About fifteen Ocracokers boarded the 6:30 a.m. Swan Quarter ferry yesterday morning on our way to jury duty. Some folks caught a bit more sleep in their cars, but most gathered in small groups in the passenger lounge to sip coffee, chat, or share a laugh or two.
By 9:30 we joined dozens of other people from the mainland in the Fire Hall (the courthouse was damaged beyond repair in a recent hurricane, and the new building is not yet complete). We shivered in the cold concrete building as nine grand jurors were selected (four from Ocracoke).
Four cases were scheduled this week, but the judge asked the remaining jurors to step out of the room "for about twenty minutes" while he conferred with the lawyers. The only place for us to go was the main bay of the Fire Hall. We sat on coiled up fire hoses, leaned against boxes and crates, settled down on the back of the firetrucks, or stood in the hallway.
Twenty minutes turned into an hour....then two hours. Finally, after two and a half hours (by then it was after 1 o'clock) we were called back into the "courtroom." After a brief apology, and an explanation of how the "system" had "worked" in spite of our frustration, he told us that all four cases had been resolved "administratively," that our service was complete, and we were free to leave.
Of course it was two and a half hours before the next ferry back home (and a two and a half hour ferry ride), or a 150 mile drive back to Ocracoke through Whalebone Junction & Hatteras Island. I elected to "drive around" since I had a few errands to run.
If you don't live on the island take a moment to imagine having jury duty in some distant town either five hours from your home, or at least a 150 mile drive away (plus a 45 minute ferry ride and a wait in line for up to another hour at Hatteras Inlet).
But then remember that we all think it's worth it just to live on Ocracoke. It's only five minutes to the beach, after all.
This month's Ocracoke Newsletter chronicles the story of commercial fishing on Ocracoke, and tells of the efforts of the Ocracoke Working Watermen's Association to save the island's last remaining fish house. Click here to read the entire newsletter....and learn how to make a donation.