$242 later, I have enough for 360 words.
I’m a law-abiding man. I keep my nose clean. I wipe my feet on mats and look both ways before crossing the street. But I only heed “No Turn on Red” signs 99.999% of the time.
The corner is right by my apartment, a place I pass through each morning on the way to work. I sit at that red light with my blinker on, waiting sometimes a full two minutes before legally making the turn.
And by NOT honoring such a request, I buy myself a date in traffic court.
Unfortunately, that date was also the morning I played visiting professor at Bradley University. I give my spiel to the sleepy masses, lecturing on the ups and downs and sideways of Twitter and other new media, then awkwardly rush the whole presentation to a close 15 minutes earlier than scheduled. There’s no good way to say that you need to leave for court.
Room 121 looks like a Monday morning, a multitude of transgressors looking for absolution. I check in with the bailiff, take a seat in a crowded pew (yes, the symbolism!) and await judgment. This won’t be quick.
Since cell phones are off limits, one is left with classic time diversions – like eavesdropping. The cases are divided between those with suspended licenses and the petty thieves. The capital offenders are given face time with an honest-to-God judge, while I’m delegated to an assistant state’s attorney. My pew-mates are a ragged bunch, bit characters from Little Shop of Horror’s Skid Row. They’ve been here before, but avoid holding my hand.
After 90 minutes, my name is announced formally and clearly. I enter through the swinging doors and am presented with 3 options:
1. I have the right to a trial.
2. I can pay a $200 fine, but the offense will be added to my driving record.
3. But wait, that’s not all! For two Jacksons more, I can skip my way out of here with no lasting effects.
Ready as I am to fight the power, the promise of immediate freedom forces my hand. They have me where they want me, wallet open and willing.
And I’m a better person because of it.