The Summons

Late summer insects buzzed and hummed from clumps of tall grass in the ditches as I slowly limped down the driveway toward the mailbox. It felt good to be outdoors in the warm sun. A pleasant breeze playfully fluffed my hair as it scurried about in the yard. Stopping to rest my painful left knee, I anticipated the knee replacement surgery scheduled in two weeks.

Finally, having reached the mailbox, I rifled through the pack of letters.  When I saw a letter from the Marathon County Circuit Court, I involuntarily blurted, “Oh-oh!”

Hastily ripping the envelope open, I read, “You are hereby summoned to serve as a juror for a one-week term beginning…” The date listed was a little over two weeks after my knee replacement surgery. I doubted I’d be in condition for jury duty that soon.

With the help of my doctor, I was excused from the jury obligation on that date. While Marathon County acknowledged the validity of my excuse, they included a new date to serve. The date was so many months away, I had almost forgotten about it until another Marathon County reminder arrived in the mail recently.

The instructions directed potential jurors to call a courthouse phone number the night before and the morning of each of their five service dates, Monday through Friday. An automated message informs the caller if a trial is scheduled, and which people report based on their assigned pool number.

 When the Sunday night before my first service date finally arrived, I dutifully called the courthouse number. The automated voice stated, “The trial for (date) will be taking place. Jurors with pool numbers one through fifty-five are to report to the courthouse no later than 8:20 a.m.”

The palms of my hands instantly became clammy. What was my pool number? Pulling the summons letter from its envelope I read it over. At the top of the page, I spotted the information I hadn’t thought was important. In bold type it clearly stated, “Pool number: 2.” My heart sank.

Serving on a jury sounded interesting but having to do it made me feel nervous. Luckily, I knew where the courthouse was located in Wausau and how to get there but felt worried about having to use the parking ramp next to the courthouse. Country girl that I am, I worried about where the entrance to the parking ramp was and how to exit it. The letter instructed jurists to park on the ramp’s second level and tell the jury attendants our license plate numbers so we wouldn’t get a parking ticket.  

My next worry was about how early I’d have to get up and when I had to leave home to get there on time. I live four miles north of the Wood County line, so my drive to the county courthouse is 40 miles, most of it on interstate highway 29.

I hate getting up early in the morning despite waking at 5:30 a.m. most mornings for work for over 46 years. Since I retired, I no longer get up early, but the following morning, I left the house at 7:30 a.m. to do my civic duty.

The birds in my yard chirped sleepily as I walked to the garage. Sunshine burned my eyes as I drove east on Interstate 29. All around me were younger people probably driving to work.

Three quarters of an hour seemed like enough time to drive to Wausau, but it took longer than expected. Entering the parking ramp wasn’t as hard as I had feared, but then I had trouble figuring out what level I was on. Finally spotting the second-floor stairwell sign nearly made me cry with relief.

When I stepped into the courthouse, the clock in the lobby read, “8:25 a.m. One of the jury attendants greeted me, saying, “Just in time.” I followed him to the introduction room already feeling tired and as if I was being punished for someone else’s crime.


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