Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Philadelphia Traffic Court Misadventure....

Today at 1 p.m., I had my first traffic court trial. Having been blessed with good common sense when it relates to driving, I have not gotten many tickets in my life. In fact, actually, this was the first moving violation. Parking tickets and myself, here in Philly, are an entirely different story and I actually think that the Phila Parking Authority is now looking to ticket my car whenever possible.

But I digress.

Today I was lucky to be allowed to leave work early and go to traffic court on 8th Street and Spring Garden. Conveniently, there are some capitalistic upstarts who have turned a vacant lot across the street into a $5 Traffic Court parking lot. Luckily that lucky five dollar bill came in handy.

I walked in and saw metal detectors: very similar ones to the ones you find in airports. There was a gruff police officer who looked at me and said: "keys! cell phones! change!". I looked at him as if to say, "are you kidding? I have two cell phones, two sets of keys and who knows how much change. I am so tired I am hoping I actually stay awake during this process...." Luckily for me came another police officer who, sensing my duress, said "just put it all on the conveyor belt. We're going to see what you got anyway."

I followed his instructions, went through the metal detector, and walked over to Impound Court because Courtroom C was closed. Impound Court is an exciting place full of colorful characters who have all had their cars impounded due to various indiscretions. It was amazing to see how many people were there and who were so angry that they had made series of bad decisions and neglected to take care of business, but were now willing to pay hundreds of dollars to get their cars back.

Due to the sheer amount of people in court that day, those of us who were supposed to be in Courtroom C were moved to Courtroom B to speed the process along. Courtroom B was where it got interesting because there was a judge and bailiffs and a colorful painting of the Pennsylvania state seal. The judge had a funny sense of humor and clearly loved being the center of attention and broadcasting everyone's bad deeds to everyone else in the room.

I heard a man explain that he hadn't caused an accident, but that the rain had caused the accident. Another man explained that he had driven the wrong way down a street because his girlfriend was in a rush and put pressure on him. Someone from the peanut gallery said as loud as possible, "They fuckin' robbin' us blind". The bailiffs got angry and told everyone if we wanted to talk to do so outside.

In a very short amount of time, I was called up to the stand and brought my bag with laptop, cell phones, etc. as well as my knitting bag up to the bench. I had been knitting for about an hour in the various trial spaces and thinking, "I wonder how many people knit in traffic court?". The judge asked me how I pleaded and I said "not guilty." Hereto follows the exchange of hilarity that is, generally, my experience when I meet random people in Philadelphia who choose to impart their humorous but sarcastic belief system about their city to me:

"Why do you have Texas plates?"

"Because I just moved here from Texas, from Austin, Texas."

"Why did you do that?"

"I wanted to teach in the big city, so here I am."

"Why did you do that? Don't you watch the news?"

"Well....let me tell you, teaching here is really hard, but I love the kids, so it's ok."

"What grade do you teach?"

"6th and 7th! Science...."

"Are you nuts? That's the worst!"

"Well, like I said, I love the kids, so....."

He turns to his assistant, "I am telling you, there is a calling for young teachers. Tell you what, I am going to cut you a break. Dismissed."

"Thank you sir."

And off I went into a glorious spring-summer day, and went home, and took a nap. Now it is so warm in my bedroom I need a fan.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad that being a teacher has some perks. Teacherlove!!