Aging has its perks. It also has its disadvantages.
Three weeks ago, I was on my way home from taking care of a few things. A police car was following me. Uh oh, I thought, what could this be all about? I assumed he wasn’t after me, but I was wrong. He lit me up, so to speak. I pulled onto the nearest side street and parked along the curb. He got out of his car, lights still flashing, and walked over. At least he didn’t turn on the noisy siren.
“Good afternoon, Officer. What did I do?” I knew I hadn’t done anything, but I was a little apprehensive. I was slurring my words.
“Nothing. But your tag is expired.”
“It is? No way!” Hmmm… I thought about it.
“Yes, it is, and I checked it twice, just to be sure.”
“You know, my birthday was weeks ago and I don’t remember renewing it, but I never forget! I must have…” I always get one of those renewal forms in the mail. Usually, I go to the DMV office because they’re really nice and the wait is never too long.
He asked to see my license. He didn’t need my registration or insurance card. Heck, the registration was expired anyway!
“I’ll be back,” and he walked to his squad car right behind me. Just before he turned around, I mentioned why I was slurring, but he didn’t care at the time.
When he returned, he was holding a ticket and asked if I would sign it. Of course. He said he wanted me to go to the Seminole County Courthouse.
“Do you know where it is?”
“Of course! I went there every day when I wrote about the George Zimmerman trial.” That interested him. “But why do I need to go there to set a court date? My tag is expired and I’m guilty.”
“Hold on. Hear me out. I want you to set a date there and then you’ll go to a different court where, if you renew your registration by then, within 30 days, I will have the ticket dismissed.”
“Yes, Sir, no problem!” And I was on my way. The next day, I drove to the tag office and renewed the registration. Good to go. Then, I drove to the courthouse where they set a court date: October 8, 2:00 PM.
Yesterday, I went to traffic court. There were some surly looking people, but most of them were ordinary folks, like you and me — if there is such a thing as ordinary. I hadn’t been inside a courtroom of any kind since the Zimmerman verdict. More importantly, I hadn’t had ANY problems with the law in God knows how many years. I think, with age, we tend to mellow out, and it’s a perplexing thought. I’ll get to that.
I had to wait in a line after several cases were called because attorneys were there to represent their clients. That deserves preferential treatment because time is money. Eventually, I got up in front of the judge and stated my name. The officer was there, he looked at my documents and nodded to the judge that all was in order. Dismissed!
All I had to do was sign my name on a document at the back of the courtroom. There was a short line, so I talked to one of the other officers after thanking mine for the favor and for spending his time doing so. I told the other officer about an experience, probably 25 years ago, when I was in court for some infraction and the judge lined all of the DUI people up to expedite their arraignments. No, I was not in that line. Suddenly, the judge reprimanded one guy and told him to leave.
“Do not come back here until you know how to dress appropriately in my courtroom!” I could see that he was wearing a sleeveless black t-shirt but, when he turned around to exit, it had art silk screened on the front that showed a drunk judge and some stupid drunk judge message spelled out, out of focus. Out the door, too.
The officer I told this story to told me one of his own. He had arrested a guy on a pot charge and he showed up in a t-shirt with a huge bright green marijuana leaf silk screened on the front with a message that simply said LEGALIZE POT!
Here’s the interesting thing about getting old. Or older. It’s not so good that my memory isn’t what it used to be. Oh, it’s not very bad yet, but… Two years ago, I wouldn’t have let the car registration slip my mind. The good thing about getting old is that, by now, most of us have learned how to respect people, and that includes the police. I was always respectful, but it’s certainly not like that with many of the younger generation. Look at the way police are treated! No, I’m not going to address bad cops or bad politicians or anything political. Period. Here’s what I think. This particular officer took one look at me and said to himself, he’s no threat. He looks harmless, and he gave me a break. Had I shown an inkling of attitude, I might have been paying the $113.00 fine and, maybe, court costs.
Remember at the beginning I told you I was slurring my words? I told him the truth and he didn’t seem to care about it. You see, the Novacaine was wearing off. That was the day my front tooth (#7) broke at the gum line. Unfortunately, that’s another one of the drawbacks of getting old. Your teeth just ain’t what they used to be.