The other morning I had to go to traffic court for a previously mentioned offense: Turning right on red when you aren’t supposed to (“failure to obey highway sign,” as the law puts it). My hearing (do they call it that?) was set for 9:30 AM two miles away from my apartment, so I left my house at 8:52 AM to begin my journey where all things that could go wrong did go wrong.
The court is off of 9th St. At 9:04 AM, I am at 2nd St. At 9:09 AM, I am on 4th.
“Court in 20,” I text my friend (at a red light!). “No one moves.”
At 9:13, I have reached the 9th St. intersection (I count my rosary beads), but I have to turn left, and this intersection has no leading green. And I am the fifth car in line to turn.
No need to panic, Cazey. You have 17 minutes. You are three blocks from the court.
9:19 AM. I make it to the court parking lot. I circle once. I circle twice. I circle thrice looking for an exit.
THERE IS NO PARKING.
Do not panic. You still have time. There is street parking.
Meanwhile, I feel sweat on my back. And neck. And armpits. I consider calling the court from my court and just paying my ticket; I could call this whole charade off.
I will not panic. I will not panic.
I wait at an intersection. Tick tock. I see cars ahead of me piling up. We are not going that way. I turn left, see street parking but no open spots, and then I turn right. I am in a lane that must turn right. I consider switching lanes to go straight, but that’s only getting farther from the court, so I should stick to the right. Right?
HOLY MOTHER OF GABRIEL.
I am braking as soon as I turn. I am in a sea of cars. All red lights. I see the signs for I-64 and 95 and then – on a red triangle - “Detour.”
YOU WILL NOT PANIC!!!!
My car clock reads 9:23 AM.
I stay in the right lane, praying to reach the next intersection and get the fork out of Dodge ASAP. Finally (9:24), I reach the “intersection” only to realize 1.) it is a one-way road, and that way is not my way and 2.) Remember that pileup of cars I saw before when leaving the full court parking lot? This is that pileup. And why were they piling up? Because there is a parking garage. On a one-way street. That is not going my way.
Fork fork fork FORK forrrrrrkkkkkkkkk. I will not panic, I will not panic, I will not panic, I WILL NOT.
PHEW. I see another parking garage approaching. If only the cars ahead of me would move. I am railing against myself not to beep the horn or drive up on the sidewalk. I have always wondered how people get road rage. Ladies and gentlemen, I saw the light this day.
F*CKING MOVE, PEOPLE!
In front of the garage is a sign that says “JW: NO PARKING.” What is JW? If I don’t know what JW is, then I obviously am not JW and I can park there, right?
There is a man standing by the garage entrance. I roll down my window and ask (9:26 AM), “What’s JW?”
Man: “Jehovah’s Witness.”
Me: “Are they having something here today?”
In retrospect, I don’t know why I am making small talk. I have four minutes until I’m supposed to be in front of a judge. I also still have time to call in and just pay the damn ticket instead of risking being charged with “failure to appear.”
Man: “Yeah, it’s a convention.”
Well, that would explain this godforsaken traffic.
Me: “So I can park here?”
Man: “Yeah, but you have to wait until 9:30. Just go around the block and come back. Garage opens then.”
I am not sure if that man is still alive. I didn’t come back to find out after I aimed and released all the nuclear and chemical weapons in my arsenal at him.
9:30???? We are four minutes away from 9:30, you putrid wart of a human! I have to be in front of a judge in four minutes!
Serious conversation in my car (pretty sure it was aloud): “God, I am so sorry. I have learned my lesson. I will respect time from here on out. I will always leave room for shit storms like this. I am not panicking. But, God, please help me. God, please. And don’t let me have an anxiety attack.”
As I approach the next intersection (this one right before the interstate entrance, and Gabriel help me if I end up on the bloody highway), I spot a parking lot marked “For Employees Only.” How much would a ticket be for parking illegally? Literally, I am two blocks from the courthouse. What is the penalty for just abandoning your car? I’ll be back in an hour? But seriously. Should I park in this parking lot?
Meanwhile, the intersection isn’t moving because the a-holes from the intersecting road keeps parking themselves in the intersection on the red lights. You are the scum of your most hated roommate’s bathroom after they’ve hurled from a night of Jagerbombs and loaded nachos. Come on, cars, assert yourself! Butt in.
There is some relief in embracing the reality that I am going to be late to court. I stop cussing (no, I don’t); I stop sweating (LOL, yeah, right); and I stop worrying (JK, I called my cop friend to ask what is protocol for arriving late to court, and naturally, he doesn’t answer).
On using my cell phone while driving: What’s another ticket? What’s another court date? For that one I would leave an hour and a half early.
Miraculously (9:34 AM), I make it onto a moving road. I decide to make for the hospital, which is a half-mile from the courthouse, but at least has parking because people die everyday and there’s gotta be room for visitors. Yes, I see the hospital. And if I remember correctly, there is valet parking, which at this hour sounds perfectly reasonable. I turn, recognize all the cars parked on this street are facing me, and I swerve into the valet entrance before anyone can react that I am driving the wrong way down a one-way street.
I roll down my window and clap my hands in that anxious way as I wait for a valet to come up to me. Meanwhile, the two valets are chitchatting about their McDonald’s breakfasts or some crap like that.
Seventeen hours later, the valet asks me: “Where are you trying to go?”
Me: “I want you to take my car?”
Why doesn’t he just assume that? You’re a valet, dude.
Valet: “Are you going to the hospital?”
Me: “…No. I have to be at court. I was supposed to be there eight minutes ago.”
Valet: “You want to park up ahead. You can cut through here.”
Why can’t you just take my car?!
But I don’t have time for petty battles. I also don’t know if that valet made it out alive after my explosive eye contact. I sped through to the hospital parking lot. The entrance warned: “Only For Hospital Guests, All Others Will Be Towed.”
I think you know signs be damned, these were desperate times, and I barreled through. And then I was stuck in traffic again. For the love of all that is just (that does not include tickets for turning right on red, which is normally legal, you know???), can people just MOVE?
Except they’re waiting for their parking deck ticket. Then I’m through that gate. But now cars are stopping every ten feet waiting for someone to back out of their parking space.
A nightmare flashes back to me: A study was done where they evaluated whether car drivers took more time vacating a parking space when someone else was waiting for the space. Since humans are selfish creatures, you betcha they took more time.
I am going to throw up. I am going to be found in contempt of the court.
And then the worst/best thing happened: A SUV had been waiting for this other car to back up - which they did after filing their taxes and applying for a passport – only to realize they couldn’t fit in the space, and I was next in line, and I could fit!
Someone is looking out for me. Fourteen minutes too late.
I ran to the courthouse. As in, I sprinted. Someone told me as I passed, “Good luck in there!”
When I arrived, I found the doors locked. A woman waited outside, too.
Me: “Are you trying to get in there, too?”
Woman: “Yeah. I called and told them I’d be late. Did you?”
Me: “…No.” I didn’t even consider doing that actually. But seems legit.
Woman: “Are you a lawyer?”
This is my aside where I ask about courtroom decorum. What ever happened to it? I was one of a handful of people dressed up for court. Meanwhile, the rest of the plaintiffs looked ready for bed or, worse, a rap concert.
Me: “No, I’m not.”
A bailiff informed us a prisoner was in the courtroom, but once they exited, we could enter the courtroom.
9:50 AM I entered. Twenty minutes late. I imagined the judge pinpointing me, remembering when I appeared before him in the next hour and calling me out.
Hypothetical me: “But there was no parking!”
Twenty minutes later, I was out, no ticket to my name (thank you, driving school). I walked back to the hospital parking deck. On the walk I wondered if they would know I had not been visiting anyone. Should I stop by someone’s room and claim I was just doing my civic duty by visiting the ill? Would a nurse stamp my parking deck ticket?
In my car, I saw my cop friend had called me back. I phoned back, and halfway through our conversation, a car – waiting for my space – honked. Oops.
You would think this closes our story – some of you probably already scrolled down here to the bottom when this nightmare seemed never-ending (didn’t it?!) – but it’s not over yet. I reached the parking deck exit only to realize I had lost my ticket.
Me: “How much is it if I don’t have a ticket?”
Which isn’t too bad, and I would have paid with both my kidneys if you had cornered me 45 minutes earlier, but now was the time to come out victorious. I had persevered. I had gotten out of my ticket. I was not paying a dollar more than I should.
Now where had I put my parking ticket?
Me: “Can I back up and look for it?”
Man: “Sure!” (five seconds later) “Wait, you can’t back up that way.”
Long story short, I pulled off to the side and found the ticket in my wallet. I went to rejoin the exit line. A woman beckoned me in. My car bumped against a curb. Oops. I reversed – too fast – and my car crashed into a chain-link fence behind me.
Crap. Crap, crap, crap.
The woman gawks at me now. I try to wave her to just go and I’ll exit after the audience leaves, but she refuses. So I drive forward, back into the curb – well, this time with only one wheel. I accelerate to get over it. My car bounces and jostles. My backend is super exposed to this judgmental woman as I pay the parking fee. And then I drive away – into a sunset where I only paid $2 for parking and the court parking lot would have cost $5. This had been my plan all along.