What an exciting week ahead, I thought on the Saturday night. I was down to do Jury Service at the local Crown Court. I'd already deferred once due to the short notice and on Monday I was about to get an experience I always wanted. Especially so because being a writer any experience adds to your ability to write about it. Okay so I couldn't write anything about cases etc but I didn't want that. I can very easily make up my own crimes. (That didn't come out quite like I meant it to)
What a meant was I'd get a feel of the place, the importance, the seriousness, the vibe. The pomp and ceremony like swearing in and sitting in a jury and listening to evidence, the weight of somebody's life on the line. It was frightening, exciting and sobering too. A judgement might send a mother away from her children, a son away from his mother. It might lose someone their job. Jury service is not to be entered lightly you are messing with real people's real lives.
I was also concerned about not being at work. It would be the first time in years, literally that I'd been off work that long. I worried about folk having to bear my workload in addition to their own. And, as you know nowadays, there is no slack anymore. Everyone I know works at break-neck speed with little or no rest.
Still, it wasn't like I had a choice, I didn't want to be standing in the box for not turning up to Jury Service, heaven forbid.
However, all my plans and ideas went down the pan on Sunday night. I'd even driven to the Courts 18 miles away on Saturday to check out that I could park - yes there plenty of spaces behind an intimidating looking green metal fence with spikes on top. I swallowed hard looking at that. Did the jury sometimes get antsy? I wondered. The entrance was easy to see and I had a vague recollection of coming here 19 years ago on another adventure, but thats an entirely different story.
Sunday night I started coughing and when I say started coughing I don't mean that polite ladies cough. This was a hacking, soul-stretching cough that felt like someone had grabbed a cheese grater and rammed it down my throat whilst I slept. Next, a gigantic bloke with a hammer began striking the back of my head and if that wasn't enough he picked me up threw me into the road where someone in a steam roller decided to drive over my legs. The pain was beyond pain. How I was still conscious I wasn't sure. Finally, I couldn't figure out how I had so much water running off my body like Niagara. I'm dammed sure I've never drunk that much in my whole life. I must have a temperature I concluded. Sure enough 39.7C Eeerh! I've got Jury Service in the morning and I can't defer again, or they'll send me to prison.
Typically I couldn't find any good paracetamol in the house and made do with a selection of various meds that should have helped - they didn't. Monday morning came and I felt worse. The bed, at least my side resembled a deflated hot tub complete with water aka sweat. I couldn't get any response from either the GP surgery or the Jury Service Team before 8am and that's when I needed to leave home to get to the courts without going to prison for being late.
It was awful. I thought for moments that I might be dying and god had decided to keep me in the dark in case I freaked out, which I would have - he knows me well. Every exhalation was a continuous cheese-grating cough until I inhaled. I got out the car, I was early and folk grimaced at me like I was carrying a weapon. I suppose I was a biological one. Women tutted and turned away in disgust, men cowered in the corner too afraid to be exposed.
The security man wasn't impressed. He couldn't run away, though he looked like he wished he could. Didn't they realise if I could have run away too, I would have joined them?
I'd deliberately stocked my bag with "everything" and I mean everything. I was told we needed to provide our own lunch and I was worried they might still make me do jury service regardless of my temporary dying state. If I'd swung my bag, I probably would have knocked out any guilty defendant without a problem. As it was, I could just about lift it.
Big burly security man directed me up the stairs so off I plodded. I swear I heard a collective sigh of relief from the people now assembling behind me. I wandered down the hallway and around the corner and couldn't see any sign of the waiting room. I accosted a lovely man coming out of the men's toilet and he escorted me upstairs to the assembly area.
Two flights of stairs later and I needed oxygen, fortunately I'd brought an old inhaler of Ventolin along, just in case stairs were in my future. It helped - slightly. I sat with folk around me, glaring at me. I could feel their displeasure boring into the back of my neck as I faced away from them all. A deliberate ploy I wondered to keep my germs cordoned off. The very nice organiser-man, said I could go home and he'd defer me again. I asked if he was sure only the paper work said only one deferment. He assured me it was fine and even send me a letter via email later confirming it and my new date.
I decided a trip to the doctor was in order. I managed (thanks to a very kind friend) to get an emergency appointment in 1.40hrs. Too poorly to be bothered driving home I went to sleep in the car, waking only when I needed a wee. Quietly entering the surgery, I headed straight to the loo, did my business and went to return to my car when the staff advised me to stay inside. I still waited another 30 minutes to be "the next one in."
While I lolled in a chair by the window trying to keep my lungs inside my body, my spine had melted by then, I watched my lovely car outside as someone came into the car park and hit it! I definitely don't like Mondays anymore.