Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I fought the law . . . and the law won!

Back in September, I was pulled over in the Safeway parking lot and issued a pricey ticket for "illegally crossing a traffic beacon or traversing a cone pattern". Don't get me started on the ticket itself, it was ridiculous and had very little ground to stand on. It was in the middle of our crazy fall, and getting a ticket was the last thing I needed.

When the notice from the courthouse came with the amount of the fine, I was flabbergasted! $367 if I wanted to pay it up front, or, if I wanted to go to traffic school, I could pay $425, PLUS the cost of traffic school! There was no way in heck I was going down without a fight, so I decided to go to court to fight it. I had to send in my "bail" with my not guilty plea, so I mailed off a check and waited for my notice to appear in court.

I'd never been to traffic court before, but everyone I talked to told me to pray the officer didn't show, in which case, my citation would be immediately dismissed.

On the designated day and time, I showed up at the courthouse with my file of pictures, testimony, and a whole lot of butterflies in my stomach. I had no idea what to expect. My case was number 27 or 27 to be heard in that session of court—I was in for a long afternoon.

When the judge came in, he first read off the list of all cases in which the officer was not present and dismissed those cases. As luck would have it, my name was NOT on that list. Officer Nicely (yep, that's his real name) was there and ready to testify against me.

I sat there for the next hour, listening to case after case, and the judge found the defendant guilty in each and every one. There were some doozies too . . . a woman driving 25 miles over the speed limit "because she was late to work", a guy driving with a suspended license "because he had to take his girlfriend to pay the water bill", a guy pulled over for not wearing his seatbelt "because he dropped his smoke and was bending over to find it". I can't make this stuff up folks . . . it was the real deal!

By the time my case was called, I felt pretty confident in my case, but still knew that chances were pretty good the judge would be siding with the officer.

When I asked Steve what I should wear, he told me to dress
grubby and not like I had any money. There went my
idea for the thigh highs and Louboutin heels . . . 
I took my seat at the "Defendant" table, while Officer Nicely (no, I did not change his name to protect his identity, his name indeed was Officer Nicely!) took his seat at the table next to mine. He proceeded to introduce himself, give his credentials, and explain what he was doing on patrol on the day in question, as well as the circumstances of the citation.

Then it was my turn. I had written a lengthy testimony, which I only shared a fraction of (I didn't want to wear out my welcome). I explained the circumstances from my point of view, and why I didn't feel that the citation had merit. I presented my photos and maps to the judge for review. I stated my case and asked for a reversal of the citation. Then I sat back and waited.

It didn't take long for the judge to make his ruling. "In the case of Alyson DeLong Whitaker vs. The State of California, I find the defendant GUILTY AS CHARGED!!!" What???? Are you kidding me???

Then, he went on to say that in light of the circumstances, he was reducing my fine to $197, and asked if I would like to pay now or over time, or did I want community service hours. I told him I'd already paid the amount in full, to which he replied that I would be getting a check in the mail.

My $170 refund check arrived about two weeks later, and the whole thing is quickly fading from my memory.

I haven't done a lot of "bad" things in my life, and I must admit, I felt just a smidge of giddiness at the fact that I was actually found guilty of anything in a court of law. That being said, I'm fairly confident in saying that this will probably be the one and only time that I hear a judge say my name and the word "GUILTY" in the same sentence.

Dancing with boys

When I was in junior high, I was terrified of boys. If a boy so much as looked at me with the slightest bit of admiration or attention, I was mortified.

I remember at a school dance, when I was in 7th or 8th grade, I was asked to dance by a boy in one of my classes. His name was Todd. I can still picture his flushed face and feel his sweaty hands when I think about that first slow dance. It was awful. I hated feeling his breath on my neck and couldn't wait for the song to end. It seemed like an eternity. He even had the nerve to say "You look really beautiful tonight." Can you imagine anything worse than that???

Fast forward 25 years, and my daughter is now attending middle school dances. And dancing with boys. She is much more confident than I was at that age—and thankfully, much more comfortable around the opposite sex.

All of us parents of her class have been going through our photos, pulling out pictures to use in the graduation slide show in a few months. Another mom sent me this photo she captured at one of the dances last year, and I nearly died laughing.

This poor boy has had a crush on Olivia since day 1 . . . and she patiently and kindly puts up with it (most of the time). But his smirk, her clenched eyes and pursed lips, and her friend's laughter at the whole thing, say to me that maybe the nut doesn't fall too far from the tree.

I just hope her first kiss is better than mine . . .