Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Traffic court.

So I had this car for two months. And y'all, it was ridiculous. I live in the mission - an outer corner of the mission, but the mission - and parking sucks. Constantly on watch for new spaces, memorizing the street cleaning days, moving that thing just for the sake of moving it. Don't get me wrong, there are awesome things about having a car - like being two and a half hours from Monterey, or going to Ikea. But seriously? Zipcar for that shit. No more cars ever again for me. But I did have one for two months.

In that two months, I managed to blow a headlight and totally forget about it since I never drove the thing. Lucky for me, San Francisco's finest were on the scene to remind me. I got a ticket. This ticket has one option: put in a new headlight, then "just have any police officer sign the ticket". Yeah, cool. What am I going to do? Speed up behind one and flash my new headlights at them and they'll totally know what that means? I don't know if YOU have tried to flag down a police officer to sign your headlight ticket lately, but they sort of have better things to do.

But it was a lease, right? And I returned the car on the 26th of February, and my "do this by this day" ticket was for the 4th of March. I told this to the officer as he was writing my ticket, and he told me I could come in with my lease paperwork and just show them that I didn't have the car anymore.

I go down to traffic court today (the day before my very last chance GIVE ME A BREAK IT HAS BEEN RAINING) and first of all, I go through the metal detector. With my bag. The surly lady that watches all of your wine openers go through the machine asks me "Do you have a wine opener in your bag?" The answer they don't want to hear is "Oh, probably." Because of course I have a wine opener in my bag. This was the bag I took to Monterey last weekend and I obviously needed a wine opener if I was going to be in a hotel, but it doesn't matter because I would probably have one anyway. So she tells me it has a knife and that I can't bring it in to traffic court. I ask her what I should do with it, and she tells me to put it in my car. I tell her I don't have a car, and she tells me, verbatim "You can try hiding it somewhere outside." Laughing out loud wasn't the response she wanted, but I legitimately thought she was joking.

Wine openers can, if done with great force, be shoved between the rails of a bicycle saddle and tucked up under there. YOU'RE WELCOME.

So I stand in line for 25 minutes and finally get to a human, who tells me he can help me out with this, then tells me it's time to pay the $25 compliance fee. California, I hate you. Compliance fee? I pay you $25 because I did what I was supposed to do? I mean, jesus. He then tells me that what he is SUPPOSED to do is schedule me a court date in June, but since my situation is "unique", he's letting me slide.

Out of pure curiosity, what do you imagine happens in that court date? I show up four months after I've gotten rid of the car to plead my case? A judge - presumably someone who paid a real ridiculous amount of money to go to law school, and presumably costs the state a shitload of money per hour - looks at the same piece of paper from Honda that I just showed the traffic clerk? Do I cry and say that I'll never do it again? Because I won't. Because I don't have a car.

The whole process was just ridiculous. It's a headlight. And look, I know, you should have headlights. Hell, I ride a bike. I want everyone behind me to have headlights. Get seven of 'em. I want to see you coming. So I get it. But, seriously, mandatory scheduled court dates for a blown headlight bulb? It's a little much. I have ideas on how we might close that budget gap I'm hearing so much about.

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