Friday, March 12, 2010

Exits and Horizons

It has been a week of winding down after the big move and all the accompanying chaos. It did start off with one final stressful day: Monday was the hearing for that "wheels off the roadway" traffic ticket I got back in November. I'd asked for a mitigation hearing. I did drive on the shoulder. However, the fact that everyone turning right does that at that exit unless there isn't any other traffic seemed to be mitigating circumstances to me.

So...I got my court date, and Monday I put on my best dress and my good shoes, and a good friend helped me think out what I'd like to say, and also took this picture of the exit in question.


This is pretty much how it was that night, too--a moment of lightish traffic, with a few cars backed up. Other times, the cars are backed up all the way to the interstate. In either case, traffic generally forms two lines, one driving on the left, the other on the right, mostly on the shoulder.

This was my first experience in a courtroom of any kind, and mundane though the circumstances were, I couldn't help making mental notes. Not that traffic tickets amount to much of a courtroom experience.... But now I can give a character a traffic ticket and let him or her deal with it in realistic fashion...heh.

There were maybe a few dozen of us who had the same hearing time, and we all sat in a few long rows on benches at the back of the courtroom waiting for our names to be called in reverse alphabetical order. Most of the other tickets were for speeding, running red lights or failing to stop at stop signs, no proof of insurance. The one other off-the-roadway offense was more blatant: off the pavement entirely, not just partially on the shoulder while turning.

When my turn came, I got up, gave the judge the photograph, went back to the table, and said my short piece--essentially that I've lived here four years, that traffic always divides into two lanes at that exit as a way of making the best of a bad situation (truck stops to both right and left, and no traffic light, traffic gets very backed up), and didn't know I was doing anything wrong. She looked at the photo, confirmed which exit it was, and said, "So you weren't really off the road--you were on this big wide shoulder." I said yes, and she said, "It sounds to me like you'd like to contest this ticket rather than mitigating." And she explained that to contest, I would need to wait until after the mitigation hearing was complete, and then she would review the officer's statement (in lieu of his actually being there), and swear me in, and then I could, under oath, tell my side of the story. Then she would consider both sides and either I would have to pay the fine in entirety (no mitigation), or the ticket would be dismissed entirely. Contesting seemed to be the way she was guiding me, so I went for it, albeit with trepidation. She gave me the officer's statement to review and sent me back to my seat to wait until the mitigation hearing was complete.

When I sat down, the guy sitting next to me, who had already noted the location of the photo said, "You got pulled over for driving on the right shoulder *there*? What else are you supposed to do?" Made me feel a little better about my chances, but I was still really nervous. I sat there in a fog, desperately thinking prayers to the Holy Spirit that I'd know what to say, while the rest of the people went through.

When the time came, she had me swear in, and then I more or less repeated my earlier statement--not very eloquently, I'm afraid. Her response began with stating that there are lots of exits like that around the area with a tendency to get backed up, and where people turn right on the shoulder. I was thinking, "Here it comes--she's going to say, 'But that's no excuse.'" But she didn't. She ended off by saying, more or less, "I don't believe that is what wheels off the roadway means, and I'm going to dismiss this ticket." I just sat there blinking until she said, "You're free to go."

My friend Diana, who came with me to the hearing, said she wanted to stand up and cheer. ;-) A victory for the citizens of Exit 99! Me, I just went all wobbly-kneed and practically started crying. But what a relief! This whole affair has been hanging over my head for four months now, and now it's over and done with for good, as though it never happened. Now I can relax and settle into the new house.

And I do love it. I like being out of town, though it does mean I have to think a bit about combining errands in town, and it is a longer commute. I like the fact that a number of times a day we can hear trains go by--a distant rumble and whistle, not quite enough to shake the house, but enough to stir the soul. I like the way the wind sounds in the trees that surround us, and even like waking to the sound of joyous corgi barking next door. ;-) And I like being right on the trail--the best location on the map.

This morning I got up, got mostly ready for work, and then, in the dim barely-morning light, took thedog for a three mile walk.

It was raining when we started off--not a torrent, but steadily enough that I almost didn't go. Apparently others had the same thought. I didn't see another soul out there, though generally there are a few joggers, a cyclist or two: just an intrepid handful of hardy early morning folk. Today, we had the trail entirely to ourselves. I thought I'd taken a photo to end this off with...but my real camera is still missing in action, and my phone apparently chewed up the picture and swallowed it.

I rather like being out in the rain, once I get going, at least in the spring and summer. Oh, dealing with wet clothes and wet shoes when you get home isn't any fun, but being out there in the wet isn't so bad, so long as you're warm enough. And it's a different flavor of outside: everything is at once intensified and muted. The damp brings out the scent of earth and flowers, of leaves and water--and dog. Colors are heightened by the water, reflected on every surface...but softened in the lack of light. There are no sharp edges; the horizon fades off into a sort of hopeful mistiness. There is promise in the air; the rain awakens, it cleanses, it makes things grow.

I stopped a few times to let Cisco sniff around and to stand and reflect myself. The rain had a way of isolating us, capturing us in a moment. I stood and listened to it, looked off into that misty distance.

I can't see what's beyond the next rise...but I'm looking forward to it, whatever it is.


James Watterson said...

I'm glad you beat your ticket!!! I hate court rooms, there is this sense of overwhelming formality that I just can't stand.

The house we are moving into as of the 15 has walking trails as well. I can't wait until I can take a nice quiet walk. Where I am living right now,(the hood) I wouldn't dare step foot outside at night.

Anyways congrats on the new place! I will be sure to update as soon as we move in. Just so much going on right now, I can't wait to have some down time again.

Duffy Moon said...

Haha! Stick it to the man.
You're a rebel, you are.