Friday, July 20, 2012

Crime and Punishment

You reap what you sow.  You get what you give.  You are what you eat.  It's all about the yin and yang of life.  I was on the yang side this week, as I had to face the music and pay the piper.  Yes, it was Traffic Court Day.

I awoke at 4:00 a.m. with a rumbling stomach and a panic rushing through me.  I tried to tell myself to stay calm, but my body naturally reacts to stress, independent of my brain.  There was no reason to be nervous.  I was fully prepared for this day.  I had reviewed the speed limits in the area where I was snagged.  I had analyzed the most appropriate, and alluring-but-not-trashy thing to wear. And I had done my research on the judge's interests and club memberships.  I had devised a way to bring up the fact that I was racing to a volunteer appointment, because service and adventure have been instilled in me by my father, who was also a Rotarian and a pilot and a golfer - and I have a friend with a horse.

And yet, as I was getting ready that morning, I found myself constantly gagging and throwing up in my mouth.  My son asked me what was wrong, but I didn't deserve sympathy - I had dug my own grave.

Walking up to the courthouse --- pretending to be a lawyer and not a defendant --- was easy until I got to the front door.  There was a sign that indicated no cell phones in the building, so I had to do the walk of shame back to my car.  Second time was a charm, and once inside, I submitted my purse for inspection to the guards. 

Officer: "This is a big bag for so little in it."
Me on the inside: "Oh God, what does he mean?  Am I going to be strip searched?  It's a shake-down."
Me on the outside: nervous laughter

I was directed to the courtroom, where I encountered a gathering of other lost souls.  The doors weren't open yet, so we were forced to stand in the hall and stare at the floor or pictures of the historic downtown area. There were people from all walks of life, from roads I don't usually travel.  One woman kept trying to make eye contact with me, but I would not engage.

Once inside the courtroom, I checked in, they pulled my file, and I sat and waited.  And waited.  And waited. Without my cell phone, I was forced to look at my foot and pick at my nails for what felt like an eternity. A man with a meth-itch sat in front of me, and kept turning around to look at me every time I cleared my throat.  I get it - I HAVE ALLERGIES!

A no-nonsense attorney came in and began calling people up one by one.  She presented them with their options and they plead their case.  Wait - what?!!  No judge?!  I don't have witty banter for a female prosecutor!  I'm screwed!

But the judge did appear, and my nerves swept over me once again as I realized my plan would most certainly fail. He was older than dirt, and gave a speech similar to one Andy Griffith might give Opie.  It was full of good old Southern charm and grit, and I realized I was not dealing with Matlock but Mr. Magoo.  I started devising in my head how I was going to have to tell my husband that I plead guilty out of fear and ran screaming from the room.

Yet in the end, I never even got the chance.  The prosecutor called all us speeders up en masse, offered us a plea deal (a fine, no points on driving record), told us to raise our hands if we accepted, and sent us on our way. 

It was a pretty hefty fine, which I again had to wait to pay.  I sat on a bench next to a 2-year-old who was with her grandpa, a sweet little girl who kept looking up at me like I was about to steal her shoes.

As I left the courthouse, I reflected on my secret desire to become a cop.  It's something I've wanted to do for years - I even toyed with going to citizen police school.  But I left that dream behind on this day, as I realized that I didn't have the "stuff."  I was scared of everyone and everything in my legal experience, and it was time to let it go before I had a complete breakdown.

The next day, I punished myself by getting up early to attend a focus group to help pay for my ticket.  It wasn't too bad, but it is safe to say that my speeding habit is cured.

Until next time, keep crowin' and watch out for the po-po!

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