As snotty as I am about my brother, it was me who had traffic court this morning. My license plate registration expired at the end of December and between the wedding and Christmas I just hadn’t gotten around to renewing. I got pulled in January.
Even then, the cop asked if I were Oliver Smith’s sister.
I went straight to the DMV and got it taken care of. Now, I don’t know if y’all have been to traffic court before, but the judge rarely considers expired registrations to be his life’s work. If you can show the judge you’ve taken care of the problem, the judge will almost always dismiss the charges.
This morning, I knew my way around the judicial complex without having to ask. After all, I've been there plenty of times before.
I was the only white person without a lawyer.
But this was an angry judge. He demanded a translator for a woman who just had a heavy Spanish accident. A guy who begged to have his car returned didn’t get it because of what sounded like a paperwork snafu. Denied. I thought about how Robertson Davies observed that a train of unhappy events, once set into motion, is almost impossible to check. How many trains of unhappy events sat there in the courtroom with me.
I sat there with my registration in my hand, imagining for a moment that I was Von Berg in “Incident at Vichy,” the papers that would allow my escape in my hand.
Go to jail? No way, I was just visiting.
Two hours after court began, my name was called. I stood at the podium. The judge asked if I had taken care of the problem.
I showed the judge and the prosecutor the registration and the case was dismissed.
Tonight, a cop pulled me over to ask if I knew where my brother was.