Tuesday, November 04, 2003

My Day at Traffic & Minor Offenses Court

Went to Traffic & Minor Offenses Court today for a non-moving violation ticket for incorrect home address for....$450....that the DMV says I received in 2001. The subject came up because I had not heard from the DMV about my mid-November license renewal, and had called to inquire about its status. Seems that my "failure to appear" to pay for this ticket caused my license to be suspended more than two years ago, unbeknownst to me. The Court Clerk urged me to go over to the Court, pay the $450 plus an additional fee, and my record and license would be free of this blemish. Nothing else would be required. Of course, I could always go see the Judge if I had anything to say about this situation....:)

Anyone who knows me knows I went to see the Judge. He is clearly a man exhausted by his 55 or so years of life and work. His opening remarks showed him to be direct, plain-spoken and a man of quite strong views. He wanted to only hear one of three phrases from each person's mouth: guilty, not guilty or traffic school, and he wanted each case completed in one minute. Period.

Please understand that I AM guilty of having an incorrect address on my drivers license, and I intend to remedy that when I get my license renewed next week. (I emphatically do not remember, and would not have signed, a $450 ticket for said offense. I believe that a young police officer did not fully explain a "fix your equipment and this ticket will cost you nothing" citation she issued to me about that time. )

Judge: "Mrs. White, have you fixed the address on your license to drive your Maserati?" (He also used the Maserati reference for several before me who looked middle class affluent in relation to the other offenders.)

"Sir, it was a Jeep, not a Maserati."

"They look about the same."

"Yes...er, no. I am nervous, sir."

"We are all nervous, Mrs. White.

"Sir, I have my license here. I have not changed the address yet."

"So you didn't tell me the truth the first time I asked?" the judge glared at me.

The judge looks down and then comments, " I see your license is suspended."

"That was a surprise to me, Sir."

Uncomfortable pause.....and more uncomfortable pause.

"Here is what I'll do. Your fine will be $153, Mrs. White. I will make this an infraction and not a misdemeanor, so it will not go on your record."

(On my record as what? Failure to stand in line for 6 hours at the DMV when I move less than one mile and retain the same phone number? I don't know anyone who changes their address with the DMV between license renewal dates. And $153? For only $19 more, one twentysomething man was cited for carrying marijuana. A probable illegal was fined just $325 for driving without license, insurance or car registration. $153 for an incorrect address? What? That guy over there ran a red light and had no insurance and his fine was.... )

"Thank you, sir," I gratefully said, using my intelligence and not my emotions.

Ron and I headed out of the courtroom to the 10-window cashier and ATM area for Traffic & Minor Offenses Court to immediately pay $153 to satisfy the demands of our justice system and to lift the suspension from my license.

"Hi" I smile at the clerk. "I just want to pay this." I handed her the info summary from the court balif.

"Today?" she paused. "But you have 30 days to pay this."

"I want to take care of this today. I don't want to come back here, and I want to have a receipt for my payment. I need to get the suspension lifted from my license."

"You can mail it in, you know."

"I want to pay this today. I want to take care of it now. I want to know this is all taken care of." Not good when I get hyper like this.

"Ok" she sighed. "Go to window 9 and wait for your name to be called." She warns, "You'll have to wait a few minutes."

We walk down to window 9, and we wait. And we wait. And we wait even more. Everyone waiting is called but me. Finally, the clerk, Mr. Chan, leans out his window.

"I have no more paperwork to do, but come on over, and maybe I can help you."

God bless Mr. Chan.

He researches and locates my case. "That will be $136."

"$136? But the Judge said $153. The paper slip from the balif says $153. I want to pay all I owe. Could you check that again? " Still hyper. Leaking hyper.

Mr. Chan is confused, "The computer says $136. It must be $136. It IS $136. "

"Here is $136," I said, now thoroughly defeated in my search for truth and equity at Traffic & Minor Offenses Court.

I add, "Could you please make sure that the suspension is lifed from my license, too?"

"Yes" he smiles. "Please take a seat."

Mr. Chan closes his window, calls over a colleague, and they labor over his computer for 10 minutes. He motions me back.

"All taken care of, Mrs. White. It's good you asked. We had to look at many screens. Your license is now cleared. You can go to the DMV at anytime."

"Thank you again, Mr. Chan. Have a good day Thank you."

Ahhh...I learn again the value of persistence, patience and humility. And how very very hard they are to do. Next stop: the DMV!

Send emails to DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

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