I had jury duty last month. Everyone had the same response to it: “Okay, here’s how you get out of jury duty.” And they would script out all these things I should say that would draw looks of horror from anyone who had ears. But hey – no jury duty, right?
Nobody wants jury duty, in the same way nobody wants to spend the day at the DMV. Even the jury duty letter arriving in the mail feels like a visit from your broke cousin whose car keeps dying and who needs money for brake pads.
What we don’t tend to think about, staring at the white envelope with dismay, is that there will be actual humans affected by this. I ignore that fact the same way I ignore the accident that’s led to the traffic jam I’m sitting in. I’m thinking – unsurprisingly – about me. About how my life will be disrupted. I’m looking at that jury duty envelope and all I’m feeling is annoyance.
So last month I get up early. I go to the courthouse. I wait in a big room with tons of other folks. I’m selected to be interviewed. And I’m not gonna lie, I started thinking about all the things I could say to get out of it quick. Because what matters here is my schedule.
I’m called in, and there are three lawyers in a small room.
The basics of the case were straightforward: A car accident. Somebody was at fault, somebody sustained injuries. The lawyers asked me a lot of questions on my philosophies and biases. I was beginning to think they were going select me.
Then they asked me my opinion on….. chiropractors.
I told them, honestly, that my recent experience wasn’t great.
Boom. I was out.
And after all that? I felt a little rejected. And just a tiny, momentary twinge of disappointment.
I was trying to figure out why I felt that twinge as I left the courthouse. Because I did not want to spend the three or four days listening to a case. On the drive home, in an honest moment, I realized that twinge came because I was looking forward to that position of power. I was looking forward, in some odd way, to being The Judge.
And with a little more self-reflection, it occurred to me that I was comfortable being The Judge in that case because I felt a certain superiority. Like I would never have found myself in that situation. Like I was qualified to pass that judgement, because I, Conor, was a good person.
That’s why I wanted to write all this down.
Because I fall into that trap all the time. Every day I put myself in a position to comfortably judge others and their life choices. It’s just so easy.
And so very, very flawed. Because I am consistently using a terribly flawed barometer for judging others: Myself.
It is a human condition (known as illusory superiority, or the Lake Wobegon Effect) that pretty much everyone thinks they are above average in everything, from driving to intelligence to memory to job performance to whether they are good people. Which is ridiculous, right? I laugh aloud at the idea that everyone thinks this! Hahahaha!
But I’m also looking at that list of things above and completely believing that I actually am better than average at all those things, so I’m all like “Check! Check! Check!” with absolutely no sense of irony.
I believe I am inherently wise. I believe that jury would have been lucky to have me on it.
Before I found my faith, it used to drive me nuts when Christians would say “We’re all sinners! None of us are good!” because it felt like self-flagellation and everything I hated about religion. And frankly I felt like I was at least pretty good, right?
Years later I began to understand what Christians meant by that expression. And one of the things (among others) that it means is that as I am declaring myself to be a good person, I am also tending to overlook the ways in which I’m failing to love and care for people every single day.
In other words, I focus on the moments in my life in which I am good. I ignore the lowlight reel of times when I’ve ignored the pain of others and acted out of self-interest.
You could respond with “We can’t be perfect!” and “We’re only human!”
And I would say that’s sort of the point.
I give myself a pass for my human failings all the time. But I never say “I’m generally a pretty self-centered awful person but since I’m human, well, sometimes I get it right!” No – my default is that I am a good person. Which means that I am, without a second thought, constantly passing judgement on others for their human failings.
Which is why jury duty, annoying task that it is, is also sacred. We have to judge, not by our flawed standard but by The Law, an objective measure. And in our hearts we know even we, the judge for the few days in that jury box, often don’t live up to that law.
But maybe sitting in that box could remind me, just for a few days, that I am not the measurement. That I can’t be, and that I don’t have to be. And thank God for that.
Also, you wanna hear how my chiropractor was pretty weird?
The Top Five Ways My Chiropractor Was Pretty Weird
1. The Spine Hanging on the Door.
In the examination room, I couldn’t hang up my suit jacket because there was a human spine hanging there. Which meant that either he was so disorganized that he didn’t know where else to put this fake human spine or that it was an actual human spine from the previous patient that he just gave up on trying to fix and he just sent them home without a spine.
2. The Receptionist Looked Surprised to See a Patient Walk In.
“You’re here to see the doctor?” she asked, confused. As if I was the UPS guy dropping off a package. What else would I be there for? She had to check around her desk for the appointment book. Could’ve left then, should’ve left then. Didn’t leave then.
3. His Medical Instruments.
One of the things this doctor used on me was a clicker thing. It felt like cold steel, like somebody clicking the back of a ball-point pen on me. I looked it up – it was called an Activator. He used it every time and every time it did nothing and I think that’s because I came in there with a pinched nerve in my neck and couldn’t even lift my arm to even dress myself and I was in all-around-general-extreme-pain and this is what he’s using on me? Get that thing out of my life, Clicky McGee.
4. His Conversation Style.
He was slightly nervous, this doctor, and he would give me a long explanation of something about my back that didn’t really make too much sense, then he’d say “Alright?” except for some reason it was like somebody had turned up the volume in his mouth before he said “alright” and so it would be a shouted “ALRIGHT?” And I would have a question, so it would go like this: “I actually have a ques-” “YES?” “I was just wondering about whether this means that-” “YES??” “Is it better if I’m trying to-” “OKAY LET ME EXPLAIN AGAIN…” It was like trying to talk to a crazy talking duck.
5. The Whole Eighties Theme.
One day you may find yourself at a chiropractor in the East Village area and you’ll know that you walked into the office of the chiropractor I’m talking about. Everything is 80’s in there. The music is 80’s. The chairs are all that old chrome and black leather. The posters are early 80’s. It was like I had tumbled through a tear in the space-time continuum. Maybe nothing has changed in chiropractor world since 1982, but if it has, I’m not sure this guy knows about it.
Nothing against chiropractors, you understand. Love them. But this guy. Whoa. Be on the lookout, friends. That is all.