About 10:30 last night as I was drifting off to sleep, I suddenly sat up in bed with a Horrible Thought, threw the covers back, stumbled into my office, and looked at my calendar. Yep, there it was, plain as day: my court appointment for 1:30 PM last Tuesday.

Aarrrrrrrrrrrrrghhhh. Yes, the appointment that back in July the nice lady in Room 101 of the Hall of Justice had kindly set up for me so I could save $150 by simply pleading guilty to my U-turn offense in front of a judge rather than just admitting my guilt to her and writing a check. Frankly, considering that I’d be saving the city the expense of staging a court appearance, it ought to be the other way around. But hey, I just live here, making illegal U-turns.

Last Tuesday, remember, was when I had my great emotional breakthrough and got Allen’s work transferred to the Society, so excited about all that, that even driving down Harrison later in full sight of the Hall of Justice didn’t remind me that I was by that time, even, what nitpickers might with technical accuracy call a “fugitive.”

Fugitive. What a nasty little word that is when it applies to oneself. I play it over my tongue, “Matte Gray, Fugitive: Caucasian, 5’9”, 155 lbs, green eyes, gray hair, corrective lenses, multiple scars on lower legs. Frequents farmers markets. Neither armed nor dangerous.”

So then I grabbed my glasses and started reading the fine print describing what happens to fugitives when they are brought to justice.

And after I read about all the penalties, aieeeeeeeeeee, I started looking for loopholes, hoping that at least there was a possibility I could avoid the six months in jail part and maybe get off for as little as a $500 fine (plus a $300 civil assessment, which seemed reasonable enough since they would have had to pay somebody to move all the chairs in the courtroom to the left one place when I didn’t show up).

By this time, midnight was approaching and I realized there was nothing I could do then. Well, other than get a good night’s sleep in preparation for the expected ordeal. So I took two lorazepams and two cyclobenzaprines on top of the trazadone I’d taken before going to bed.

And lay down with my mind racing so frantically that I had to hold my eyelids shut with my fingers, so I took another cyclobenzaprine and another lorazepam and, what the hell, another trazadone since I was standing right there in front of ’em.

All this being enough to sedate a horse, I finally fell asleep.

And was awakened by the alarm at 7:30 with a drug hangover as monstrous as it was understandable.

And got a pot of coffee in me, which barely helped at all, before I grabbed the original court papers, my checkbook, and just in case they immediately threw me in jail, my toothbrush. And I combed my hair and put on clean underwear.

With excruciating caution, I drove through the grim, gray morn down to the Hall of Justice, and found a legal parking place only a couple of blocks away. Checked all the signage three times.

The line through the entrance screening point went very rapidly, but that wasn’t too surprising since it looked like everybody in line had the drill down cold either because they worked there or were repeat perps.

I trudged down to Room 101, and my heart sank because the line snaked down the hall. But just in case, I walked up to the door to check, and saw that the line was all for the traffic windows. There was nobody at the criminal windows, which would be where I belong now. Then I understood: Criminals don’t get up early, but I’m new at this.

So I went up to the closest criminal window and turned myself in. She looked through her books and gave me some good news. There’s enough of a backlog of evildoers in the city that the department had not had time to process my warrant, so I was still on the traffic books.

God bless the overworked bureaucracy!

I ran back to the end of the traffic line (now, five people longer) and waited, twitching, ohhhhh, please don’t let them be processing me right now!!! Finally, finally it was my turn, and amazingly, I got the same kind lady who’d set up my court date to save me all that money. I told her how I screwed the whole thing up, and she responded that, well, since they hadn’t issued the warrant yet, she could give me a new court date for free. Not even a fine.

Stunned, I started babbling my gratitude, and she dryly observed that it might be a good idea to show up this time. I did my best to laugh at her rich humor.

So did I get away with this or what? All it cost me was all those tranquilizers and sleeping pills and relaxants I ate last night. Well, and today’s hangover from either their combination or their sheer quantity….or both.

Well, actually, back home, this morning’s mail brought an unwelcome letter. Apparently I did not, after all, escape the $300 administrative fee. So thus far I’ve spent $300 to save $150.

But I’ve stayed out of jail.

Well, so far. Could somebody send me an email on 2 October reminding me to look at my calendar?

And hey, here’s some street art on Clarion Alley.  I call it the Escalator to Justice:


Clarion Alley


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