This morning was the court date for a speeding ticket I received a few months ago and despite the fact that I've dealt with a good number of vehicular incidents over the years, I was kind of nervous about it. Nervous enough that I had some trouble sleeping last night. I'm not sure why it got to me. I had to go to court for a reckless driving ticket (85 mph in a 55 zone, whoops) that I got in Virginia a couple years ago and was forced to stand up before the judge who punished me with a $250 fine and suspended my license for a month, so I don't know, maybe I just didn't want to deal with that again. Because of that experience and words of caution from friends ("Hire a lawyer!") I did put some thought into how I was going to handle this whole traffic court appearance. I ruled out hiring a lawyer although I had my pick. About a week after my ticket - which, by the way, was for going 56 mph in a 35 zone on a downhill slope when I really had to use the bathroom - I got many, many letters in the mail from a myriad of lawyers who wanted to represent me. They wanted to save me from the fate of higher insurance rates and a lifetime of regret, stuff like that, but I - and I know this sounds rather goody-two-shoes of me - felt I had to deal with what I'd done without a tricky lawyer standing up there making up stuff to get me out of trouble. I mean, sure, everybody else was going JUST AS FAST if not faster than me when I got caught, but I'm not above paying the price when I've done something wrong.
I mean, for the most part.
Ok, so I guess what I mean is that I'm not above facing the situation on my own. But I'm also not above trying to get out of stuff by being cute and endearing. And really, it's funny that I even try anymore because this never, ever works for me.
I remember this one time my freshman in college we snuck my friend Aaron, who was visiting for the weekend, in through a ground floor window of our dorm. We had to because BU had ludicrous rules about visitors. You could have visitors who didn't live in the dorm but they either had to have a study pass (and even then had to leave by 2 a.m.) or their visit had to be approved by dorm supervisors many days in advance of their arrival. What I'm saying is they weren't Nazis but almost. And since I hadn't gotten Aaron's visit approved by the necessary date, we had to sneak him in the window. And somehow someone in charge found out, and I had to report to the downstairs office of this random man who apparently was "in charge," although honestly, if he was so omnipresent where was he when those guys threw a hookah in their trash can and caused a small fire, hmm?
Anyway, the point of the story is that I remember trying to weasel my way out of the situation not by formulating a grand scheme or by declaring the whole thing an unfair accusation but by wearing a pink shirt and trying to look really, really innocent, which isn't hard when you look like I do and you are very small, etc. In the end I didn't get in too much trouble, but it wasn't because of how I looked or acted but because lots of people were getting in the dorm through lots of windows and this one incident really didn't worry the higher-ups that much. Maybe I got put on some sort of probation or something, I don't remember...it was college. And probably by the next week we were sneaking beers out of Star Market in our duffel bags during a multi-person operation that included looking out for the cops and somehow getting our booty past the front desk guard without question. Basically, I had bigger things to worry about.
Another time I remember getting a speeding ticket somewhere in rural Virginia (not the 85 in a 55 I talked about earlier...um, another one) and when the cop pulled me over he noticed the banjo sitting in my back seat. It was J's Christmas present to me that year and he'd given it to me the night before. The cop, it just so happened, played banjo and so we started talking and he started telling stories and I was laughing and being generally charming and in my head I'm thinking, "YES I AM TOTALLY GETTING OUT OF THIS TICKET," and then he paused, handed me the ticket and went on his way.
So I suppose I should have realized by now that how innocent you look or the cheerful banter you offer doesn't always sway the people you're in trouble with and that, really, is why lawyers exist. That, and justice and all. But I still opted not to use one and this morning upon getting dressed even asked J to look at what I was wearing and did I look like someone who he might let get out of a ticket? Because we never learn, do we?
It turned out it really didn't matter. Orange County's traffic court system is remarkably efficient. After I stood in line for mere minutes my name was called and the District Attorney informed me that he could either lower my ticket to only 9 mph above the limit or I could complete a traffic education course and lower the offense even further. I could even take the course online. I tried to reason with him for a few minutes, attempting to get him to tell me what he would do, what was the best option...? He informed me he really couldn't give advice, could only tell me my choices, and I opted for traffic school. After all, if I'm really interested in paying for my mistakes, I figured this would be the way to do it. Getting out of a ticket, but not really. Not having to pay a huge fine, but instead having to take an annoying test on things I learned when I was 16 and just getting my license. This is what you do when you make mistakes. You pay the price. Or ok, maybe you wear a pink shirt or whatever tactic you choose to try and look innocent and get out of it, so what? Either way, you learn, you know, at least not to make that specific mistake again.