One Sunday several years ago, I was reading aloud with the congregation when my husband turned in my direction with a decidedly quizzical expression. He made a sotto voce comment which prompted me to poke his side, indicating “No talking!” He shrugged; I kept reading. We sat down, listened to the sermon, and then stood up again. I grabbed the book from its rack above the kneelers, flipped it open and began reciting aloud in my best lector voice. This time, I was at the receiving end of a poke in the side. Turning to my left, in great annoyance, I then noticed the couple in front of us were both turned around and watching us, eyeing me, to be exact. I realized I was saying something different from those around me, and quickly shuffled the pages. Right pew, wrong prayer.
Fast forward to two days later. After receiving an official Summons in the mail, I was happily awaiting my court date — for jury duty. The last time I’d been summoned, 30 years back when we still lived in Florida, I wasn’t one of those chosen for actual jury service. As with most official transactions nowadays, the registration could be done online, so I quickly took care of that.
This was to be my big chance to participate in our judicial system in a direct and meaningful way. I don’t count the time, also in Florida, that I stood in front of a judge attempting to explain why a policeman had wrongly issued me three different citations within a five-minute period. Unfortunately, in that case, the policeman also showed up in court and succinctly convinced the judge otherwise.
On Tuesday morning, I rose earlier than usual, completed my daily walk in chilly near darkness, dressed in solemn and respectful attire, and drove the six miles to the Litchfield Courthouse. I arrived 10 minutes before the specified 8:30 a.m. and was surprised to find the door locked. Evidently, the courthouse did not allow early birds. I chatted up a few attorneys as they arrived, who then quickly took seats on one of the new sidewalk benches, checking their smartphones. I paced on the sidewalk.
When I saw movement behind the window of the closed door, I ran up the stone steps, eager to begin. There were three uniformed individuals blocking the entrance, all staring at me while moving aside for the attorneys to enter. I told them I was seeking the first floor Jury Room. They asked me in unison, “Did you call the number?” I assured them that I’d registered online and received a confirmation. They repeated, “But did you call the number?” It became clear that I had not read or seen this vital bit of information on my jury notice. I slunk back down the stone steps.
I took advantage of the unexpected free time to do some errands, returned home several hours later and picked up the mail. There was an official-looking envelope from the State of Connecticut addressed to me. My eyes were riveted to one bold line at the top stating that all prospective jurors were to call a special number by 5:30 p.m. on Monday (that would be the previous day). I was actually looking forward to the jury duty experience, so was disappointed that it was canceled, and rather disappointed in the efficacy of online registration.
But the happiest takeaway of all: I don’t have to get reading glasses.