Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mea Culpa

Last week I was in traffic court for the first time in my life due to a late-night violation. It was thrilling. Right. I learned why Law & Order is not based on traffic court cases.

An officer stopped me at the metal detectors because of the forgotten knife on my keychain. Once I had taken care of that and my cell phone, I waited outside the courtroom for my Day of Judgement. Some of the guilty ones wore sloppy sweats; some wore suits. My choice of outfit was a gamble on the idea that the judge wouldn't mind a lady in heels and a slim skirt.

Inside the courtroom, the bailiff looked like Edward James Olmos after the Jenny Craig diet. He crabbed at everyone to spit out their gum and take their sunglasses off their heads. Enter the judge in a neighborly cardigan under his robes. He nodded to the accusing officers and scanned his docket.

I happened to have seated myself as close to the officers as possible. They seemed official and respectable enough with their stacks of traffic citations in hand. The judge addressed us all and proceeded to call us up one by one. Some had DUI problems but most were like me.

I take that back. I was completely out of place. These people had multiple violations and were really pushing the envelope. When the judge gave them a chance to make a statement, most would lamely try to justify their mistake. To his credit, he would listen until they were done. Then he would hand down his judgement, without any changes. I wondered why none of them invoked their driving record. Then I realized-- it was because it would only make things worse.

What would I say? That I was tired? That would go over really well. Who doesn't drive when they are tired? Should I read my blog post to him? Or should I tell him that frankly, I didn't know the law? Sure. I could probably recite with him that, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse..." Didn't I have an ace up my sleeve?

I observed the body language and terminology that everyone in the courtroom used, filing it all away for my turn. At one point an offender was cited for illegally tinted windows along with his DUI. An officer nearby leaned close to another and I could hear him whisper about what he would do to a girl in a car with tinted windows...

AAHHHH!!!! I tried not to react but I must have twitched or something, because he suddenly clammed up, glanced at me, and looked away. Phew. Finally I heard the judge call my name. I stood up and said, "No contest, your Honor." Immediately my accusing officer called out,

"I would like to amend the charge, your Honor."

I froze. There was no way on God's green earth that I was going to plead no contest to an unknown charge. I looked back and forth between the judge and the officer, waiting for an explanation. The two tossed complicated decimal-pointed codes around while I stood there, clueless.

When the judge invited me to stand before him, I suddenly realized my mistake. My three inch heels made me 6'5". The entire motley courtroom gawked at me as my heels clicked on the way to the podium. So much for the strategic wardrobe.

The judge cited the new charge. I leaned WAAAY down to the microphone and asked how it differed from the previous charge. The judge actually had to dig out his code book. Turns out the officer just got his codes wrong, and he was correcting his mistake. I agreed with the new charge.

"Is there anything you want to say?" the judge asked.

"No your honor, except that I ask the court to take my driving record into account." Here was my hidden ace.

Eddie Olmos, the bailiff, handed him a sheet of paper. The judge looked it over.

"You have a perfect driving record." He sounded surprised.

Exactly!!! Can't you see that I don't belong here? That I made a stupid tired mistake??? That I wasn't trying to endanger law enforcement officers? Drinking while driving is a no-brainer. But how many people in this courtroom would be able to recite the law that I had broken?

He decided that I was not a threat to society and lessened the charge to a more general traffic violation. I thanked him lamely and made my Amazonian way out of the courtroom as quickly as I could.

While I was at the window to pay my fine, I could hear the officers who manned the metal detector. Their conversations were pitiful at best. One of them discussed how he likes to use a falsetto voice while inviting courthouse visitors to step through the detector. I rolled my eyes. No wonder these guys had been positioned here. I couldn't get away fast enough.

On my way out, I turned around and click-clicked my way back to the officers at the metal detector. I had their full attention as they straightened up. I smiled my best charming smile and said, "Gentlemen! I've been listening to your conversations and truly, they have been enlightening."

One of them grimaced. "Which one?"

"ALL of them." I whirled and flounced my way out the door, glad to be done.


Susie said...

I was quite surprised to find that native women of the Amazon are not tall, blond and busty, but are generally dark, flat (how else could they wear two halves of coconuts?), and under 5'3"
And yes, the coconut bras are for real.
Not that I've actually been to the Amazon.
Sorry about your traffic ticket. I had something stupid like that happen to me once, too. I hope the fine wasn't too outrageous!

Tracie said...

PHEW! Glad that's done! I still feel partly guilty. What DID Ben say with all the stuff I unloaded on you anyhow?! You're one of my favorite people to laugh and cry with!!! Miss you!

ctarbet said...

Sorry you had to deal with this, but you handled it in such a Laurenesque way... you are too funny! Love you tons!!!