Describe an experience or event that changed everything in your life – maybe not immediately, but over time, little by little.

It came in the form of a jury summons from the Federal Court in Sacramento, the state capitol. I had no problem getting excused for the day from my job in the bookstore in Stockton, 50 miles from the capitol. I set off on a Monday morning just as it was getting light, not certain of the volume of northbound traffic on the freeway, not wanting to be late for the 9 a.m. summons. Mostly I was driving among trucks hauling produce north in the valley, tomatoes and sugar beets.

I was glad to be selected for the jury. The judge said the trial might last several weeks, something about a bank robbery. I was intrigued; it sounded as though this might be a
welcome change from the routine of the bookstore.

Soon I learned to maneuver in the multi-level parking garage and locate the courtroom which would become more than familiar. The drive home to Stockton each evening at dusk became an hour when I could enjoy the solitude, hoping that dinner might be waiting for me.

The trial itself was interesting. Others on the jury began to feel like friends, the judge, attorneys and bailiffs part of a movie set. I tried not to make eye contact with the defendant, having seen enough television trials to want to play my part correctly.

We did spend a good deal of time in the lounge adjacent to the court, excluded from court activities, but it was all an adventure and a good time for reading. Also there was a two-hour lunch break every day when we explored downtown Sacramento.

The trial did last a month, from late November until shortly before Christmas. Ultimately the defendant was released with insufficient evidence to convict, although in my mind, I was almost certain he was guilty. There was something about him, but not enough. By the time the jury was excused for the final time, we had bonded and become almost a family. We hugged, promised to stay in touch, and departed.

But that is not the end of the story. In the San Joaquin Valley in wintertime, there is almost always tule fog in the early mornings and evenings. The low-lying fog envelops everything, making headlights a necessity. I felt as though I was driving alone in a sort of time capsule, separated from my daily routine and life’s circumstances. Not an unpleasant sensation, but noteworthy.

Also the hours spent in the courtroom must have been playing on my mind. By the end of that month, I made some life-altering decisions. The fog lifted. Within days I contacted a divorce attorney, arranged to end a faltering marriage, and proceeded to turn a corner into an entirely new life.