Back in November (or was it October?), I got my first traffic ticket. Ever. The officer who issued it suggested that an appearance at court might reduce the fee or something, so I sent my ticket off to the court, and waited to hear back. Several weeks later, I got a notice saying that my court date was January 6. That was way in the future, so I promptly filed it in the back of my brain and went along with my life. Somehow, I had this vision of being alone in the court, without a lawyer, pleading my case before the judge. The reality was quite different.
I arrived at 8:00 a.m. for my 8:45 court time--I did NOT want to be late to court. Better to sit and finish my book than be late. When I got there, I thought I would go in and sit for a while, maybe use the bathroom. The court building doesn't open until 8:30. Sigh. So I went back to my car and read there. At 8:30, I headed for the door. ACK! By 8:30, there were about 30 people in line to go through the security gate. I had totally forgotten about security, being as how I didn't have a gun and all. (I am, however, not complaining. I am COMPLETELY thrilled that they do security at the courthouses. Happy to stand in line in order to make everyone safe [especially The Beard, who works in a courthouse]). The line was not moving at all, and I was beginning to be convinced that I was going to be LATE after working so hard not to be. Then the line started moving, and we all filed in. There was no time before my court time to use the bathroom, but the door didn't open until several minutes after the time on my summons. Rats.
There were about 30 of us in the courtroom together. A big group court experience. With strangers. Strangers who have also broken the law. The judge explained what was going on. For several of us, it was our first (my only!) experience being in court in the hot seat. Her first offer was for a deferred penalty: pay the court costs ($26 more than my ticket), get no tickets for a year, and the ticket is erased from my record. Score! I was hoping to pay less, but I figured I was stuck with the ticket on my driving record. So as soon as I could, I raised my hand to try for the deferred penalty option. By the time she got to me, she had already handed out about 5 of them, 1 to a woman about my age, with about the same ticket as I had. It was quick and easy, and I have 30 days to pay the fine. Zip. Zap. Zoop!
Now all I have to do is repeat my perfect driving record from the past --ahem-- years, and I'm golden.
Never mind that I almost ran right into a county sheriff tonight. That wouldn't have been a very good start.