Thursday, June 29, 2017


August 30 2002
      I was on my way to Kingston’s Beal House for a duplicate bridge game on a rainy morning, driving with particular care because of the wet roads.
     At about 11:00, the traffic slowed to five miles an hour, with frequent stops.  Ten minutes later I could see the flashing lights of a police car in the distance.  The traffic began to pick up speed, but I stayed behind the cars in the right lane, still driving conservatively.  As I neared the spot where I had seen the cruiser’s lights, I slowed down  in order to see what had held up traffic.  Off to the right of the breakdown lane I could see a car with the driver’s side somewhat damaged and a police car parked in back of it. 
       I proceeded cautiously at about 45 mph.  Within a few minutes I noticed a police car behind me,   its  tummy-alarming lights signaling that I should pull over.  Was I in trouble for driving too slowly?
      I pulled well off the road so the officer could approach my car without being endangered by passing traffic.  I rolled down my window and was confronted by a stony-faced man.
     "Your license and registration," he said, without so much as a please.   
     "What did I do?" I asked, but he left abruptly and was gone long enough for me to mull over a hand in the current Bridge Bulletin, which I'd brought with me to prime my deteriorating brain cells.  When Stony Face returned, he asked a bizarre question. “Have you been drinking that beer?”
      What beer?  I gaped at him, then saw him looking at the passenger side of my car.  I looked at the empty seat, then back at him.  He pointed to the floor.  There stood a medium-sized paper bag that contained a six-pack of empty beer bottles.   I'd been intending for several days to return the carton for a refund but kept forgetting. 
     I protested, “I have a beer about once a month.”
     Stony Face wasn't interested in my social life.  “I’m giving you a citation for almost hitting my cruiser,” he said curtly. “Someone did hit it a week ago, and I was nearly killed.  You were halfway into the breakdown lane.”
     I gaped at him again.  I was nowhere near his vehicle at the moment I slowed briefly at the scene of the accident.   If I had nearly hit him, wouldn’t I have known it?  Wouldn’t I have been in a state of guilty fear and agitation?  Would I have gone calmly on my way, oblivious to what was about to befall me?
     I read the citation and thought I had no choice.  Who would believe my side of the story?  I would have to pay the huge fine of $100, a lot of money for a woman living on a fixed income.  My “step 9” record with my insurance company would be ruined, and I didn’t have that many years left to restore my former money-saving status.  I dejectedly checked the statement on the citation that declared, “I wish to pay the citation.”  But now, after talking to my family and my insurance company, I have changed my mind and am requesting a court hearing.
         I expect no one in a position to help me will ever read the lengthy appeal I wrote, but  it’s always good therapy for me to write down the facts of an upsetting episode.  So here it is, Your Honor, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the damn truth, so help me.
        The date of the hearing was Monday, October 21st.   This meant I wouldn’t be able to play in the Cohasset duplicate bridge game, one of the high points in my week.  Already I was being punished for a crime I didn’t commit.                                                                      
     When younger son Tim heard about the officer’s question, “Have you been drinking that beer?” he made an observation that would warm any mother’s heart:  “Oh God, what an asshole!” 
     Tim and Ted thought I should delete at least half of the description I was planning to present to the magistrate.  Like the Rte 106 detour that almost made me late for my bridge game because I got lost and drove for miles in the wrong direction.  When I finally arrived at Beale House, I learned that the detour was caused by the funeral of a police officer at the next-door Shepherd Funeral Home.  Could it be that the deceased was a relative or friend of stony-faced Officer Doyle?  Was he under tremendous stress, and was this why he treated me so unfairly? 
      “Irrelevant,” said Ted and Tim.
      A couple of days before my courthouse appearance, I asked Ted if he thought I should bring my book.  He pondered a moment, then said, “Yes, I think it would give you credibility.” 
     Enough meandering.  It is October 21st, the day of my 2:00 hearing at the Hingham District Court.   I check in at the clerk-magistrate’s office and am told to wait out in the hall.  My name will be called when it is time for me to appear in an area at the back of the office that doesn’t look big enough for a cloakroom, let alone a courtroom. 
     I sat on a bench in a hall twice as large as Judge Judy’s courtroom.  The temperature must have been 90 degrees because I could feel my complexion changing from white to rosy red, tra la.  I folded the two pages of my defense and fanned and fanned and fanned.  I didn’t want to look like Babsie the Boozer when I faced the magistrate.  I fanned some more.  I went to the Ladies’ Room and splashed my flushed face with cold water.  
    At 2:20 my name was called.  I walked through the office toward an open door and found myself in a cloakroom.  Really, it wasn’t much bigger than that.  The boyish-looking magistrate, who sat at the end of a large desk, introduced himself and the state police officer behind the desk.  Or maybe it was vice versa.  I remembered their names for zero seconds.  Their expressions were noncommittal.  I asked the uniform behind the desk if he would read the account I had written the day after the incident.  Looking  dubious, he mumbled the words rapidly, skipping here and there.  Meanwhile, I pushed Take My Ex across the desk to the other uniform.  He picked it up, began reading the flyleaf, and his expression changed to a broad grin.
        Now the magistrate read aloud the paragraphs that were amusing him.  He shook his head and whistled.  “My wife and I got divorced ten years ago and she still has a doll she’s sticking pins into.”  
      Then those two dear men did their duty and cautioned me about straying into breakdown lanes in the future.  The magistrate picked up the form in front of him and initialed NR under the Judgment column.  NR stands for not responsible.  Sometimes it is very, very good to be not responsible.  As I got up to leave, I fell over my chair, righted myself as gracefully and undrunkenly as possible, bumped into the next defendant coming through the door of the cloakroom, and drove home to tell everyone the good news.

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