Innocent, Your Honor

Six weeks ago, I parked on the street directly in front of my favorite coffee shop, just off the Marietta Square. I park there regularly. So does everyone else who can nab the spot. There are no signs to indicate it’s verboten. No yellow paint along the curb.

Nevertheless, I walked outside a few hours later to discover a mute and unhelpful parking ticket tucked under my windshield wipers (just over the long crack that’s been holding out below my line of vision for years. I keep anticipating a windshield replacement, but so far the crack has remained surprisingly docile and out of sight).

I came to the court building to dispute the matter. I garnered my court date. I went back to the scene of the crime and took photos to support my innocent plea. (There was an unticketed car sitting in the spot. Please Note Exhibit A, Your Honor.)

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An hour and a half ago, I arrived in court.

The lights are dim, the mood mildly annoyed but submissive. We sit, lulled by the monotone of legalese poured into our ears.

If I cared to admit guilt and plead for forgiveness, I could simply go up to the judge right now and negotiate my fine.

But innocence is more difficult. I am required to sit it out and wait until the city solicitor can meet with me—and the several dozen other self-proclaimed innocents—so I can present my few photos and make my case.

All of this for a $25 fine. Only unemployment makes the value of this time debatable.

The walls above the wood paneling are a depressing mustard yellow, a perfect color match to the dress of the lady currently speaking with the judge. Her garb features a riot of fleur-de-lis and swirls in black, white and something akin to the by-product one might find in an infant’s diaper. (Sorry: there are few other similes for this particular color.)

But there are no fashion cops here. Only one bored policeman ferrying in orange-suited inmates trying to post bail for their petty crimes, their wrists coupled in silver cuffs so delicate they might be finely wrought jewelry.

Disorderly conduct. Marijuana use. Solicitation.

Why am I here? Oh, right. $25. About a dozen cups of Caribou coffee.

I haven’t had my coffee yet this morning, and it’s wearing on me. David informed me yesterday he’d read (posted over a movie theater urinal, no less) that eating an apple does a better job of stimulating wakefulness than does a cup of coffee.

I heated up a mug of apple juice this morning to drink before I left the house. Tomorrow, I’m reverting to coffee beans.

Coming up on two hours. Still sitting here. Haven’t spoken a word but “pre-trial conference, please.”

PLEASE.

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2.5 hours total wait time.

They knocked my $25 ticket down to $10.

Figure in my wait, the photos, the phone calls, the trips downtown…comes to about $3 hour. I’m gonna choose to be okay with that.

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