I was running late to make the train on my first day at my new job as a chemical engineer, so I decided to drive my car to the train station. As I pulled up to the train station, I saw the train I needed depart anyway, so I figured I'd just have to park the car and wait for the next one, which would be arriving shortly. The only parking I saw was a big parking lot with signs that said DECAL ONLY. I figured I had a village decal on my car, so I was included among the elite group of people that could park in this esteemed lot. I parked the car and went to work. During my day at work, I was worried that there was some other type of esoteric decal I should possess to park there. All I could do was hope for the best. When I got back, there was no parking ticket on my car and I was elated. I'd had a long, grueling day at work, and got back to no ticket. Additionally, I had my car there so I could easily DRIVE home, which was a great treat after being on my feet all day. I drove home feeling as though the lack of a parking ticket was the highlight of my day.
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After that fateful first day of work, I began to get into the swing of things and had made a habit out of walking to the train station. It was nice to know that I could always drive though, if I needed to. Nearly two weeks after the first day, I received a mysterious piece of mail. I opened it and it was a parking ticket from that first day. Somehow it had gotten detached from my windshield and blown away. It was turned in and mailed to me. The ticket was crumpled and bleached as though it had sat outside and weathered the elements until it was delivered to me. The ticket that I received was the original one written, not a new one. This would not have been a problem, except the last day to remit payment had passed, and my $30 fine had jumped to a $100 fine. Despite feeling like this was extreme bullshit, I figured I would just pay it. I didn't have the time or the inclination to argue it in person, and I was working a good job now.
As I wrote the check for $100, I was still a little annoyed because 1. I thought I'd gotten away with it and 2. I had to pay more when it wasn't my fault. On the memo line of my check, I decided to have the last laugh. I wrote "ATTN: OFFICER FAGGOT". I dropped the check off at the police station ticket mailbox and figured that this would be the end of it.
Two days later, I got another mysterious piece of mail. I opened it up, and it was a court summons. There was a line on the form that said "CHARGE". Written on this line was the phrase "Moral Turpitude." After consulting a dictionary, I realized that this was not even a real thing in our zeitgeist. I did have a court date for several weeks later, though. I decided I would rather get this nonsense taken care of as soon as I could. I called on Wednesday to see if I could reschedule the court date. The lady on the phone was nice and said I could reschedule to Thursday evening. That sounded terrible, but I said okay.
The next day I went to court. I wore my glasses to look smart. It was not a real court, though. It looked like one but it was very small. In the room, it was just me and the judge. The judge told me about the charge against me for writing that word on the check and asked why I did it. I told him the story of thinking that I didn't have a ticket and then getting one, and the date having already been passed. I told him it was a great example of an ex post facto law. He agreed with me that this was unfair, but told me I didn't handle it in the right way and that was not what 'ex post facto' law meant. I told him that I know it wasn't mature, but that I was pretty sure that the first amendment still applied and I shouldn't be dragged to court for this. He told me he didn't write the summons and agreed with me. Then he asked me if I'd ever been in any trouble with the law before. I told him I didn't think so. He asked what that meant. I told him that there was a possibility that I have been arrested before, but I didn't think so because no charges were ever filed against me. He asked me what happened. I told him about my involvement with the Occupy protest and how they brought me to jail for civil disobedience but then let me go. He told me that he should have guessed, based on my glasses and manner of dress (like a hipster). He asked why they let me go. I told him that I was diabetic and made a big stink out of it. He told me he was diabetic too, and I was correct in guessing that it was Type II unlike my Type I diabetes. The judge asked if I had some sort of problem with law enforcement officers. I told him I did. He asked why. I said that it bothered me when cops wrote stupid parking tickets and set up speed traps and dealt with other seemingly innocuous things. I told him that when these things happen, I assume all criminals are locked up and everything is taken care of and the world is safe. He told me that he didn't agree with me, but that I was entitled to my opinion. Finally he noticed that it was starting to get late. I agreed with him and called him Judge Harry Stone, which was not his name, but I thought it made for a funny joke, given that it was night time. The judge asked if I had anything else to say, and I thought for a second and said "You can get anything you want in Alice's Restaurant". He looked confused for a second and then a wave of recognition came over his face. He said "Okay good. You're crazy. I mean, I wasn't trying to draft you or anything so it's not really...relevant here. But that was pretty funny, missy!" Finally, he ended up changing the parking ticket fine back to $30 which was a big improvement and vacated my charge of 'moral turpitude' on the grounds that it was 'stupid' (I imagine that's why).
I went outside into the hallway of the court building and was texting my friend that my legal woes were over. While I was standing there, Judge Harry Stone came out. He told me that I seemed like nothing but trouble, but had provided one of the more entertaining night court experiences he'd had in awhile. Then he asked me how old I was. I asked him why. He said because he thought it was weird that I referenced both Night Court and Arlo Guthrie during my 'deposition' but appeared to be only 20. I told him that I was 23 but I was really into pop culture. He laughed and said "Whatever" and wished me a good night. I told him to also have a good night, and that I hoped I would never see him again. He laughed and said "I wouldn't count on that." I have managed to stay out of trouble in the three days since that happened, including St. Patrick's Day, so I am feeling confident about my future of being a law abiding citizen.
And that is my story of my night in court.
- Location: Chicago
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