When Duty Calls

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“The only exercise I excel at is jumping to conclusions.”

~ James Nathan Miller

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On Friday, September 14th I got very important mail delivered to our home.

It read:
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You are hereby summoned to be available for for the County Common Please Court as a trial juror. Jury service is NOT voluntary, but a civic obligation imposed upon all citizens by statute…

yada-yada-yada…

YOU ARE SCHEDULED FOR POSSIBLE SERVICE: You are on-call for two days.

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WAIT. Stop. Really?

“POSSIBLE SERVICE?” <– what does that mean?
“Two Days?” <– What do they “possibly” want me to do with my kids during this time?

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{Official letter continues}
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Call us after 5 p.m. the evening before each date of service. A prerecorded message will tell you if you must report.

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WAIT. Stop. Really? (again)

I have to get a sitter for 2 days (Calculation: $8/10 per hour   x   8 hours   x   2 days  =  $130-160)
AND THEN *may* need to cancel the sitter the evening before?!?

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{Official letter continues}
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Compensation: The current jury fee is … $20 for a full-day of service.

Excuses (i.e. to get out of Jury Duty)

  • I moved out of the county (NO)
  • I am a convicted felon (NO)
  • I am 75 years of age or over (Umm… I did just have a birthday but… NO)
  • I have a medical or mental condition
    (Does occasionally being driven crazy from the schedules of work, three young children, and a busy life count?)
  • Jury service will cause extreme financial hardship.
    (Sorta… Look how much I *may* have to spend on a sitter!)

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Where was “Primary Care Giver” on this excuse list? Why doesn’t the government take into consideration that the job of “Mom” doesn’t really accommodate for time off to fulfill one’s civic duties?

However, I didn’t quite overreact just yet.

Instead I went directly to the county website and submitted an email request to be excused from my obligation, fairly confident that our government would not ask me to spend $180 of my own money on a sitter who I *may* have to cancel.

All Rise and Witness a Breakdown

As the weeks wore on I heard no response. Day after day, my worry and doubt began to build, until eventually I entered a state of stress-induced over-reaction.

“What am I going to do?” I erupted over the phone to my husband, finally allowing multiple weeks worth of worry to release.

  • I had called family members to see if they might be available. (Nope. Ugh.)
  • I had called a lawyer friend to see what my chances were for being excused.
    (His answer: Jury Duty is very hard to get out of.)
  • Until finally… I called my husband freaking out a little panicked.

I was angry, annoyed and frustrated.

Between orthodontist appointments, preschool, music classes and work – all scheduled during my “civic call to duty” – all the necessary juggling seemed next to impossible and I felt defeated.

“Just call,” said my husband, “We’ll make it work. Maybe they can change the date of your duty?”

Call? I had already emailed! What good would a call do? However, I was all out of options, so I begrudgingly took his advice.

Building My Case

As I dialed, I silently reviewed all my talking points: the sitter, the expense, the obligations my husband and I had to our kids on top of the obligations we had to our government.

I was ready to argue, backing up all my evidence with proof, and had just about reached my boiling point when I was greeted on the other end of the phone line by…

A real voice?!

Imagine that? I guess I just assumed I would need to go through the rigamarole of: Press 1 for this OR press 2 for that. Immediately my boiling point was brought down to a simmer.

“Hello?” said the polite woman.

I willed myself to sound calm and less confrontational as I tried to pleasantly explained my predicament.

“Yes. Okay.” She considerately added, as she patiently listened to one run-on sentence after another. When I finished, her bright and perky voice asked, “And what’s your name? Do you know the date you emailed the excuse request?”

Short pause.

“Ah, yes!” She exclaimed. “Here it is. SO SORRY! I’m not sure why your email wasn’t answered. Of course you’re excused!”

The Final Verdict

The thing is, these days I often avoid the phone – relying a lot on text messages and email. I might even go as far as to say that in many cases, it doesn’t even occur to me to pick up the telephone and make a personal call.

Nearly FOUR WEEKS I wasted worried and frustrated about this obligation when all I should have done was follow up with a phone call.

The verdict is in and I am definitely guilty of overreacting.

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Two days later I promptly received another very important piece of mail delivered in the form of a postcard. It simply read:
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Your request for an excuse from jury service on the summons dates for the County Courts has been granted. However… You may receive another summons at a future date.

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A real albeit silent reminder that “duty” will continue to call and interrupt my busy life. Maybe, next time, I shouldn’t waste so much time stressing over something before the final verdict is in.

Leave a Comment: Have you ever gotten yourself worked-up over a situation that could have easily been solved by something as simple as a phone call?

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This week I am linking up with Bianca at Bits of Bee for her Quotable Bits Link-up.

This entry was posted in Family, Things I'd Like to Remember and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to When Duty Calls

  1. Tatum B. says:

    The one and only time I got called (hope I’m not jinxing myself here!) it was for two days in July including my daughter’s birthday! Birthday’s are a big deal in our house and I was sick over the possiblity of spending her special day away from her and having to pay for a sitter. So I called and asked to be rescheduled. Thankfully my request was granted but the make-up day we had multiple appointments and activities scheduled. Murphy’s Law right?!! Sure enough, the morning of I was told to report. I sat in that little room for almost THREE hours before finally being dismissed due to a plea agreement being reached. Thankfully a sitter wasn’t necessary because she was in school at the time and THANKFULLY my company pays a specified amount for jury duty so I wasn’t losing pay but what a potential stress on the family!

    To top it off, they actually asked us to DONATE the $20 we were to make back to the courthouse. Seriously?!!

    • Kate F. says:

      Hehehe. They asked you to donate it back? :) The funny thing is, if I didn’t have to pay for childcare, I totally would!

      I was SO stressed out about the duty, but there was a part of me that wished that I could participate. Flexibility it such an integral part of my work life – that not having the ability to stop work (or jury duty) throughout the day to go pick up my kids or take them to school or an activity makes it so difficult to schedule something that breaks that flexible routine. :(

  2. Valerie says:

    Two thoughts – as a lawyer, I value jurors, for they are an absolutely indispensable part of our legal system and civil society. As a woman, I know that we weren’t permitted to sit in the jury box until relatively recently. It wasn’t until 1973 that women in all 50 states were granted the right to serve as a juror. Let that sink in – 1973. So, I value jury service.

    On the other hand, compelling a family caregiver to serve without excuse may well cause an undue hardship, especially if the children are young and at home. Different jurisdictions have different ways of dealing with a request to be excused. Some readily grant them, some don’t. I think family caregiver status ought to be grounds for deferment to another time, but this is not necessarily the rule.

    Coincidentally, I received my summons – I am on call in Maryland’s federal court for the entire month of November! Maybe I will decide a fascinating human rights case, and somebody else can be in charge of Thanksgiving dinner!!

    • Kate F. says:

      The ENTIRE month of November?! Oh my goodness Valerie! I thought finding a sitter for two days was bad!!! :)

      And I don’t even know what to say about 1973 – wow! That is hard to swallow that there was somewhere in the US that women couldn’t sit to partake in Jury duty that late in our history. I look forward to the day I can make Jury duty work. Once all three kiddos are in school, I think it would be quite an education. However, at this point in my life I am SO happy to be able to be excused… It is hard enough to find a sitter while I work, but to find a sitter all day who would also be responsible for transporting my kids all around town – THAT is the difficult thing… It is also a loud reminder how important of a role flexibility plays in our family’s daily lives…

  3. Bits of Bee says:

    You are so funny! I would have probably freaked out just as much as you did. And $20 compensation? That’s ridiculous compared to what you would have had to pay! I’m also the same as you are in that I always use the phone as a last resort nowadays, when really it should be our first step! Lesson learned, and congratulations on getting out of jury duty!

    • Kate F. says:

      Another friend of mine left a comment and said that when she served jury duty they actually ask the jurors to donate the $20 back! Crazy!

      One day I am excited to serve as a juror – I think it would be quite the learning experience. However, I hope when the time comes, it doesn’t put me a couple hundred dollars in the hole for a sitter!! :)

  4. I avoid using the phone at all costs (mostly because my 2 year old screams at the top of her lungs because SHE wants to talk on the phone).

    Glad you were excused. It is such a headache to try and find childcare and rearrange schedules…been there :)

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