So I finally went to court for that ticket I got over the summer
I didn't want to go. I whined and cranked about it all day. After a full day of teaching, then play rehearsal, the last thing I wanted to do was spend three hours in court with weird strangers and the cough I'd been nursing since last Friday.
And three hours I did spend. Two hours and forty-five minutes listening to other people's cases, and fifteen minutes talking to the Prosecutor, appearing in front of the judge saying "Yes," and writing a check to the clerk.
It was an edifying two hours and forty-five minutes. The local courtroom is about the size of one of my classrooms. The judge is white-haired, male, and fairly friendly.
The defendants ranged from two little old ladies who had parked in a handicapped spot, to a guy who had to appear with his brother because the brother had gotten pulled over and given his
name. He ended up posting most of the fine as well.
The judge admonished one woman that "this is the last time I can extend this. You have to finish the program within 60 days."
Another one had to state for the court that she couldn't come up with $100 that night to continue her payment plan, but she most likely could bring it by the end of the month.
One man had violated a restraining order and was being sent, against his will, to anger management counseling. The judge said, kindly, "There isn't one among us who couldn't benefit from some kind of counseling. I see it as a strength, and not a weakness, to seek out help." From where I was sitting, I couldn't see the man's face.
Some youngish boys, awkward in their khakis and button-downs, stood awkwardly next to their parents' attorneys. They agreed to have their driving described as "Unsafe" rather than "Reckless." They agreed to pay the fines.
What struck me was that this humiliation is built into the system: to stand in front of a room of strangers and admit to your substance abuse, your violent tendencies, your poverty, is a part of the punishment. To be reduced to "yes, Judge" and "thank you, Your Honor."
The last fifteen minutes were interesting too. The Prosecutor was a jocund fellow, and unwittingly summarized the entire situation when he mistakenly pulled out someone else's driving record while he was looking for mine. My record is clean. This person's was about five inches long.
The Prosecutor looked at the record, said "Wow," looked up at me in my slacks, blouse, glasses and wool peacoat, and said, "That's not what I was expecting!"
Those three hours left me with more than relief over the deal I eventually got from him (which was pretty sweet). How much of that deal, how much of everything I've garnered (including the original ticket) is a result of what people expect when they look at me?
At least I got most of my grading done.