Sunday, July 15, 2007

Traffic Court: wrong side of the bench

One mean driving machineI have always worked hard to stay out of trouble. I made it through elementary and high school without serving detention; shoot, I was never sent to the principal’s office. I have driven for 38 years without a speeding citation or even a parking fine. But my flawless record came to an end one cold January night when my youngest son announced that I would have to appear in traffic court for his speeding ticket.

Wait. How could this be? He was driving his own car at the time. I wasn’t even in the car, because obviously I would have reminded him that “flowing with traffic” does not mean pick out the fastest car and tail-gate it across the high rent neighborhood. Besides, first tickets are pay-by-mail right? Well, that is true for adults but he was a few weeks shy of that watermark; so the parent who signed the probationary license application was required to appear in Family Traffic Court.

Mock form for illustration onlyWho could have guessed there were so many rules about showing up for a traffic ticket hearing? There were dress code issues, and the list of banned apparel. There were punctuality issues, as in “if absent or late you may be considered in contempt of the court.” Last, but not least, there were documentation issues, as in the lists of items to bring to the court appearance.

We got off on the wrong foot when I made three bad assumptions at the outset. First, that the procedures would be explained once we got there. Second, that the information in the packet was gospel, or at least based on reality. Third, that there would be a distribution of newbies and “repeat offenders” so we could watch and learn.

As for explanations about what to do, from the moment we stepped in the door on the appointed morning nobody explained anything beyond “you’ll find out when you need to know.” Yeah, right. Remember that list of banned apparel, it turned out to be more like the approved list (minus the “Daisy Dukes”); and did I hear about that later – “Mom, I was the only geek in a tie.” And, not only were we the sole newbies that day, we got to go first.

Somehow we bumbled our way through; and his fine actually got cut in half (first offense, judge’s discretion, or something like that). Although, I thought the judge was going to have a stroke trying not to laugh out loud at our hapless charades. As soon as we were paid-up and cleared to leave, we made a bee-line for the nearest exit.

Once outside we slowed to stroll back to the car in silence. After a bit I noticed his head nodding and with a sideways glance he said, “This has been a good experience.”

“Oh,” I replied, trying to grasp how going to traffic court was a good thing.

“Yeah, when I have to go to traffic court with my kids, I won’t be as freaked as you were.”

This is my entry in Scribbit’s July Write-Away Contest about “My Most Adventurous Moment.”


Scribbit said...

Okay that qualifies as an adventure--never having been myself to traffic court though when I was a journalism major in college I had to do court reporting occasionally.

Daisy said...

OMG!! You owe him for that one.