Last week, on an unseasonably warm and sunny Thursday, Scott and I took off work and went for a drive. It was gorgeous out; one of those days when you want to soak up every last second of warmth because you know it won’t be back around for a while. We drove and drove, me with my feet on the dashboard, Scott at the wheel, both of us laughing and singing along with the radio. It was such a relaxing a drive that I almost forgot where we were headed.
The morning my grandmother died I got a call from my mom. She gave me the news and after talking to my husband and my sister and a few colleagues, I decided to go home and be with my family. There wasn’t going to be a funeral right away but I wanted to see my parents and hug my Dad. It felt like the right thing to do. It also felt right to get there as fast as I could. I tried to go fast without going too fast, but that line is a blurry one, especially when the roads are as empty as you’d imagine at mid-morning Wednesday in a rural town. I lost track of my thoughts and before I knew it the all-too-familiar red and blue lights were flashing in my rear view.
The police officer was about as thrilled to see me as I was to see him, and the second I saw his grimace I knew I wouldn’t tell him why I was driving so fast. He didn’t seem like the type who’d care about the sob story of a young woman in a nice car who somehow wasn’t working on a Wednesday. It didn’t help matters that in my panic I couldn’t find my registration. He coldly handed me a big ticket and drove away, leaving me alone on the side of the road where my emotions came in a flood, albeit one that came far too late to make a difference. Defeated, I called Scott in tears, and he promised that we’d take it to court. He was indignant and strong in the face of my utter helplessness and void of even an ounce of annoyance at the pile of points I’d just added to our insurance. Ever my champion.
Three weeks and a box of Kleenex later, Scott was making good on his promise. We pull into the parking lot at the one-room courthouse an hour early and decide to stroll around the tiny surrounding town. We walk hand-in-hand, split a slice of pizza, then find an empty park bench where we can watch the sun dance off the river adjacent to town. I take off my shoes and let my feet soak up the sun. What a beautiful day to have time to waste. We eventually meander back to the building and find our way inside, and not long after we’ve sat down on the church-like courtroom pews, my parents join us. Since we’re so close I’ve asked them to meet us for lunch, and they decide to also take in the show. They come in and sit behind me and immediately the jokes begin. I’m nervous but can’t help but laugh at my Dad’s loud pronouncements that I’m going straight to the slammer. I look at a girl across the aisle whose eyes are wide enough to believe him.
The time comes, and it doesn’t bode the way I had hoped. The judge is the type that’s perpetually unmoved, even by my most sincere of stories. I leave in shock at his stoniness and then sympathy for the rest of the nearly full courtroom, whose hopes of probation before judgment must have been dashed after they saw that even a dead grandmother wouldn’t get you off. After my emotions settle I’m left not with a sense of resentment at the judge’s apathy or frustration with the financial loss, which of course isn’t fun. Instead, I just feel lucky that I have a husband and parents who care about me enough to endure the pain that is traffic court, and happy that I get to spend the rest of a beautiful afternoon sitting in the sun, relaxing and chatting with them. That alone is worth the cost of the ticket and more.