Spending a 16-hour day at Miami-Dade County Courthouse was a great reminder of the importance of mindfulness and manners in public settings.
It has been at least five years since I received my first jury duty summons. Details are foggy, but, I don’t remember the jury selection process taking this long. I arrived at the courthouse promptly at 8:00am. I had a number added to my name (#13) and spent the morning moving between sitting areas and courtrooms as well as filling out a number of forms and questionnaires. By late afternoon, I had decided to remain curious about the process, instead of becoming annoyed by this all-important but sometimes, inconvenient privilege. I assuaged waves of impatience by reading or listening to my favorite tunes.
Maybe I was acutely aware of everything going on around me, because I felt sequestered, and lacked the power to just get up and leave. Though I am no Emily Post, I try to be as careful as I can of how my actions can affect other people’s experience. I think most people would truly appreciate if we all remembered the following 3 things some of my fellow co-would-be-jurors forgot during our time together:
Listening to music or watching a movie on your iPhone or iPad can really help pass the time while sitting in a dull room waiting to be called as a juror, a doctor’s waiting area, the DMV etc. Wearing earphones while doing so is a must in my book. The student next to you trying to finish his/her homework, or the soon-to-be mom sitting one row behind, trying to focus on the reading material she carefully picked a day before will fully appreciate it.
Coughing or Sneezing:
I have never subscribed to the idea that people need to be treated as pariahs if they have a cold. On the contrary, I believe in showing kindness to friends and co-workers who look like their nose is about to fall off because they have been sneezing so much.
By the same token, a quick turn to the opposite side and covering your mouth or temporarily moving to a less crowded area (if possible), can show others that you are aware of them, and respect their fears of catching a cold or the flu (especially those with a weak immune system, or germ phobias). I don’t think an apology is needed for experiencing something so natural and unpreventable.
Holding the door for the person walking behind you:
It goes for both men and women, and it is definitely a courtesy, not an obligation. Holding the door for the person walking behind you is more an act of camaraderie, perhaps an assistance for someone carrying grocery bags, a nod of respect for an elderly person, or a safety concern for a little one. It is one of my favorite, polite things to do for a stranger, a micro-gesture of love and respect that never gets old.
These are the little things that matter. We are living amongst other and though society should certainly not dictate our every move, a little compromise and manners go a long way.