I love jury duty. I kicked off summer vacation by reporting downtown for it. I don’t understand the dread everyone feels about the experience and will endeavor to share some tips on how you, too, can enjoy jury duty if and when you ever get summoned.
Even though I didn’t get called to serve on a case, I was absolutely delighted by the government-mandated retreat. I got to read without interruption, write, play games, meet new people, and generally enjoy my time without dishes, laundry, and kids. Sure, those were all waiting for me when I got home, but for a few hours, I got some me-time.
If you’re still not sold on the merits of jury duty, let me offer a few suggestions on how to make the most of your time.
- Write. Make up backstories for your fellow jurors. Imagine what they’re leaving behind. Conjure conflicts—better in writing than in person.
- Read. Yeah, this one’s easy. Bring a book, borrow a book, swap books, discuss the book with fellow jurors.
- Make a friend. Strike up a conversation, get to know a stranger. I had a great time chatting with a woman I otherwise wouldn’t have met, and actually was sad to say goodbye at the end.
- Play a game. One juror brought along Cards Against Humanity and sat around a table playing with five fellow jurors for hours.
- Bring cards. Ask if anyone knows any magic tricks. Give them a chance to practice and entertain a captive audience.
- Bring twelve copies of Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose and recruit fellow jurors to do a reading
- Test out new games. I have to come up with games for an upcoming baby shower. Had I managed to complete the game or had to stay five days, I could have recruited fellow jurors to play. (Sorry, no prizes.)
- Watch television.
- Finally put together that photo album.
- Compete with fellow jurors. Wager on who will be the next to be called for a case, how long until the next case will be called, predict which judge will be presiding, which restroom will be the next to be visited, whatever. There are always endless things to notice, and thus to bet on, if you’re so inclined
- Do yoga. It might draw a few curious glances, but there’s no reason to sacrifice your inner peace just because some fool is looking at you askance. Heck, during my lunch break one day, there was goat yoga happening in Public Square, so a little warrior pose shouldn’t ruffle anyone’s feathers
- Pace—seriously. Pick up your book and go back and forth, pick up some steps on your FitBit.
- Dance. Eh, why not? Play music aloud… or don’t. Who cares? You’re never going to see these people again. What does it matter what they think of you? Let off some steam. Okay, I didn’t actually do this, but if you do, do tell!
- Color. Bring colored pencils and one of those adult coloring books.
- Do a jigsaw puzzle. Just be sure to finish by the end of the day or it’ll be gone by morning.
- Lead (or join) a writer’s workshop.
- Lead (or join) an improv group.
- Lead (or join) a flash mob. Plenty of time to perfect your routine!
- Go out for lunch. Public Square is a mere two blocks from the courthouse in downtown Cleveland. Even if you pack a lunch, a stroll outside can be quite refreshing.
- Talk to the front desk people (when they’re not busy). This week, I learned that there have been three marriages that started off when the couple met in the jury waiting room, several news personas have served, Matthew McConnaughy filmed a scene in the lobby of the courthouse, but as yet, there have been no fights that have broken out in the jury waiting room
- Find a mutual connection. Talk to your fellow citizens and try to find a connection, kind of like a live LinkedIn. Make a game of it, a contest to find the closest connection, or be the first to discover a link. Accumulate points by talking to more and more people. Keep track of points, have a scoresheet, and the loser treats the winner to lunch (or candy from the vending machine).
All in all, the key really is to set goals that fool you into reframing the time you have so that you believe it’s not long enough. It’s a strategy I used when I was on bed rest while pregnant with my second and third kids, and it’s one that worked well. Back then, I set a goal to learn all about personal finance, working my way through a textbook to educate myself, with a strong sense that I was facing an impending deadline (the kid was going to be born whether I met my goal or not; I couldn’t ask for an extension). I also knew that when my “sentence” ended, I’d have one more young child to take care of and no free time to get anything done for myself for a while, so I knew better than to complain about my current state of affairs.
As for jury duty, I’m sure I’m missing a whole lot of other fun ideas for how to occupy your time. Some people pay good money to escape their responsibilities. With jury duty, you get paid for the same thing. See it for the opportunity it is, and have fun. And yeah, do your civic duty.