Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Trial by Jury, part II

I wanted to add something about my jury duty that I didn't really feel was so appropriate for Erev Rosh Hashana.

If you took a thousand frum people and left them in a room by themselves for a day, the noise would be terrible. In this corner you'd have Shprintze and Yente talking about Shprintze's next door neighbor, who just happens to be Yenta's third cousin twice removed. In the next one, you'd hear Leah and Yocheved discussing seminary, while Devorah and Brocha are discussing Shabbos clothes. Towards the front of the room, you'd listen to Baruch and Reuven talking about the mesechta they're learning, while Bentzion and Yoni decide to learn daf yomi b'chavrusa (together). Underlying all the conversations would be a group effort to set up their neighbors/friends/family with everyone else. Jewish Geography would be rampant, with everyone trying to be related to everyone else. In one word, it would be tumultuous.

Now, take in comparison the scene I witnessed my first day of jury duty.

When I came in on my first day, I was seated in a room with (literally) a thousand chairs. On the day I was called, every single chair was full. You would think, picturing the above scene, the place would be hopping.

You would have been totally wrong.

There were a thousand people there, but you could've heard a pin drop. Outside of what civil courtesy and a plethora of questions (one or two), I didn't say a word to anyone. Nor did they say anything to me. Each person was in his or her own world, with no intergalactic communication.

I'm sure everyone knows the joke that two Jews talking to each other who haven't found a friend/relative/neighbor etc. in common haven't been talking long enough.

Maybe the rest of the world isn't all related.

Or maybe they just don't talk as much …

4 comments:

fear from love. said...

There is a flight from my hometown to Tel Aviv twice a week, now my hometown has about 30,000 jews and this flight is a balagan, from check in to the moment we pass through customs in Tel Aviv everyone is shmoozing to everyone, but the best is the flight. from the second the seatbelt lights are turned off people are out of their seats and talking to everyone, pasing around food, babies, books!
i was once speaking to the air stewardess and she couldnt understand it, she never sees this on any other flight. so i told her, quite simply, you have a plane of 250 people who all a) know eachother and b) share so much background with eachother.
its amazing, you see the frum people with hats speaking to the non religious people next to them, having a whale of a time. all of that mixed in with the fact they are going to israel! gonna be a blast.
and yet when i get on a transatlantic flight, with twice the number of people on board, no body is in your way when you goto the bathroom, the air stewardesses can do their duties simply,a dn if you want to sleep, you can, you arent being asked to hold someones baby when they get their bottle out of the locker!
im sure you can guess which one i prefer ;)

itsagift said...

That was not the impression I got when I was at jury duty...I was totally BORED and going out of my mind because every person was in their own world! There was no communication...no one had any interest in the other person. When you come to a gathering of Jewish people, you are greeted with a "Hi, what's your name" and then you get to know each other! How beautiful that is!!

Richie said...

There are a number of distinct contributing factors to the tomb-like silence you experienced while serving jury duty.

Firstly, I'll presume that this was somewhere in New York, quite likely New York City. Nobody does mutual anonymity better than New Yorkers. While riders of the same elevator ignore each other in most parts of the world, only in New York can you be jammed into a subway car and stubbornly ignore the existence of your immediate neighbors. There's just too darn many people to start caring about and interacting with them indiscriminately. (Note: I write this as a born-and-bred Brooklynite for most of my life, until I made aliyah.)

Another aspect of New York is the sheer diversity of its residents. There isn't a single culture (or maybe even language) shared amongst your fellow potential jurors. What would you expect them to converse about?

Also, the random and (often) unwilling nature of jury duty drags together people who have no common ground and would most likely be somewhere else. While waiting to be empaneled, you have nothing to share and a very busy life elsewhere that still needs tending to. I have not seen another circumstance like this anywhere: in a hospital or doctor's office, the starting point of conversation is usually one's health; at a mechanic, you discuss cars. The only place that comes close is the DMV, but even there you have a voluntary targeted goal and are free to depart whenever you want.

I've served on a jury in a criminal case in Brooklyn, and the lack of common ground continues even as the jury is selected. We were sequestered overnight (they don't sequester for cases like mine anymore), but were instructed not to discuss the case outside the deliberation room. This presented some difficulty, since we had nothing in common other than the case!

chanie said...

I liked your tznius post! Why'd you close the comments?!

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