Recently i went to the Charleston County courthouse to hopefully have a couple of moving violations dismissed. One was, one wasn't. The one that was dropped was a huge fine for having a "mutilated license"....
i lost my billfold. It blew off the top of my car while on a major boulevard up in Columbia, SC. I had stopped to fill up with gas and left my billfold (containing my license, of course) on top of the car. I knew as i laid it up there it was stupid move, but i did it anyway. Two hours later, in Rutherfordton, NC, at one in the morning, i was pulled over for speeding. 50 in a 30. Pretty fast. When i reached for my billfold and it wasn't there i experienced an almost hollywood-like, hazy, slow-motion vignette of me putting it on top of the car two hours and a hundred miles before. The cop took my name and went back to his car. He came up a few minutes later and asked if i'd come back and sit with him in police car--"the front seat," he made a point of saying. There he pointed to a computer screen in his car and, covering a few digits, asked "is that the end of your social security #? I answered yes, and then he showed me where i had a suspended driver's license. Early in the morning, another state, speeding, with no license, and and a suspension. Lord a mercy. For some reason, he let me go with just tickets, telling me to drive slowly and not get stopped again 'cause somebody else would surely put me in jail.
It turned out i had an old speeding ticket in Tennessee that i paid a few weeks late. South Carolina had suspended my driver's license, and although both Cookeville, TN and me had sent them a notice that the ticket was paid, they hadn't noticed or something and revoked my privileges. Big fine to get that done, believe me. And a drive back up to North Carolina the day after Maybelle was born to pay for their error. What are you gonna do, though?
The license i had was mutilated, by the way, because after my weekend in North Carolina, i went back to that road in Columbia and actually found my very flat billfold lying in the middle of the street. Can you believe that?
Now, back at the Charleston courthouse, the ticket not dropped was the one for a faulty headlight. I showed them my new license and that charge went away, but the faulty headlight...
Did you fix your headlight?
Well, yes, in a manner of speaking.
What does that mean?
Well, someone came along and totaled the truck for me before i actually got a chance to fix it.
But, your honor, someone crashed into my truck. I couldn't fix it.
Now, i understand what the judge was doing here. It makes sense. I had plenty of time to fix the headlight before the crash, but i drove the truck so rarely at nighttime it was just low on my list of priorities. No, the problem with this judgement was that it added insult to injury...
I went to the courthouse at 11 am to see about these charges. I stood in a line and when i got to the front i was told i couldn't bring my bag into the courthouse. I'd have to take it to the car. I told them i wasn't in a car, but on a bicycle. There were a bunch of school-looking backpacks lined up against a nearby wall--probably dropped off by students going to the same courtroom, and i offered to put my bag over with them. They agreed, but first they had to search my bag. They were at least checking women's purses, too, so i didn't feel singled out. In my bag they found a two inch long, two bladed knife i use for whatever knifely duties i may have. They said "you'll have to take that to your car, sir." I again told them i wasn't in a car, but on a bicycle. They explained that they would then have to take the knife away from me forever. That I couldn't have a knife in the building. I offered to take it out and put with my bicycle. No, that wouldn't work. Suddenly some unrelated mayhem ensued and one helpful officer quietly suggested to "just take it outside and tell them you put it in a friend's car." So i ran out the doors and put the knife in some bushes. When i came back in i stood in the long security line again. I got to the front and the lady said "where's the knife?" and i said it's in my car. she said you don't have a car and i said it's with my bicycle which is very much like a car except that it doesn't have a motor. She said you can't come in unless you go and get the knife and give it to me. So i ran outside, got the knife, came back in, stood in the long line, gave her the knife and proceeded to go where she told me to go: the wrong courtroom. Since 9/11 i have had to give up maybe a half dozen knives to crap like this and it irks me every time. What's gonna happen when somebody needs to clean their nails in a courtroom or open a christmas present on a plane flight? Who's gonna be there for them?
And this was not my only visit to the courthouse this month. I'd gone just the week before and had to straighten out the fact that our insurance company had canceled Alison's insurance because of non-payment. As a result the state had canceled Alison's driving privileges, too. I went to the insurance company and asked if there was anything they could do about this. They explained they'd be glad to re-instate the insurance if we paid the overdue bill. I asked if they didn't find it weird that after almost 20 years of paying on time to the same company they didn't find it a little odd for Alison to just not make a payment? That perhaps this didn't warrant a letter? They said they'd tried to call and promptly read off a number that sounded more like a serial number than a phone number: 003-644-00913? No. that's not even close to any number i've ever heard before, i told them. Didn't matter. They were sorry. I gave them the overdue payment and handed the state of South Carolina $400 to re-instate Alison's driving privileges. $400!
Finally, the other day at Staples i was standing in line to buy some printer paper. The store was almost empty of shoppers and there was two cashiers occupied with customers. I stood a few feet back and waited for the next available person. A guy walked up behind me and said, "which line are you in?" I said "both." He said, "No you're not. Cain't have it both ways motherfucker" and walked around me to get in one of the lines.
While i've had my fair share of decent good breaks here lately (like finding my battered, but still intact billfold in a distant street in a distant city) i'm kind of inclined to err on the side of redneck boy at Staples.