December 19th. 4pm. Traffic court. 36 Degrees outside. Got to the courthouse early to try to sweet-talk the prosecutor out of a speeding ticket, and to get a non-points ticket instead.
85 in a 65. The cop had given me a break. It didn’t feel like one, but he had assured me on that hot summer day, that he had.
After returning my cell phone to the car and going through the metal detector (“Miss, I didn’t ask you to put your hands up,”) I took my seat.
A girl in her mid-20s, in hot pink pajama pants with yellow suns, and black and white stars, tucked into combat boots stood at the bench with her hands clasped in front of her. Two policemen flanked her. Her arraignment.
December 19th. Less than a week before Christmas. I was thinking about how, at sunset, the courthouse sure did look pretty with its giant, lit wreath on the door, and how it was just chilly enough outside to feel festive without feeling uncomfortable. Did she have an address that mail could be sent to? After a pause of thinking, yes. She and her fiancé stay there. Did she normally have any business in this town? No, she and her fiancé were just staying at Rich’s the past couple days. Who is Rich? The guy we are staying with. Do you have any kids? Yes, sir, I have 4. The oldest is 6 and the youngest is a little over 1. No, I haven’t seen them in a very long time, almost a year. They live with their dad who was in the army.
God, I hoped I didn’t get any points on my license.
She stood before them, in handcuffs, because 1.) she stole a 1000 piece puzzle, and a bottle of women’s multivitamins, and 2.) she was in possession of said puzzle and vitamins.
Would she have a problem staying 1000 feet away from the address she stole from? No, your honor. Good, because there will be an order of protection keeping you 1000 feet from such. Can I expect you not to contact, in any way, shape or form, those that you stole from? Yes, your honor. Do you have anything you’d like to say? I- Remember, don’t say anything that would further incriminate you.
I realized I didn’t have my wallet on me. What if I had to pay a huge fine for my speeding ticket right here, right now? What if someone is texting me right now?
You are going to have to come back here. If you live in (muffled) how are you going to get back here? Assertively: I will find a way I promise. Are you working? I mean now. Are you working now? No, ok.
She craned her neck wildly around the room, in the first time that I saw her full face, as the judge told her her bail. $1000 cash. $2500 bond. Remember- you have to get yourself back here on January 3, or there will be a warrant out for your arrest. However, if you cannot pay bail, and you are still in jail on January third, you will be escorted back to this courthouse.
Head down. More soft crying. $1000 might as well be $999,999. It was clear that she would be spending the holidays in jail, a building likely less cheerful than this courthouse. The court officer called my number to come into another room to meet the prosecutor. It all went very quickly after that, (except for the part where the court officer decided to tell me how stupid some of the people here really are, and how we shouldn’t let immigrants in.)
I drove home, bathed in Christmas lights, listening to a podcast, making a mental note to send a money order for $175 for my reduced ticket- Parking on Concrete- no points, impatient to get home to my warm house, my soft cats, my tasty dinner, my smart-ass human. Each colorfully lit up house I passed, Whether decorated in geometric, lines of lights or sloppy, half blinking jumbles, I wondered if the girl in the pink pants was passing them, if the holiday season would be passing her by, in jail, with no lights, no cheer.
Driving over 20 miles over the speed limit, I could have killed someone. I got to go home and eat Bibimbap with a puny cat crammed into the back of my knee, purring, with a relatively small fee and a silly ticket, while the girl in the pink pants would be spending time indefinitely in jail for stealing a puzzle and some vitamins.