Part 2 of 2…
Continued from: Yes Sir, Officer Obie…
When last we left off I had just received a driving award from the City of Saint Ann, Missouri, presented by Officer JellyDonut.
Now, something I need to point out. I hate driving. I consider it a nuisance. However, I also see it as a responsibility. Therefore, I am one of your safer individuals on the road. I realize everyone says that, but EKay and my friends are always insisting that I NOT drive on road trips because I actually obey the speed limit and it will take us too long to get where we are going. True story.
Therefore, I am hoping it won’t come as any surprise to you that this was only the second ticket I had ever received in my life, because… Well, to be honest, it’s the truth. I know, it kinda spoils my bad boy image, but what can I say? At any rate, that first citation had been for following too closely. I was awarded with that one in Perry County, Missouri, a notorious speed trap, while I was on my way to visit relatives in Fulton, Kentucky. That was 24 years ago this coming Christmas Day. In that particular case, while I was actually following someone who was showing me a different route I’d never taken before, I probably was following too closely and deserved the ticket, notorious speed trap or not.
So, here I was, just shy of 24 years later with a brand new driving award. I figured what the hell. Going to court to contest it will just eat up time, and an attorney is just going to cost a mess of money. I’ll just pay the fine and be done with it. Good plan, eh?
I thought so. The City of Saint Ann, however, did not… I called the court and asked about the fine. A very rude woman barked, “Court appearance only!” I wondered silently if she was perhaps Officer JellyDonut’s sister. I tried to explain that the officer had told me I could simply plead guilty and pay the fine, however, before I could finish the sentence she all but yelled, “Court Appearance Only!” and hung up in my ear.
Now I was convinced that she was related to Officer JellyDonut.
I contacted some of my cop buddies and asked them to look into it, which they did, but met with resistance themselves. I didn’t want them to “fix” the ticket. I just wanted to pay the fine and be done, but the City of Saint Ann wasn’t going to let that happen.
Therefore, I had no choice but to wait. Which I did. But, I won’t make you wait because it would be kind of boring…
December 1st finally rolled around and I had gathered my ammunition. I figured if I was going to court anyway I might as well contest the ticket. So, I had printed copies of the Missouri Vehicle Regulations as well as the Missouri Driver Guide, both of which stated the limit was five feet, not two. In addition I had my own personal measurements, but in order to back that up I also had the manufacturer’s detailed dimensions of the vehicle and cargo area, along with the length of the item in question, for which I could produce a dated and time stamped receipt if necessary. The math – length of item minus cargo area – fully supported my claim. The projection could not have been sticking out 5 feet 3 inches from the rear of my vehicle.
Now, I’ll be honest – I’ve never been to traffic court before, so I was a little nervous. I was about to do what I had been taught not to do – I was going to argue with a cop and a judge. But, hey… That’s sort of what court is for, right?
After researching procedure I determined that it would be best for me to arrive early, as the accused are taken in the order they show up. So, I put on some nice clothes, tucked my documentation into my pocket, and carried myself off to Municipal Traffic Court 30 minutes early.
Here was the problem. I was thirty minutes early based on the time Officer JellyDonut had given me. I had also called to verify the time and had been given same by Sister JellyDonut. Thing is, court had been in full swing for some time. Fortunately, I wasn’t late. I just wasn’t the first in line… In fact, I was damn near the last in line.
Nothing I could do about it now. I was in for the long haul. I stood in the line, waiting to go through the metal detector. When I made it to the head of that particular line I dumped my valuables into the tray, walked through, then waited as Officer Bewildered became intensely confused by the 2 GB flash drive in the tray. It took him a bit to decide that it wasn’t a high tech terrorist weapon and didn’t pose a threat to Municipal Security, whereupon I was finally allowed collect my belongings. I told him thank you, to which he appeared to become even more confused.
I entered the courtroom and found myself a seat among all of the other criminals, then proceeded to watch the Kangaroos in action.
Now, the reason this entry is title The Group W Bench is simple. That’s where I was sitting. Granted, I was on a hard metal chair that made my hemorrhoids ache, but for all intents and purposes it was the Group W Bench.
On my left was an older man who kept wobbling in his chair and muttering to himself. Throughout the three hours that followed he would hand me his AA coin and ask me to read it to him.
On my right was Pig Boy. That’s pretty much all I can think of to call him. I came up with that not because he was almost as big as Officer JellyDonut, which he was, but because he sat next to me grunting like a pig. In between grunts he would mutter commentary about each pending case in the front of the room. Well, I should be a bit more accurate, his commentary wasn’t so much about the cases per se, as it was about the women involved in them. Whenever the accused was male, he would just sit there and grunt. But, if a woman was up in front of the judge, the grunting accelerated and was punctuated by commentary. Unfortunately for me there was a bumper crop of women coming up before the judge that particular evening so my right ear – which is my good ear – was treated to grunty, under-the-breath observations like, “I’d fuck her…” “too old…” “Whore…” “Great ass…” and so on…
What’s worse, he was a straggler who came in after I did, which meant I had to endure him almost the whole night. What’s even worse than that is the fact that somehow or another he was called up a few folks before me. Figure that one out.
And so, for three hours I sat. Reading an AA coin to a man I didn’t know from Adam, while watching Officer JellyDonut – yes, he was there – act pissy toward men, but flirt with all the women. Hmmm… Maybe he was related to Pig Boy too…
I saw a woman get fined more than $150 for jaywalking, while the next case, who was some idiot who had been driving on a suspended license, was dismissed. I witnessed people having cuffs slapped on them and hauled out of the room, and I saw other wingnuts tell the judge they needed a continuance “just because”…
A pretty woman of African-American descent was called up before the judge at one point. She was wearing a sharp looking business suit, stylish leather jacket with matching handbag, and some high dollar heels. Seriously. She was probably wearing and/or carrying a $400 ensemble, easy, because they sure didn’t look like knockoffs to me. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve shopped for the Evil One on a few occasions. At any rate, turns out she owed several hundred on tickets and failure to appear charges – but informed the judge she couldn’t afford it. If I was her I would have dressed down for court if that was going to be my story.
The major offenses of the evening seemed to be driving on suspended licenses, or without insurance. Those seemed to be the easy ones. Show a license or insurance card, the case would be dismissed save for the $25.50 court costs. There were a few folks who had unpaid tickets dating back to 2003. They were easy too. They just got themselves continuances. I think maybe my favorite was the woman who claimed to have had her license reinstated. They had her sit down while they ran her through the computer. She came back as suspended, AND with two outstanding arrest warrants. No big surprise there, I don’t guess. What was a bit of a shocker though was when the judge told her he would just ignore the arrest warrants and give her a continuance.
From the looks of things, I figured if I ever managed to get my minute or two in front of the judge, I should be in good shape because I was somewhere in the middle. I didn’t have a warrant out for my arrest, so he wasn’t going to just dismiss my case outright, but by the same token I hadn’t jaywalked, so the odds were against me being led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
And so, I continued to sit and watch the circus, alternately reading an AA coin to a stranger, and listening to rude, sexually-oriented comments from another. Finally, after nearly three hours, my name was called – or, a vaguely recognizable facsimile thereof (which is another story in and of itself) and I stepped up before the judge.
“Good evening, sir,” I said.
In my hands I held paperwork. Literal proof by both law, manufacturer’s specs, and tape measure that I was innocent of the crime for which I had been unjustly accused. I had already planned – not rehearsed, mind you, but planned – that I would NOT be disrespectful to, or about, Officer JellyDonut, even though I believed him to be utterly incompetent (I still believe that, by the way.) I was simply going to write it off to everyone being fallible and the improper measurement being an honest mistake or perhaps a faulty measuring device.
You saw that coming, right?
The judge looked at my file, mouth the words “reckless driving” with a look of absolute astonishment, then shook his head, rolled his eyes, pointed to a row of chairs and said, “Mister Sellens [sic] why don’t you sit down for a bit.”
At this point I figured I’d been moved to the Group X bench. I wasn’t quite sure what was up, but he proceeded to mumble with the city attorney (at least, that’s who I think the guy was) then a minute or two later said attorney came over to the corner of the desk and called me up. He proceeded to improperly paraphrase what the ticket said and asked if that is what I understood the charge to be. I said yes, though I explained that it was not an unsecured load as he had just stated, but a missing flag. He corrected himself. I then proceeded to explain that per state law the limit is 5 feet not 2. He indicated that they knew this, which was apparently why I was talking to him instead of the judge. However, my sheaf of paper with specs, circles, arrows, and paragraphs were to be of no use to me. When I began to explain that the measurement was inaccurate he told me that they were going to take Officer JellyDonut’s word on the measurement. It seemed that even though he was woefully misinformed about the traffic and vehicular laws he was supposed to be enforcing, they were going to trust him to operate a tape measure and actually know where the vehicle ended and highly technical things like that. I mean, after all, they let him carry a gun, right?
And so, I was not allowed to present my case. I suppose I could have been far more adamant, insisting that it be brought before the judge and that I be allowed to present irrefutable evidence that Officer JellyDonut was in error. However, it was almost 9 PM. I had memorized the AA coin and been listening to Pig Boy for three hours. It was hot, stuffy, smelly, and all around unpleasant in the room. I was tired, annoyed, and stressed. People had been and still were coughing, sneezing, and snotting all around me, including the judge who had been through an entire box of tissues already.
I just sighed.
The attorney guy looked at me and said, “We’re just going to make this into a $49.50 parking ticket plus $25.50 court costs. So, a $75.00 fine and you promise you’ll never do it again.”
I looked at Officer NoButt who was holding up his britches with one hand and guarding the court with the other. I heard someone start sneezing behind me.
“Sounds fine to me,” I said. “Thank you and have a wonderful evening.”
I paid my fine the next morning. The folks behind the counter were rude and sarcastic. I wished them a wonderful day nonetheless.
Saint Ann is now a part of my no-fly zone. For various reasons I will have no choice but to venture into their airspace from time to time, but unless it is absolutely necessary, I’ll get to Bridgeton via Berkley from here on out.
Yeah, okay… So, it didn’t turn out quite as funny as most of my other blogs, but hey, at least now you know the story…
More to come…