Um… actually, not. I’m not posting this from the village lockup, after all, but it was kind of touch and go for a while there.
I got a letter a week or so ago from the Village Court, notifying me that I had failed to appear for a hearing related to an unnamed offense and an unfamiliar docket number.
News to me.
I was further instructed that the hearing had been rescheduled, and that if I failed to appear this time the court would entertain the people’s request to issue a warrant for my arrest. This, the letter straight-facedly went on so suggest, might not be in my best interests.
I set about informing myself. Turned out the offense was the marine equivalent of a parking ticket. Now I’ll come clean on this right up front: I have occasionally been guilty of a few such in recent years, due to a severe case of not-getting-around-to-it-itis when it comes to paying the seasonal docking fees, exacerbated by an even worse case of where-did-I-put-it-itis. (Such is my dependency on electronic transactions these days that I get a bit flummoxed when it comes to an actual paper transaction requiring an actual check and an actual envelope and actual postage and, heaven forfend, an actual copy of the actual boat registration which is… wait a minute, it was here somewhere just the other day, I swear.) In fact, I had indeed received one just this season, and had been so horrified by it (whose law is it that just when you’re most determined to straighten up and fly right is exactly when stupid things happen and you somehow end up blowing it all over again?) that I had instantly hot-footed it Downtown, paid for the permit, paid the ticket, and altogether made myself right with the world again. Or so I thought.
Wrote back to the village explaining that I had already paid the ticket. Got back a letter saying, in effect, yeah, you paid THAT one but the hearing is about THIS one. Copy enclosed.
Looked at copy, scratched head, looked again, did triple-take.
The ticket was dated December 2004. It had my name and address on it, and the correct registration number for my boat. But the slip number was wrong. The slip number was the one I had last occupied in 1994.
December 2004. I don’t even REMEMBER 2004. Did I get a ticket that year? Not to my knowledge - and sure as hell not for being illegally docked in slip #8. (Curiously, I did get one in 2005, and I dutifully went to court and took my lumps for it… and didn’t nobody say nothin’ THEN about no outstanding matter from 2004.)
Wrote back to the judge delicately hinting at all the above inconsistencies, requesting a postponement, and hoping he’d get the point and drop the whole matter. No such luck; the hearing date came with no sign of a reprieve in the mail.
Notified my friends that I might soon be calling on them for some special baking efforts - cakes containing files or, more important, DPNs. (Do they let you knit in stir? Do they let you blog?)
Bade despairing farewell to dog/cat/boat/house/knitting etc. and set out for the village hall, with questions of conjugal visitation rights dancing in my head.
Hardened criminal that I am, I’m afraid I kinda know the ropes here (though this was my first out-&-out Not Guilty plea). You have a little back-room pre-trial confab with the reporting officer, kind of a sweet old geezer if a little too accustomed to his authoritarian role. He offers you a deal. In this case a pretty good deal, at that, if I’d actually done the crime. But me, I am a woman of principle, and I ain’t having none of it. I have my innocence to sustain me (for once!); I’m ready for martyrdom at the hands of an uncaring system. Bring it on.
Me: But my boat wasn’t in that slip.
Officer Krupke: Now look, I have pictures of it. It’s a sailboat, right?
Me: Right, and it hasn’t been out of slip #23 once since 2002.
Officer Krupke: That’s right; I have the picture to prove it.
Me: But the ticket says Slip #8.
Officer Krupke: !!!
Officer Krupke: ?????
Officer Krupke: You go back in there; I’m going to go get my files.
Sure enough, a few minutes later O.K. comes back into the courtroom and beckons me out into another back room.
O.K.: Here’s the picture: see? Slip #23.
Me: Yes, and here’s the ticket: see? Slip #8.
O.K.: I’ll tell you what I’m going to do for you: I’m going to ask the judge to dismiss it this once. But next time, you really should pay for your permit.
Me (principles are all very well, but this guy’s trying to save face, and I’ve already made my point): !!
Me: Thank you very much.
O.K.: Here, you can keep the picture.
Me: Thank you very much.
So we go before the judge, who looks over the case file. It is very clear that the top item in said file is the two-page letter I sent last week, the one which I had hoped would lead to a dismissal of the whole thing, the one which goes into excruciating detail about everything that is wrong with the charge. It is also clear that the judge has not seen the document before and that he is reading it with close attention. His eyebrows go up. Then they go upper. Then they go still more upperer.
Then he asks O.K. to make his case.
O.K.: Er… the people request that the charge be dismissed, because, er, the defendant has, um, since obtained her permit.
Judge has eyebrows under control by now. Looks at him. Looks at me. Asks if I join in the request. I do. The case is dismissed and I am free to go.
I high-tail it out of there.
Outside the courthouse I take another look at the picture of my boat which poor old O.K. really should never have given me in the first place.
Damned if it isn’t dated… December 2006. Wrong picture, wrong ticket, wrong date, wrong slip.
So you can cancel the cakes, I guess; as of today I’m at liberty to knit again, in the comfort of my own home (or boat).
I have an uncomfortable feeling Officer Krupke got himself an earful in chambers after the session was over. I hope he didn’t get into too much trouble; he’s a sweet old guy according to his lights, if maybe a little confused. Good thing he and the judge don’t know about the date on the picture….
Oh, and by the way… I’m paid up for next season. In advance.