Thursday, December 11, 2008

Jury Duty

This is the Bexar County Courthouse, a historical building still in use in Downtown San Antonio, TX.

If you live in the USA, every so often you get called for jury duty. Monday was my day to serve. I'd already postponed it once because of work so I didn't think I should try again. Mind you, this day happened right after a very busy weekend where I traveled away overnight, attended a dinner at my rector's home, and even managed to make an offering for the table. So this added a lot of stress.

The jury summons isn't the easiest of documents to read, but it's clear enough in its instructions. It tells you when to get there, 8:00AM, and to not be late. It tells you where parking can be found. Then it tells you that parking is expensive and hard to find even if you do drive into downtown San Antonio. Last time I was on jury duty I drove my car and parked in the parking tower across the street. This time I didn't want to deal with the heavy traffic and I hadn't been downtown in quite a few years so I was no longer familiar with its streets. The city in its wisdom sent a bus pass along with the summons so I elected to use it.

I've ridden buses before but not in San Antonio. To accomplish the mission of getting to court on time I had to research the route. Of course, I didn't do this till Saturday and the bus offices are closed on weekends. I had to use the website. It had a handy utility that allowed you to plan your route. By using it I was able to discover that I needed to take bus route 17 and that I was to meet it at the Randolph Park & Ride. Then I looked up the bus schedule for that route and the location of the Park & Ride. Even with a map the website didn't have an address for the Park & Ride so I had to google it. Then with directions in hand I decided to take the 7:00 AM bus which would get me there before 7:30. It was an express bus so the ride only took 18 minutes inbound. The outbound trip was more like 25 minutes.

I'm the kind of person who gets incredibly nervous on streets and areas I'm not familiar with. That's because I can get incredibly lost. My cell phone has functioned as a navigation aid in getting to work more than once when detours rerouted me. So, I got driving directions from Yahoo. I carefully printed out the route, the schedule, even a map of the downtown bus stops. I stuck this all with my summons and the bus pass and into my purse they went. I set my clock for 5:00 AM so that I could get up and be fully awake when I tried to find a new place in the dark. My body protested both going to sleep and getting up. For sleep I took a pill and for waking I trusted the sounds of Credence Clearwater Revival blasting from my CD radio.

Jury duty is boring. You sit in a huge room with a lot of other people. Knowing this I brought several books to read, some sudoku, and a bottle of water. I also packed a couple of pop tarts figuring that I didn't want to pay for lunch at downtown tourist prices. The Park & Ride was not as hard to find as I'd feared. The bus was already there when showed up. The driver told me he would tell me when to get off. So I sat down near the front and off we went.

When I got off the bus the Justice Center was across the park from where I was so I had about half a block to walk. Once there the doors were manned by security guards with metal detectors and scanners for your bags. These security measures were put in place back in the '90s because someone brought a gun into a courtroom and shot someone with it.

The jury room is in the basement and once there we had to line up in the hall where they took our filled out surveys which had been a part of the summons. Then we walked single file into a room with over 400 chairs. I found a seat near the front and was happy with that. The lady next to me turned out to be a grandmother who had a daughter that was close to giving birth. She also had other grand kids to babysit but she was there anyway. We had nice chats all morning long, interrupted occasionally by periods of intense listening while they read off a list of names. Those people who were called would then be taken to a courtroom by an officer and there serve their duty. Or not.

By noon I hadn't been called so the grandmother and I decided to go to lunch outside. The woman on the other side of her got invited too and we discussed where to go. They elected to do Bill Miller's which is a barbecue chain. I said that was fine and had intended to just eat my Poptarts. The new lady decided that wasn't good and bought me lunch. We took our food to go and went out to sit in the park. There was one table left that I could see and we made a beeline for it.

When we sat down it turned out there was a band warming up in the corner across from us. They played in a Latin style and the music was pretty good. So was the food and the company. Once the eating was done I took out my camera and took some pictures.

This is a picture of the band as they were playing. Occasionally someone from the listeners would get up and dance around in front of them to the music.

These are my dining companions. The lady in pink is the grandmother and the professionally dressed lady was the one who bought me lunch.

From where we were sitting you could see a good bit of the surrounding area. The park is in the midst of the oldest part of Downtown and is taken care of zealously by the City Parks Division. This building was pretty far away but the tower is famous for its gargoyles which you might be able to see. They are those little projections off the side at each level. There's a stature up on tome too but I don't think it shows in this view.

There used to be huge trees filling the whole park. Recently they discovered that all the trees were diseased and most had to be cut down. The city put in these fountains which are nice looking and there are some decorative tiles placed throughout the park. What was missing was all the grass and squirrels that inhabited the ancient live oak trees.

It being Christmas season the city is putting on the ritz. The Riverwalk is bright with lights through all the trees and this was the tree that had been placed and decorated for the park. It looks like they hired a decorator to do it. Behind it you can see the front of one of the oldest churches in town. I think it is Anglican but I may be wrong. San Antonio started as a Mission community so there are several churches in the downtown area.

Update: Paschal tells me this is a Roman Catholic church and is the San Fernando Cathedral.

Here's an unimpeded view of the church architecture. These were taken while strolling and I wasn't in the best of positions to get pictures of the entire building at once. So I took the next shot.

Here you can see the height of the church and a better view of its architecture. I'm not sure but I think it is Gothic style of some sort.

I wanted to show you the spires on the courthouse. I think they are rather interesting in their different styles. The building is so old that there have been some carefully done renovations on it recently. But old as it is, San Antonio still loves it and it is in full use.

Here's a better view of the entire courthouse. It's pretty big. The Justice Center which is right next to it is even bigger and while pretty enough for modern buildings, no where near as interesting.

My name was called for a panel at 1:45. This was the biggest panel they called and the request was for 50 people. The judge told us she only needed to call 32 but knowing how things can run she called for 50 and they were glad they had. It was a felony case. That's about all I can tell you right now. I was not selected for the jury for which I was grateful. They let us go at 4:45 and we raced down to the jury room to get our passes and make sure that everything was in place to show we had served our day.

I went outside to locate the bus stop. It turned out to be about a block away. The bus returning was not as full as the morning bus had been but the conversation was more lively. The ladies who rode this one were used to taking it home together. One of them was knitting and quite accomplished at it. She was making a tank top for herself. The whole ride was pleasanter for her friendly conversation.

When we reached the Park & Ride a nice gentleman told me the best way out of the lot which was very helpful because the traffic at 5:30 was intense. I made it home safely and except for a dirty car was none the worse for wear. The cats were glad to see me and were eager to eat. I managed to stay up and even played a game of Scrabble with Sandi.


murat11 said...

Lee: I liked all the bus talk: I was a regular VIA rider for about three years: I actually liked it quite a bit: got tons of reading to and from work. Plus, early morning riding in the dark, particularly in cold winter, was really neat, watching the city wake up. A few poems and stories were inspired by those rides, too.

The cathedral in your pictures is Roman Catholic: San Fernando Cathedral.

Cool pix.

Lee said...

Hi Paschal, I rather liked the Via ride too. Folk were nice, the buses were clean, it was fast and affordable. Hard to beat.

Maybe you can put together a post around those bus poems.

Thanks for the info on the church. I'll update.


San said...

Lee, that's really a beautiful courthouse. I loved seeing all of these pictures, especially that lovely blue Christmas tree and your newfound friends. Long days are lightened so by good people to hang with.

I read Paschal's comment and am reminded of my own experiences riding buses in San Francisco. It was so cool to get on a line that crossed the city. Each neighborhood would shift into the next and when I finally got off, it was like being in a completely different city.

Lee said...

San, thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Your reading of it and how the interactions with those people I met are right on! They did indeed make the day much shorter and I didn't find a single moment in which I was bored.

Lots of folk seem to like riding the bus. In the Valley where I grew up it wasn't the convenient way to travel that it is here in San Antonio. Even Corpus Christi didn't have as efficient a system as we do. Maybe I'll find the chance to do it again sometime and make visiting places where parking is scarce, more available to me.


Anonymous said...

Jury duty, I hate it. It might be different if you were on some exciting case, but my case was BORING! Looks like you made some new friends, so that's a plus.

Lee said...

Hi Geri, Thanks for visiting. Yes, I imagine that it is more exciting if the case is interesting. Hope your next time brings you such a case.


Diva's Thoughts said...

Beautiful pictures!!

Lee said...

Thank you, Diva! And Welcome!


myonlyphoto said...

Wow Lee what eventful Jury Duty day...we have one in Canada too, but never been called.

BTW thanks for the recent visit to my blog...

Anna :)

myonlyphoto said...

BTW I forgot to mention, your photos are very nice, and I love the one with Xmas tree and blues... Anna :)

Lee said...

Thank you, Anna! Never been called huh? Perhaps it will happen next year. I'm so glad you liked the pictures. Taking those and lunch with the girls was one of the highlights of the day.

You're welcome for my visit. Thank you for coming by too. :-)