Last November a policeman pulled me over because my license plate was expired. He gave me a ticket and told me that I could either pay the $146 fine or I could go to court on January 13th. He said he couldn’t guarantee it, but as long as I took proof that everything was up-to-date, my case would probably be dismissed by the clerk. For a policeman giving me a ticket, he was very sweet. I hadn’t been pulled over for anything for about 10 or 11 years, so I was all shaky and I think he felt kind of bad.
To save $146, I decided to go to court instead of paying it early. So, here I go trekking to Uptown Charlotte yesterday afternoon. I missed the courthouse parking garage completely and ended up parking in a garage about 6 blocks away. I was FLYING down the sidewalk to get to the courthouse on time and I may have knocked down an old lady or two on my way.
Once there I found my courtroom, gave my paperwork to the Sheriff’s deputy, and sat down to wait. I pulled out my book to pass the time, until the deputy said, “Ma’am! Put away your book!” Ooops! I guess that’s part of the punishment, to sit for hours while waiting for your name to be called with absolutely nothing to do in the meantime.
The clerk started calling people to her desk at the front of the room. Some people were lined up and taken back to an actual courtroom to be taken in front of a judge. The deputy called my name and told me that a lawyer had been assigned to my case. I said, “What? All I had was an expired registration. Why do I need a lawyer?”
I was starting to have visions of being carted off to jail!
The deputy asked me if I had spoken to an attorney. All quavery-voiced I said, “No sir. Should I have?” He said, “What did you say your ticket was for?”
Now, he’s holding my ticket and sees hundreds of them in a day, and he’s asking me what my ticket was for?
I responded, “I had an expired registration. I’ve got the updated one here in my pocketbook.” He told me to sit back down. So, I went back to my seat. And sat for another 2 hours while the courtroom steadily emptied out. Here are some things I learned while sitting there with nothing else to do:
- People need to bathe more. Really. Especially when they’re going to court. Or out in public generally.
- There is a secret pathway under 4th Street that leads from the courthouse to the jail, which may or may not have been part of the Underground Railroad. At least according to the man sitting behind me.
- No young men under, say, the age of 22 have belts anymore. And, they can’t carry anything because they’re too busy holding up their pants.
- There are more excuses made in one day in a courtroom than I’m used to hearing in about 5 years.
- As soon as the lawyers leave the courtroom, their true feelings about the judge come out. One lawyer to another, overheard by me and written down (swiftly, so as not to get another “Ma’am!” directed at me): “She must have been on pain medication because she was in a great mood today.”
So, when it was down to about 3 other people and me, another deputy came out of the real courtroom and called my last name. She asked me to step outside in the hallway with her. I was beginning to freak out a little. Aren’t there more important people to be concerned about than little ole me who was 2 months late renewing her car registration? I mean, some people were being escorted into the courtroom by police detectives, and I heard something about trespassing, so why all this focus on me?? Seriously, my name had been called more than anyone else in that room.
I followed the deputy out into the hall and she asked me to verify my first name. I stuttered out my name and she looked at my ticket, which she was holding in her hand, then handed it to me. She said, “You’re the one I’ve been looking for the last hour. Your case has been dismissed. Have a nice afternoon.” Funny, for all the times they called my name in that room, never once did they call it to tell me I could go home!