I spent most of my day taking advantage of a unique opportunity to see our court system in action. Translation: I had to go to court to take care of some traffic violations. Yes, "some." Apparently, there was this little matter of a roll through a stop sign THREE YEARS AGO that I never properly took care of. (In my feeble defense, I thought I had.)
Then there was the matter of the two fix-it tickets I got recently, which I also neglected to take care of until uncomfortably late. Apparently, ignoring those perforated envelopes that come from traffic court is a costly little mistake. Yes, I am the last person in the country to realize this.
I will not bore you, or fascinate you, as the case may be, with the gory details or the gorier fines I must now pay. I will just say this: I am an idiot.
But then, exhaustion and overwhelm are the stuff idiots are born of, and I experience both in spades. The fact that I manage to have a day here and there in which I do NOT exhibit idiot tendencies is, I think, cause for celebration. So I was taking the whole day in stride, or trying to. I was armed with a notebook (for writing my next blog entry, which did not happen), a recent New Yorker (which had some laugh out loud funny cartoons), and a bottle of water (which, it turns out, I could not drink in court).
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Also as it turns out, I need not have brought along anything at all to pass the time. The best part of the day was watching and listening to the judge assigned to traffic court. What an amazing guy: his instrutions to us were clear and he was personable. He was funny on occasion, and he was respectful and courteous to every single person there. He was efficient and he was engaged in his job. He made it actually very interesting to watch the process of traffic court unfold.
There was a large contingent of Spanish-speaking folks there, and the translator did a fantastic job. There was one man there whose first language was French; without a French translator at the ready, the judge quickly assigned the man a new date, about a month away, and promised him an interpreter would be there for him. And whenever the judge was doing something, like arranging for an interpreter, he would give us an explanation of what he was doing and why, and how the laws of California mandate that he do such and so, like making a translator available to anyone, in any language, who needs one.
Before going to court at 11am, I had to track down a police officer to sign off on my fix-it tickets; I found a 35-year veteran of the local police force, who gleefully told me that I was probably going to be his last sign off before he retired and started traveling the world. He was also personable, professional and engaging.
So I am feeling rather proud of our civil servants today, which is good because I started out feeling rather un-proud of the neglect which led me to court in the first place. If a person is going to screw up royally, it's awful nice to have good people around to help manage the situation with dignity.
Thank you Richmond police and traffic court, for restoring my faith in civil society and for reducing at least one of my fines. I sure do appreciate what you do every day.
And I promise to try real hard to outwit my own exhaustion and overwhelm so that I do not again have the opportunity to see you in action.