Remember that time I got a ticket? And had to go to a class to learn how to drive? Well this morning, at 8:30, I had to go to the Multnomah County Court House to prove to them that I did what the officer recommended I do, and that I learned my lesson. I got there at 8:25 and was the 20th person in line (after making it through the metal detectors and the maze that is the first floor. Luckily at the court house, unlike the airport, you don’t have to take off your jacket or shoes before you go through security. Gross.). By 9:00 there were over 150 people in line to check in at the counter. And what an interesting cross-section of Portlanders.
Overheard in line from a girl about my age sporting a Tweety Bird sweatshirt and terrible blond hair, talking loudly on her cell phone: “I mean, the apartment’s already flooded twice this month… And I just feel like it’ll prolly only get worse in the Fall, y’know? So, like, is there any sort of thing you can give me? Like maybe some money off my rent or another apartment?”
When I finally got to the counter at 9:25, I was told that I was “very lucky” and “organized” after I told them I’d already taken the class and that I had all the paperwork with me (including my certificate saying that I did, in fact, pass the class). They told me I had to go show the judge before I could actually leave, though, so I was sent into a courtroom.
My boss later told me that she has a friend that used to go sit in traffic court when she was having a bad day, just to hear everyone else’s stories that made her feel better. And I totally understand. I had to wait for about ten people to plead their cases in front of the judge before it was my turn. I also determined that about a half dozen people in the courtroom weren’t there for citations… they were just watching and listening.
Overheard in the courtroom:
From a guy who could have been Snoop-Dogg’s cousin, with long, chemically-straightened hair parted right down the middle and a pimp limp: “Well, you know, the car insurance wasn’t in the car I was driving, it was in the Chevy… I mean the Liberty. We got the Liberty and the Celebrity. I’s in the Celebrity. The lady drives the Liberty.”
Lady, standing next to him: “Uh-huh. It was my fault.”
From a little old lady who clearly learned English as a second language, but was still fluent and feisty as hell: “I didn’t run the red light.”
Judge: “This photo of your car was taken when the light was yellow, and you weren’t in the intersection. This one was taken when the car was red, and you were. You ran the light.”
LOL: “I didn’t run it.”
Judge: “Okay, well would you like to plead Not Guilty and take to trial?”
LOL: “Not if I’m gonna lose.”
Judge: “Well, would you like to plead No Contest then?”
Judge: “You have to plead either Guilty, No Contest, or Not Guilty.”
From a middle-aged businesswoman in an expensive-looking suit: “I’m an active member of the community, I’m involved in my kids’ schools, I’m a very responsible cyclist here in Portland, and I’m a very conscientious driver. And frankly, I’m mortified that I got this ticket.”
Judge: “Well, you ran a red light downtown. It’s right here in the photos.”
Businesswoman: “Well you know, I think it’s because the road conditions on Burnside are really bad, you know? And my car is very low to the ground.”
Judge: “…And you were so focused on that that you missed the light?”
Businesswoman: “Yeah… or something.”
Judge: “Well, you were also going ten miles per hour over the speed limit.”
Businesswoman: “I was?”
Judge: “Since this is your first offense, I’ll give you the minimum fine of $185.”
Businesswoman as she walks out of the courtroom: “I’m a really good driver!”
I got up there, gave him my “diploma,” told him I learned all about the silly Oregon laws that are different from ALL OTHER STATES, and he thanked me and told me I could go. I congratulated myself with a Starbucks latte and got to work by 10:15.