Traffic Court 2

So to return to the saga of the two moving violations, while I was still waiting to hear back from the court regarding my written case over the first ticket, I  had gone over to Mod Lang in El Cerrito to get a couple CDs for Sarah for her birthday (You guys are wonderful, by the way!). It’s not all that far, but I drove because I was running various errands, and I parked right on Fairmont Ave, right near the shop.

When I was leaving I wanted to go back the way I came to go back home and to avoid having to go down to busy San Pablo. Now, a you can see, Fairmont is not a big street. It’s small, about the same size as my very own street. And there were no cars anywhere in either direction. So, almost reflexively, I pulled away from the curb and made a u-turn.  The problem is that Fairmont is striped. Double-yellow. Just as I got the car turned around,  a bicycle cop rode up and got all in my face, looking like I had personally insulted him, and waived me to the curb. I dutifully pulled over. I felt myself going numb with disbelief. When he came to window, he asked me, “Do you know why I stopped you?” I’m pretty sure my response was a silent and curious mixture of autistic vacancy and “what-the-fuck-kind-of-question-is-that” irritation. He asks for my proof of insurance. I don’t have the latest slip in the car, only the previous one which had expired about three weeks previously.  The ticket is written for both the illegal u-turn and the lack of proof of insurance.

Eventually, the courtesy notice comes. I quickly read it over and put it aside. I want to find out what the outcome of the pending case is before I even think about this one. The first ticket is sustained. It makes no sense to fight this one, because I straightforwardly broke the rules. I did it unintentionally, but I did it. So, I’ll pay and be done with it. But I’m going to wait until after Christmas.

Finally, a couple weeks ago I started thinking about paying the fine. I saw that I could do it online, thank god. The only glitch was that I have not heard back from the first court about going to driving school. And the check has not been cashed yet. So, I don’t know whether to pay for traffic school for the second ticket or not. So, I start calling to find out about where my paperwork is for that.

I call several times over the course of two weeks and talk to a few different people. Despite having sent my check for the traffic school in mid-December, there is no record of it at the court. Someone offers to go look the through the backlog on the desk of the person who’s supposed to process those, but is out sick this week. Nothing. The next day, nothing. The next Monday, nothing. Finally, yesterday, the day before the due date for paying the fine of the second ticket, I call again and still there’s no trace of my check. So, I decide to pay again with the second fine.

But then, when I actually tried to do it, I discovered that I could not do it online because I had to show proof of insurance IN PERSON. No scans or PDFs or anything. So, today, the very absolute last day before I’m delinquent and thereafter considered a hardened criminal, I head out to the Superior Court in lovely Richmond CA, checkbook and insurance slip in hand.

I park on the street a block or so away because parking lot and street are totally impacted. The court building is mid-century Soviet. Recent security measures have been deployed to limit access to one entrance/exit with the usual x-ray machine and metal detector. The first thing that happens is that as I go through the detector, the deputy very rudely barks at me, “Is this your bag? Get rid of the camera,” and boots me out. So, now I’m standing there wondering what to do. Go all the way back home? Or leave my fairly expensive camera and lens in the car, on the street, in a highly questionable neighborhood. Never mind that, as you’ll see, there’s already 200 people with cell phone cameras inside the building.

I go back to the car, get in, start to drive, and turn around back towards the building. A car in front of pulls away, so pull into the curb spot. 2 hour parking limit. I take my camera out and try to put it under the seat, but it won’t fit. So I kind of jam it in a bit and pull the child’s car seat and some paper debris over the top. I tell myself, “it’ll be fine here next to the court house for the 15 minutes I’ll be in there.”

I go back in and through the security check, and swing around to the hallway where the traffic court is. Holy shit! Only 9 am and the line is already the whole length of the long corridor and doubling back on itself. In the first 10 minutes, I don’t move at all. Not. One. Bit. At first, I think I am not going to make it. I’ll be at least two or three hours in this line. But finally, it starts to move. Meanwhile everyone in line is getting to know each other. There’s lots of talk of single motherhood, job situations, etc. Kinda sweet actually. Then there’s this black guy going on about some kind of Jewish conspiracy going all the way back to the Lincoln assassination. Really. Lots of historical detail in play. I gotta remember to look that one up.

Finally, almost exactly one hour after getting inline, I reach a window. The person on the other side was pretty nice and we exchanged some gallows humor. She’s already ready for a drink at 10 am. $304 later, I’m out of there and heading to my car.

Thankfully, the car is intact, camera and all. And I got this swell picture of a tree out of the deal.