the same dramatic effect to announce to the group.)
I think I might have said, “Oh my God,” as I slowly pulled them out from the bowels of my bag (avoiding any sudden movements of course) and handed them over. I did see one guy smirk as I tried to explain and make light of the whole thing but other than him, the others just looked at me undoubtedly thinking, “Please don’t put me on a jury with that crazy bitch.” The guard came back and gave me a piece of paper with a number on it and told me I could claim my knives when we were done for the day.
We were then moved into a small basement room to watch the requisite jury duty video with the usual talking heads saying how we should consider it a privilege to be part of our judicial system and when it ended, again, total silence. A woman was showing off by standing up and doing assorted stretches clearly looking down on the rest of us for sitting there like sloths. When I texted my husband about the whole knife thing I got his stock response when he’s just a tad disappointed yet slightly amused: “Oh babe.”
The last time I had jury duty it was in the eighties in the much larger Boston Superior Court with at least ten times the number of potential jurors. I saw a woman about my age reading Tom Wolfe’s “Bonfire of the Vanities,” and started a conversation by saying, “Isn’t that a great book?” Within a month we ended up as roommates (to people who know me this will come as no surprise) and when she later told me that she and her boyfriend would have frequent sex in front of the mirror in our living room, well, I vowed never to go looking for a roommate at jury duty again.
In the end, we ended up being dismissed, no cases needing a jury that day. I know it’s not ideal and a bit alarming that a man who was scanning our bags as they went through the conveyor belt to have taken long enough for me to have sat down, to spot a potential weapon in my bag. I’ve worked in a prison before and I probably would have been taken away in handcuffs if that had had happened there. Sometimes though, things like this need to be categorized as yet another absurdity in a long list that I have been able to laugh at along the way. And let this be a cautionary tale– leave your steak knives at home in the silverware drawer where they belong next time you get called for jury duty.