Traffic Court Dining

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" Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals... except the weasel"

-Homer Simpson

I received a parking ticket at the beginning of December for parking the wrong way on the street in front of my house. I think I was 30 feet away from my car when this cop pulled up to my house where I have lived for the past 10 years and he wrote a $44 dollar ticket. I decided to fight it.

I received all sorts of neat advice from people who have never been to traffic court.

"Oh don't worry, cops never show up! Trust me because I've never fought a ticket and I watch a lot of TV"

"Dude I hear that the police never show up, and they probably wont remember the ticket because it was like a month earlier"

"You will probably win because you are special and junk! I heard that no one shows up to court and you win automatically."

Yesterday I showed up to traffic court. Traffic court is interesting because they stuff 40 other people who are also innocent in a court room and there's no jury. Basically, it looks like a church chapel. There are pew like seats, a podium at the front, seats on the sides, and the big table where the judge sits.

I'd like to take a moment to dispel a few rumors about traffic court. The officer who wrote you that ticket WILL show up. I don't know where this stupid idea that cops don't show up to their job started. They have notes on pretty much all tickets and arrests. They also have more experience in court than you, hopefully. If you did something wrong, you will not get off so easy. However, if the judge thinks your bullshit was unfair, you could get your ticket dismissed or lowered.

On the show Speeders, the judge is a lovely young-ish lady with red highlights and a friendly demeanor. She jokes with the speeders and readily hands out justice with a swift swing of the gavel. In real life, the judge is a grumpy looking guy in his 50's who is just as annoyed as you that he has to be there. There's no gavel, and you are surrounded by 40 Hillsborough County Sheriffs Deputies who are waiting to testify against you.

My favorite part of this experience is hearing other people fight for their ticket. One guy parked in 2 handicapped places because he was delivering equipment. Apparently he need more than one handicap space to do this, despite being non-handicapped. Another guy got a parking ticket for his bike. Not a motorcycle or motorscooter, but a bicycle. I was called up and I was a nervous wreck. My palms dripped with sweat and my body was shaking. I didn't feel that nervous mentally, but my body disagreed and decided to shake,sweat and swagger as I approached the podium. The deputy read off the actual citation. Instead of being something logical like "parking against the flow of traffic", the actual statute is worded so badly, the judge had to ask what it meant. I explained as best I could that, indeed I had parked facing the other way, but its my house in the middle of the a Lutz suburb. It's a wide road and plenty of people park in the same direction on my street.

What I wanted to say and what I actually said were completely different things though.

"I uh have lived there for 10 years and um, I dunno um"

At this point I made a strange vocalization and I apologized. The judge gave me a concerned look. I think if he had any Xanax on him, he would have tossed me a pill or two.

"well, I um didn't think it was a big deal because its my house."

The judge asked if it was an apartment or a house, to which I croaked,

"House, sir."

The judge rolled his eyes and said "Since this is your first offense, I will take all this into consideration."

At this point I had to walk to a table where a woman handed me a sheet of paper that had $5 written on it. My ticket was reduced to only $5 instead of the $85 I would have had to pay including fees. I left the court room feeling like a giant turd. Somehow they had suckered me into making a fool of myself in a room with 40 of my own peers and it cost five measly dollars.

The best part of this tale is when I was walking to the car. The officer who gave me the ticket waved me over and said "Yeah next time remember to park facing the other way, blah blah blah. Also, I was in the area because someone in a car similar to yours was in your neighborhood was shooting houses and cars with paintballs. Was that you?"

My jaw dropped. I realized I had been given a ticket because this guy thought I was some punk teenager that shoots paintballs at people's stuff. He wouldn't have given me the ticket otherwise. A victim of circumstance. I told him no, I do not own a paintball gun, and I wasn't shooting people. The officer replied, "Have a nice day!" and drove off. I sat down in the car and thought about that. If I had been the one shooting paintballs, I certainly wouldn't tell that idiot. He's a cop and I would go to jail. I also wouldn't tell him because he made me go to court. Most of all, I wouldn't tell him because he had a really bad haircut.

Folks, I am not here to tell you about my day in traffic court. I am here to tell you about the food I had there. There was a snack vending machine there. I got one of those packaged sticky buns for 75 cents. The bun was stale and frosting tasted artificial, way too sweet. The wrapper was hard to get off. The water fountain water was metallic tasting. I probably wouldn't eat at traffic court again.

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