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Jury Duty Selection and One More Reason to Avoid Public Washrooms

On November 14, 2016, I had to report to the Newmarket Courthouse for jury duty selection. I spent the day sitting on a metal chair waiting for them to call my number.

Watching jurors get selected was both tedious, interesting, and nerve-wracking: tedious, because each selection can grind on interminably; interesting, because I’ve never participated in this before and it made for great research; and nerve wracking, because what if they call me?

The selections were for civil trials, so only six jurors would be selected for each trial, but dear God, selecting an entire panel at times felt like watching a snail move fifty metres.

A prospective juror’s number and occupation would be called, and the person would take his/her place on the reserved seat or speak to the judge about why jury duty at this time would cause hardship. Most people elected to speak to the judge, who would then either excuse the juror, defer jury duty to another time, or insist the person take a seat on the panel.

If the juror was excused or their duty was deferred, another number was called and the debate for exclusion began anew. It was a relief when the potential juror simply took his/her designated spot without raising any issues.

Once the six jurors had been selected, each lawyer had four opportunities to veto any of the prospective jurors. When this happened — and the lawyers all jumped on at least two opportunities to nix jurors — then the vetoed juror had to be replaced.

The most excitement I had that day happened in the hallway as I waited in line to use the washroom.

To open the door to the washroom you could press a large button next to the door, and it would unlock the door and open it wide. This would happen even if the person inside the washroom had pressed the red button that had a sign on it saying “Press to lock door.” Or something like that.

How do I know this, you ask? No, I didn’t spend any time investigating the mechanics of courthouse bathroom doors. I happened to be waiting to use the facilities when a woman I can only think of as an asshole blew past and hit the button to unlock and open the door.

The hall was crowded. She was there and gone before I could register what she looked like. I caught the back of her head and the flash of her arm as it shot out and hit the button.

As soon as she did, the door swung wide, and the two of us waiting for the bathroom to free up launched ourselves at the open door to get it closed again. The poor woman sitting on the toilet was too far away to do anything, and the hallway was packed with, mostly, men.

Since then, I’ve wondered what motivated that woman to do what she did. Did she know the button opened the bathroom door and she’d be exposing and humiliating someone by pressing it and thought it would be a hilarious practical joke? If so, she didn’t stick around to laugh it up with the victim.

Perhaps she has the mentality of a child and always pushes these buttons when she sees them? Or, maybe she had a seizure and her flailing arm hit the button by accident? It couldn’t have been anything personal. She wouldn’t have known who was in there at the time.

I can’t think of any logical reason for her actions, but I was steamed enough on behalf of the poor woman who was exposed to a crowded hallway with her pants around her knees to blog about it. When the woman ahead of me went in, I stood in front of the button. Anyone wanting to push that button would have had to go through me to do it, and when the woman ahead of me came out, she did the same for me while I used the bathroom.

Seriously, has it really come to this, that even in the courthouse you have to put a sentry on a locked bathroom door?


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