The system was surreal. A hundred or so jurors, each called up in groups of thirty or more and sent to far away departments on upper floors. In the jury assembly room, those not called sat separated, isolated, delving into books, magazines, or staring vacantly at the TV screen as Ben Stiller ran from a stampede of exotic animals (I believe this is a plot line in at least three, if not all, of his movies). Despite several, strategically placed "No Cell Phones" signs, people loudly complained into their mouthpieces about how they had "been there all fuckin' day and had shit to do. Shit."
I partook in the collective isolation. I was reading David Wann's Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle and focusing hard on the words five inches from my face. I underlined, as I do in all of my books, on particular passage that struck me:
I believe we can and must bring sanctity to our everyday lives by creating I-You relationships [as oppose to the restrictively objectifying I-It relationships], treating even the food we eat or a masterpiece painting with great respect, wonder, and connection, because the people who grew healthy food or created the painting "speak" through it. By changing the way we regard the world, the "me" in each of us becomes a much wider "we", and we feel interconnected and complete. Even in a world filled with contradiction and superficiality, we find True North.
As I read this, conversation broke the silence in the assembly room. A group of jurors had just been let out of their case and were saying goodbye to each other. They were wishing each other safe travels for upcoming trips, exchanging business cards, patting each other on the backs and shaking each other's hands. One woman said she was going to start suffering from "separation anxiety". They smiled and laughed with each other, creating some kind of weird social fishbowl into which the rest of us peered over our various reading materials.
I'm not sure if these people had found "True North", but they had found something the rest of us hadn't. And they found it without even trying (in fact, they were forced by a court of law). To edge on saccharin, it was a touching moment to see. They parted ways, leaving the room silent as it was before, and I delved back into my book.