It was my first day on the job of a one-day temp assignment and it was a Friday. The staffing agency told me that if I wanted to get paid on time for the day, I'd need to get my time sheet in by that afternoon. Problem was, I didn't have any time sheets.
Before I was supposed to be at the new job I had to stop at the staffing agency to get the time sheet. The staffing agency is located at the north end of Main Street, which runs right through the heart of downtown Nashua. Of course, making this extra stop meant that I was on the verge of being late if I was delayed in any fashion. Stopping at multiple red lights, stopping at a red light that stayed red for longer than normal, being pulled over for speeding...
I drive through downtown Nashua frequently. I have been doing so since K and I moved to New Hampshire in 1996. With all of the traffic lights and volume of traffic on this road, it's difficult to go faster than the speed limit for any extended period of time. Never before had I been stopped for speeding on this road.
Until that day.
When he pulled me over, the Nashua Police officer said that he clocked me going 42 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone. Hello $100.00 ticket.
Great. Freakin' great.
Understand that, to this point in the summer I had not been working and the last thing I needed was a speeding ticket. I had no money to pay it.
So I did what I always say I would do. Appeal the ticket and take my chances with our wonderful legal system.
Today was my day in court.
As it turns out, I've never had any occasion to go to the Nashua District Courthouse. In the last dozen years, I've only had to go to court once, and not since my divorce was finalized in April, 2004. The Nashua Courthouse is a non-descript brick 1980's style concrete monstrosity.... ummm, building. Which is to say that it does not stick out as a piece of architectural brilliance but blends in nicely with the majority of buildings downtown. And I didn't realize I didn't know exactly how to get there.
The summons sheet I received in the mail informed me that I needed to be at the courthouse by 08:15. I got into downtown Nashua at 07:50, figuring that 25 minutes was plenty of time to get to the courthouse, park and get into the building past security in plenty of time.
Wrong. I proceeded to spend the next 40 minutes trying to find the building but couldn't do it. Once I did find it, I discovered that there was precious little parking in the lot in front of the building. A uniformed officer patrolling the reserved section of the parking lot advised me that there was a parking lot right up the street from the courthouse, about 200 yards away. Fantastic.
If ever you visit Nashua, bring a lot of quarters. Nashua is possibly one of the most parking meter happy cities in America. I don't normally carry any change.
Once I pulled into the parking lot and found my space, I realized that this lot, like many others around the city, was metered. Fortunately I had some singles in my wallet and was able to get change at a wallpaper and flooring store nearby. I pumped four quarters into the meter, which should have given me 2 hours of parking time but only gave me 90 minutes.
I ran into the courthouse, already late for my scheduled appearance. I had to empty my pockets before I walked through the metal detector. I passed through OK but security decided to hold on to my keys because I have a nail keyring. The nail is a replica of the nails used in a crucifixion. My nail keyring is made of soft metal and would bend and break if I attempted to use it as a weapon. But for this reason they held on to my keys.
I finally entered courtroom one at 08:45. It seemed like the court was disorganized and none of the days proceedings had begun yet. That, at least, was good. I found a seat on one of the chairs in the back of the courtroom. A few minutes later my name was called and I was asked by a court official if I would like to have a hearing or not. I said that I would, since that is why I was there. I sat back down and waited for 15-20 minutes for the next step. One of the Nashua Police Officers who was working at the court that day called my name and asked me to step outside of the courtroom. He was carrying my paperwork.
Once outside the courtroom, the officer asked me what I'd like to do here. I told him that I'd like to get the ticket dismissed or at least reduced. Shuffling through the papers in his hand, he reminded me that I was caught going 17 mph over the posted speed limit and with three other speeding violations on my record in the past few years he advised me that the judge would not reduce my fine or dismiss my ticket. In fact, he informed me that it was possible that the judge could decide to increase my fine and or have my drivers license suspended. At that point I decided to suck it up and pay the fine and be done with it. The officer nodded, advised me that he would let them know inside and that I should go downstairs to the window and pay my fine.
So I did.
I went downstairs and walked toward the window and stood several feet away, a sign posted on the glass advised only to come to the window when called. Several people were called ahead of me to settle their business after I got there. Once the woman behind the glass was done calling out specific names, about 90 minutes later, she looked at me and asked if she could help me. I told her my name and that all I needed to do was pay my fine. She looked through her stack of folders and paperwork but couldn't find anything with my name on it. She wrote down my name and told me that she would call up to the courtroom to see where my paperwork was.
Again I waited, this time about 45 minutes. When I approached the window the second time I restated what I needed to do but she still didn't have my paperwork. She then got up, went around the corner and came back a few minutes later. She informed me that they needed me back upstairs in the courtroom and I should go back there right away. Puzzled, I asked why and she repeated that I needed to go.
Back upstairs in the courtroom, my name was being called as I reentered the room. Apparently the officer forgot to tell someone that I decided to pay my fine instead of standing before the judge. They were about to pronounce me a no-show. When I discovered this, I quickly advised the court officials that I wanted to pay my fine and that I was told to go downstairs and do it. I told them that the officer I spoke to said he would advise them of my change of plea and that he instructed me to go downstairs and wait, which I had.
The court official nodded and told me that they would promptly send my paperwork back downstairs. I went downstairs immediately but it took another half hour or so for my paperwork to follow me.
Once my paperwork came down to the cashier-like lady, it took all of five minutes to pay my $100. By the time I got out of the courtroom and back home, it was 13:30 and I hadn't eaten anything all day.
Shortly after I got back, I called work to ask my boss if we were busy and if I should bother coming in for the last two hours of the workday. I told her briefly that I had just gotten home from court and she told me to have a nice weekend - that she would see me on Monday.
Appealing the speeding ticket did suit my ultimate goal - in that it gave me a few extra months to come up with the money to pay the fine, even though overall I lost out on a day's work (and pay) and gas to make an extra trip up to Nashua. I suppose it was a worthwhile experience. Barely.
But the ironic thing is that, after the day's work at the temp job, they took down my name and advised the staffing agency that I was there. So I did get paid the following Tuesday. My trip to the staffing agency that August day was not really necessary and had I known that, would not even had to come close to driving through downtown Nashua and therefore would not, in all likelihood, have gotten a speeding ticket that day.
Today Green fought the law....and lost; but not before becoming hopelessly tangled in the web of disorganization and red tape that our wonderful court system so efficiently provides.
Labels: court, legal system, waiting, wasting time