Lady Number Three goes courting, Part 2
So, there I was, huddled with eight to 10 other poor souls on the stone front veranda of the courthouse in Hillsborough on a below-freezing morning, until a bailiff with a heart opened the front door and let us in. We all had to go through an airport-like security station, where I had to cover up the book club book I’d brought, with the unfortunate-in-a-courtroom name of “Necessary Lies.”
It worked. I was in -- on the “inside,” you know, where human souls are crowded in unspeakable conditions, and there isn’t a scrap of blue sky to be found! ... sorry ... old movie. Then, I noticed that Lady Number One was miraculously gone, and I was now Lady Number Two! This was HUGE!
My only delay would be the new Lady Number One, who spoke very little English. Through trial and error -- and charades and interpretive dance -- I’d deduced that she had bought a used car from someone and had driven off in it, with the former owner’s license plates still attached. She evidently thought they were hers now, unless and until someone sent her new ones. Wouldn’t this be a nice thing for the state to do? I mean, we do pay EXTREMELY HIGH TAXES, don’t we?!
The assistant district attorney called my name and I went up to his desk. I’d planned everything I would say very carefully.
He said hello, and just as I opened my mouth, he looked at his computer and said, “Wow, you were on your way to a funeral when you were stopped?”
“Uh ... yes, and---”
“Well, it looks like you haven’t had a ticket in 20 years, Ms. Wentz. That’s impressive.”
Obstructed again, I answered, “Yes, sir, and I---”
“Well, Ms. Wentz, we’re going to give you a break for being such a careful driver -- or at least careful not to get caught (chuckle, chuckle, snort) -- we’re going to reduce this to Improper Equipment. Now, take this upstairs to Courtroom B, where a judge will charge you $188 in court costs, plus $50 for improper equipment,” he beamed.
I stood there stunned. I hadn’t been able to give my impassioned speech, which included clever and astute references to the Constitution, the pilgrims and the Criminal Code of Conduct!
I said, “Well, sir, a ‘reward for being a careful driver’ would have been, ‘Case dismissed, go home.’” And, off I went (to climb a staircase that was so high I thought I was headed to see the ... uh ... Ultimate Judge, if you know what I mean) to Courtroom B.
As I left, I saw poor Lady Number One, trying loudly to explain her license plate theft to the (equally poor) assistant DA, who looked pretty desperate.
In empty Courtroom B, a bailiff and a security guard told me to sit anywhere. I asked what time the judge would be there, and they answered, “Whenever he gets here (ha, ha, snort).” Cute.
So, I sat and read my paper (“Don’t be reading that paper when the judge comes in,” I was told sternly by the female security guard. And, I knew instantly that I’d have trouble in the Big House. I’d mouth-off for sure, and the guards would make me scrub floors and get no soap in the shower. But, I wouldn’t break! ... sorry, movie again.).
Finally, the bailiff announced, “All rise,” and Judge Jay Bryan strode in. He was a trim, handsome, middle-aged gentleman, with sandy hair and flattering, judge-type wire-rimmed glasses (if I’m remembering correctly, which should not be entirely assumed ... uh ... sir). He said good morning to us and told us where to stand, and then they called a name, which was not mine, but I wanted to watch one first. (Plus, I was having a little trouble folding up my newspaper under the glaring eye of the security guard-ette.)
Then, my name was called, and as I rose and “approached the bench” I saw Judge Bryan begin to smile. And, by the time I reached my place, he was grinning hugely. I assumed I had a branch in my hair, my skirt was tucked into my pantyhose -- or he saw the name of my book. But, it turned out that he knew of my “work” and thanked me right there from the bench on behalf of the Orange County area -- or words to that effect! I was astonished, humbled, embarrassed and thrilled. Since he was smiling, I assumed he meant for my work as a modest hilarity columnist, although it could’ve been for my work (aka “tortures and triumphs”) as a teacher, which would also inspire a smirk that says, Ha-ha, I’m a judge and you have to be a teacher!
So, I thanked him back, and he said, “Well, Ms. Wentz, in light of your good driving record, I’m going to give you a break and reduce your court costs by $18. Please pay at the Cashier’s office, and have a good day.”
OMG! Do NONE of these people understand what it means to “give someone a break”?
Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker. Readers may contact her at email@example.com, or visit her website, www.vickiwentz.com