Saturday, November 8, 2008

Alone In a Crowd . . .

I recently had to serve on jury duty. This was a first. Not that I haven't been called before, but I always had an excusable reason. I was a nursing mother, a mother of very young children, I was self-employed and it would be a financial hardship, I had just started a new job and it would endanger my employment . . .This time was different and I showed up for my civic service.

I actually didn't mind the concept of serving. In a way, I was kind of looking forward to it. It was a new adventure! An opportunity to go downtown and feel the energy of the city. I used to work downtown every day - in fact it was where I met my wonderful husband - and I sometimes miss that energy. Nowhere else can you find that feeling. The "city" has it's own sounds, feel, and smells. So I gathered a few items to occupy my time while waiting and headed off on my adventure.

The first thing I encountered was the traffic. Oh my goodness!!! I had forgotten what the morning rush hour commute into downtown is like. I was a bundle of nerves. How do people do that every day and keep their sanity?!! My daily commute to my job is 15 minutes with very limited traffic. And then there was the parking. I found a smartpark garage near the courthouse, but those things are nervewracking. I drove around in circles forever trying to find a spot where I could park and then actually have enough room to get out of the car!

At the courthouse, it was the security check. They ran my bag through 4 times. I carry basic art supplies with me everywhere I go. In my pencil pouch was a compass for drawing circles. They finally decided that I would not be able to do any serious damage with it and let me go - the lady behind me with the miniature scissors for her sewing was not so lucky. She had to surrender those or not come in. What a sad world we live in.

Once in the courthouse, I checked into the jury room. There was a sea of people - a few hundred of us. I walked around looking for a space to become my home for the next few hours. I found my piece of real estate at a round table surrounded with chairs. I sat down and scanned the room. All types of people were there - business professionals, students, retired people . . .and not one person would look at another. No one said hello, or engaged in small talk. In fact it was so quiet, I felt self-concious moving my chair.

People had books, mp3 players, laptops, cell phones, knitting, and crossword puzzles. We were all there together, confined to a single room. According to our instructions, we could most likely be there for the next 8-9 hours. But we were all alone. Obviously people wanted to talk to someone - so they pulled out there phones and talked, completely ignoring the people surrounding them. Others buried their faces in their computer screens rather than making eye contact. It was truly one of the most isolating feelings I have had in a long time.

Now don't get me wrong - I love technology. It frustrates me, while at the same time amazing me with it's power. But as we have embraced technology, we have forgotten how to be human. People would rather communicate through a piece of machinery that to make the human connection, soul to soul. My children send over 3,000 text messages a month. They prefer that to talking on the phone. Emails have replaced handwritten letters.

I never did get called onto a jury - no one did. In fact they ended up releasing most of us by noon. But I left there with a renewed desire to connect with friends and loved ones. I challenge anyone reading this to call up a friend and go meet them for lunch, or coffee, or hot chocolate or tea or whatever you like. Pick up the phone and listen to each others voices. Or handwrite a special note. Let's remember we are all in this together and share the most valuable asset we posses - ourselves.


Trishelle said...

I know what you mean about the city...especially Portland. It's a remarkable place.

I'm so sorry you were surrounded by people yet so alone. That makes me sad because there was a room full of people who missed out on having a conversation with you. They certainly would have left uplifted by the opportunity. Your infectious laugh would have won them over in a milli-second. Perhaps unplugging technology for a moment is one way we can allow ourselves to stand out in a crowd...which is really something you do so well.

Laurie Miller said...

Trishelle - you are so sweet. I love seeing your comments. Love you -