Thursday, March 01, 2007

In which the author discovers she cannot lie under oath, but that small miracles do occur

I went to fight a speeding ticket this morning. The incident happened just before Thanksgiving. The notice I received said arrive at 8:30. So despite Yahoo Maps optimistic belief that the trip takes 18 minutes I set out at 7:50. I arrived at 8:28 and ended up driving around the block twice because there is no parking lot for the Brighton Courthouse because this is Boston (to quote Futurama--as I often do--I'm shocked, well not that shocked). Parked frantically in a spot under a sign with the cryptic message, "No parking 4 hours before or 1 one hour after a football game at (?) school." How would one know? Had stupidly worn flats in order to work better packing boxes at work only to have to tread over unshovelled sidewalks. Ran into the courthouse to a truly Dickensian hell. About 60 people were already seated on benches all around the walls, some in suits, some in jeans, all already looked like souls in purgatory or the Bardo, resigned and waiting. I'd had this weird and naive belief that being called for 8:30 meant you had an appointment of 8:30, or at least sometime in the next hour. Not so. Apparently everyone for the morning was called for 8:30. This included people actually awaiting real court proceedings. I started on the floor, moved to what I'm sure was not intended as a seat as it was in front of a lovely photographic display on the history of the Brighton courthouse and finally moved to a bench. In my haste (and mistaken belief that it wouldn't take long) I had forgotten to bring in my book. I could have really made a dent in Moby-Dick in the THREE hours I was sitting there. Yes, gentle reader, three hours. I kept thinking, "Should I go out for the book, or will they call my name while I'm gone?" I once fought a parking ticket and ran into the courthouse at the scheduled time, met with one snuffling clerk who stamped canceled on my form and sent me on my way--I thought it would be similar. I checked my email on my phone, checked some WAP sites to see if anything was worth downloading, played Tetris and several games of Sudoku before my phone battery faded, about the time I moved to a bench. I slid down in the bench and stared at the ceiling. I would have taken a picture but my battery was too low by the time I realized what an nice ceiling it was and started composing this in my head. It was an arched, vaulted ceiling in a sort of neo-classical, maybe Federalist style (I am very weak in styles of architecture). I watched the people. A woman who was desperately thin and acned had an exquisite child who, though clearly somewhat spoiled, was quite cheerful up until the last part of the third hour. Another cheerful gentleman who looked like a William H. Macy character (paunch over too tight belt, suit from perhaps 1982 at the latest, bushy Flanders mustache) went out and got a paper which he willingly shared with anyone. It was at least peaceful, if not precisely friendly. I also kept thinking longingly of my Mp3 player, but I probably would have been too afraid to use it as the person calling names seemed to never be pronouncing anything resembling human words. I watched a woman who had identified herself as Kim on her cell phone and a gentleman apparently named Roger respond to calls which to me sounded for all the world like, "Mmmhmmm Bhmmm.'' When the crowd had thinned down to about 4 of us, including William H. Macy but not the little girl I moved up to the nearest bench. I was just looking at William's paper when they called something resembling my name (my real name is hard to pronounce at the best of times).

And that, dear reader, is when I found out what I'm made of. They broke me; hunger and exhaustion were enough. They said, "Do you think you were speeding?" And I said, "Yes, but not as much as the ticket says." They said, "Do you want to appeal," (which would mean another trip to Brighton, another missed morning, in all likelihood another 3 hour stint albeit better prepared) "since by your own admission you were actually speeding?" I sighed and said "No,"and they reduced the ticket by half--$100. God help me if I ever actually end up in an interrogation room or Guantanamo, especially if I am at all guilty of anything.

Because, here is the truth of it. I do have a lead foot, but this is my first speeding ticket. This is Boston after all. I didn't know that that stretch of the Mass Pike was 55 (since the rest is 65 and the point of a Turnpike is to be speedy without having to worry about merging traffic! Just MHO). I was passing someone. It is very likely that I was speeding. It's actually possible that I was doing 70 since I thought the highway was 65 but I only admitted to 60 today since I know that ignorance of the law is no excuse--in my mind I was only 5 miles over the speed limit. It is also true that other cars were passing me--which I did tell the magistrate to no avail. It's also true that in my tiny Yaris once one gets beyond 70 mph one starts to feel it, so I wasn't lying when I said I didn't think I was going the 76 mph the ticket said.

I don't know whether to be happy or sad that I was unable to lie to get away scot free. When I finally got to work, one of my bosses said, "That wasn't the time to be entirely truthful." But she's in sales. After all I still fudged the truth. A few years ago a $100 ticket would have been crippling. I once drove for a year with an expired inspection sticker (and only got a warning!) because I got the inspection but couldn't afford the repairs that caused me to fail. Even $200 would not have been crippling. Inconvenient, yes. Annoying, certainly. And back debt would have been paid down more slowly, but not a reason to sit and sob. $100 is annoying and inconvenient. I'm lucky to be in such a place, and lucky to have never gotten a ticket before. In contrast when I fought the parking ticket (there have been several I didn't fight--because not seeing the sign that said, no parking on every other Tuesday is not a defense--this is Boston after all) I knew I was in the right. I had checked the time in my car and on my watch because I was going to an audition. I knew precisely when I put money in the meter and a full hour had NOT passed when I came back to the car and saw the very rude officer slipping the ticket under the windshield wiper--faulty meter. Justified. I never felt fully justified about this, and it fell out under pressure.

I remember when I was in high school my mother and I were attending an obnoxious Fundamental Church and on Sunday nights people would "testify" to God moving in their lives. A man I truly hated, (and pretty much still do) stood up and told how he was flying down the highway at 80 miles an hour and God told him to think of his family and slow down, and so, praise Jesus, he had slowed down to 70. Wasn't that wonderful? And I thought, "So, God said it wasn't ok to break the law by 25 miles per hour," remember in the 80's most highways were still 55, "but it was ok to break the law by 15?"

I will say, this has been a deterrent for me. I still speed, but I don't move out beyond traffic. :P But at least I don't say God gives me permission! I've definitely driven more carefully in the last two months. I do thank God for the fact that I am in a position to roll with this and for that matter to have a phone with cool features and an Mp3 player to miss.

One last frustration. When I left the courthouse I had to roll back and forth to get out of the iced parking spot. I did curse a bit.

On the way to work--by now starving--I decided to be decadent and have McD's. And then I remembered that I could pick up some change of address postcards for one boss. I had only the vaguest memory of where the copy shop was. I drove up the street it's on and didn't see it. Clearly I was going to have to go to work, get the number and go back. I turned around and pulled into McD's, looked across the street, and saw the copy place! It required crossing one of those streets where the traffic never stops, but other than that it was a triumph! Boxes got packed, and bizarrely one of my bosses gave me an old but working Blackberry (?!) So if anyone really needs a Blackberry, let me know. It means I now have three handheld devices that do similar things--because I love my phone way too much to give it up for the awkward and ugly Blackberry (the phone was an obscenely decadent gift from eBay for my husband who decided it was lovely but the buttons too small so it became mine!). I could listen to three different radio stations at once if I had three sets of ears. What I do like about the Blackberry and intend to use (because it works w/out Sim card) is the notepad and keyboard. I can blog as I think it and then upload it!

Mood: weirdly optimistic. I'm wearing a small black rubber band that was on a phone cord on my finger as a ring.

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