Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Fun at Traffic Court

I didn't see John Laroquette, and there was no sign of Markie Post anywhere. There were several Bull-like gentlemen in uniform, however.

I went to Knox County Traffic Court today to clear up my expired registration situation from last month.

God help our judicial system.

First I was told the courtoom I needed to go to was in the City/County Building, a behemoth downtown with all kinds of security. I emptied my pocketses for the metal detector, passed through fine and then was told the courtroom I needed to be in was in the Old Courthouse next door.

Feh.

I go next door, holding the elevator for a lady ladened to the teeth with crates, boxes, papers and a bag of cheetos. Up to the third floor to Fourth Sessions Court. The area outside the courtroom was full of people waiting for the court to open at 9am. Finally the lights turn on, the door opens and we all file in.

The courtroom is smaller than I'd anticipated, and filled with what look like old church pews. In comes Cheeto lady, who turns out to be the prosecutor for Traffic Court...hm. Good thing I was nice to her in the hall... She tells everyone to have a seat and wait for their name to be called, and..oh, all those awaiting arraignment should wait outside until 10am. Behind her sits the judge for the session, and a myriad of other clerks, barristers and guards wander in and out.

Not me. I sit and cool my heels for a while. She works through the docket, calling name after name alphabetically. One unlucky fellow in the seats is yelled at by the judge after his cell phone goes off. I hurriedly mute mine before it's confiscated.

Most people who are called have their offenses taken care of, but some do go before the judge for..um, well, judgement. Another unlucky guy was chastised greatly by the judge for going 112 in a 70 mph zone - he was cited for reckless driving as well as speeding, had his license suspended and was put on 6-month probation. A young woman gave a sob story about not complying with a 90-day mandated appointment with driving school, because "they hadn't returned her phone calls" when trying to schedule the class. The judge would have none of it, and off she went. Still another unlucky lady with two little kids was barked at by the judge because the older child's toy was making too much noise. Geez, back off yeronner...

Finally, CheetoProsecutor - who seemed to be very nice, but harried - breezed through to the end of the alphabet, but skipped my name. "Oh crap" I said nicely, to myself, and got up to inquire. After waiting in line a few seconds, I spoke to the nice lady and was told she was just about to ask for people's names who weren't called. I showed her the citation, and she seemed concerned that my wife - whose name was actually on the citation, although she was driving my car - was not here personally to contest or allow the ticket. I explained that she had been told by the officer that all I would have to do was show proof the registration had been updated and paid (which it now had been), and that would be the end of that. She handed the citation over to a clerk and asked me to take a seat, while they searched for the records.

So I sat.

Finally I was called back up, and stood before the judge.

I considered throwing myself bodily down on the floor, screaming and begging for the mercy of the court. I considered pointing a finger at the nearest lawyer, crying "I OBJECT! ARGUMENTATIVE! MOVE TO STRIKE!" I however, did none of those things but instead smiled politely as the judge told me that since I had paid the registration, it was dismissed but I'd still need to pay Court Costs. And to step outside till my name was called.

Court Costs?

The mysterious catch-all of fines...I think each evening someone in County Finance office looks at the days receipts, compares them to what's remaining in the year's budget and comes to an estimate of how much the courts need to make the next day. That number is divided by the number of cases, and the result is what each person has to pay in "Court Costs".

This figure, of course, includes the continuing amount of money we waste each year defending Shurf Hutchinson against all his various lawsuits, but that's another story.

Anyhoo, I step outside with the rest of the mass of humanity. Presently, a nice young man who was probably 2 when I graduated from high school directs all us unlucky Court Cost payers to follow him. We exit the third floor, exit the building, and walk over to...

You guessed it. The City/County Building, where I'd started out in the first place.

I go through security again - this time, however, the metal detector has had time to think about me since the first time I went through, and my belt buckle is deemed an Imminent Security Breach. I'm "wanded". Oh, my dignity.

I head down to the clerk's desk and pay the Court Costs. I swell with pride at fulfilling my civic duty to pay (apparently) half the total annual budget of the government of Guam, and finally leave the building.

I check my watch - it's only been just over an hour. Seems like I'd been in Traffic Court for the better part of the winter.

I had considered taking the rest of the day off from work, but since starving people in the Pacific Rim have to eat, I decide to go back to work. I vow never to have another lapsed registration, moving violation, parking ticket, noise citation or

How this story should've ended, for maximum ironic and comedic effect

The drive back to work from downtown usually takes about 20 minutes down Alcoa Highway, but today it took 25. Why?

I got a speeding ticket.

Crap.

But that's not what happened. I guess thank goodness for me, too bad for the literary world.

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