Friday, January 29, 2010

Night Court

Went to downtown Brooklyn early Wednesday morning, to the MTA’s Transit Adjudication Bureau. Ellie was disputing a ticket she wrongly received for walking through a subway gate allegedly without paying. Being the good father that I am, and with nothing better to do that morning than sleep, I ventured forth to offer aid and comfort, and to possibly come up with another blog subject. Mission accomplished on all fronts, though Ellie has to go back to the Bureau in about two months for the actual “trial.”

Ellie’s predicament reminded me of a stop sign violation the local constabulary tried to tack onto my good driving record some 32 years ago in the upstate hamlet of Pine Bush, outside Middletown. Gilda and I were returning from an evening auction (we bought an oak chair, just recently relegated to our attic) when I noticed an active bubble gum machine atop the car in the rear view mirror. I pulled over to let the police car pass, but to my surprise it pulled in right behind me. I had rolled through a stop sign, the patrolman said. Nonsense, said I, vowing to fight the unjustified accusation. In that case, you’ll have to return to Pine Bush in about six weeks for night court, he countered.

Not wanting points on my record, or to pay the fine, Gilda and I left work early on the appointed day, traveled the 60 or so miles up north and arrived...24 hours too early! I had confused the dates. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. Needless to say, my disgust was negligible compared to my bunkmate’s. I reeeeally had to do some major groveling to get Gilda to go back to Pine Bush with me the next night.

Even so, her demeanor was not friendly. She had the comportment of a hostile witness, but she was all I had. Without her it would be my word against the cop’s. Even though I extracted from him an admission that he was stationed 300 yards, three football fields!, away from the stop sign I allegedly “rolled through,” it was still just the two of us squaring off, and in most jurisdictions that’s bad news for a defendant.

After Gilda testified (thankfully corroborating my testimony), the judge asked if the policeman had a witness. He did. It was the chief of police, who was riding with him that night. Gulp.

OK, where was he?, the judge asked. On patrol, came the reply, followed swiftly by good, old-fashioned country justice—two against one, case dismissed.

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