|Courtesy Mad Penguin Creations|
Here's the deal: I have 4 preachers and 5 church musicians on my mom's side of the family tree. One of 'em preachers was my dear old dad. I'm not here to contradict what you surely know about the deacons' kids teaching us PK's how to live on the wild side. I just want you to know that truism didn't apply to me. No sir. Remember me sayin' that it was not my mamma's proudest moment when I informed the post-colonoscopy recovery room nurse about my lineage with regard to record setting gastrointestinal fortitude? Suffice it to say, that in my childhood home, we had rules of decorum. It started with little things like not being able to call deviled eggs by their God-given names. No sir. At our house, they were 'word-eggs' because any word to do with the devil was a cuss word. That's how high the bar was set where I come from. I grew up thinking the devil would personally come snag me with his pitchfork for the slightest infraction.
You can imagine that, in my native childhood habitat, R-E-S-P-E-C-T was more than an Otis Redding song that Aretha Franklin hijacked for the sake of the women's movement. We knew we better respect our elders, every living soul in the church and all their relatives, teachers, and any man in uniform...whether he was military, police, or the garbage man. It was a heavy load to bear what with the influence of all those wayward deacons' kids, let me tell you!
Well, here I am at the ripe old age of fifty-a-cough-choke-gurgle years, and my heart still races every time I see an official vehicle near me in traffic. If I see rack lights...I don't care if it is the man who reads the water meter, I get all spazzy about it. I'm scared to death my inner fraidy cat has gone and gotten rebellious and done something wild when I wasn't looking...like run a yellow light as it turns orange on its way to red.
Thanks to my mamma teaching me how to behave and my avoiding the unseemly influence of all those deacons' kids, I've gotten to this young old age without navigating a certain right of passage: a traffic ticket. I figure that, technically, I stopped maturing about the age of 21 when most folks have gotten one. I'm sure my shrink would back me up on this hypothesis. (She's out of town, so there's no need to call her.) I think this inexperience is why I have not needed botox, Oil of Olay, or liposuction. I stayed young because I didn't hit all my maturational milestones!
Sigh. Pull up a chair real close now. I got another one a them true confessions ya'll live for. It's not my fault. I'm no guiltier today than I was the day the International Space Station wobbled in orbit a few weeks back. And, if I had not decided to go to rehab...uh..I mean the writer's conference, it never would have happened anyway.
It all happened this-a-way. Back in May, I was at the pre-game warm up for the writer's conference. Some of the locals in the writer's group met for the 411 on what to expect when we got there. I went for the express purpose of not making an idiot out-a-myself when I got to the real thing. Met a few folks. Pressed some flesh. Flashed a few smiles. Asked a few idiot Q's that only newbies ask. It all seemed like a good idea at the time...only I forgot to take some chocolate as a sedative before I went.
If you have been following my fraidy cat progress for a while, you probably remember that I left that meeting in a full tilt panic attack. The lovely lady who ran the session (who by the way just made my day when she hit 'like' on my facebook wall under my blog post link), had scared the Hoo-ey (sorry mom) out of me. She had gently informed all the newbies that we needed business cards – preferably with a headshot, business casual clothes, and writing samples for 2-15 minute evaluations with bona fide industry professionals. I thought I had signed up for the fly on the wall observation pass. I would work my way up to all that professional stuff in a decade or so if I ever went back to another conference.
I didn't look all smooth about it, but I held myself together till I could flee to the car and collapse in a heap of quivering jello of fear. I woulda backed out right then and there, but my dear old sainted brother had sprung for the whole week because he believes in me. I owed the boy. So, because I am such a dweeb and was wrestling with a newly diagnosed case of severe trauma reaction, I cried most of the way home. Yea. I know. It's pitiful. But, what can I say? The name of this blog IS Confessions of a Fraidy Cat. You get what you pay for. And, I work cheap, so this is what you people got!
You know how they say most wrecks happen within 2 blocks of home. I don't know who 'they' is and never have, but sometimes 'they' know what 'they' is talking about. I suggest that from now on, you folks WALK the last 2 blocks home when you are out and about. Yea...I was at a traffic light 2 blocks from home snuffling and gurgling like a panic stricken fool. I was so undone, I wasn't even talking on a cell phone because I didn't think I could drive, cry, and talk at the same time. I was minding my own business. I realized I had no tissues or fast food napkins or old grocery receipts. That was a FINE time for my husband to decide to start keeping a cleaner car. Since the light was red, I figured I had time to reach over and dig around in the glove compartment. If all else failed, maybe I could wipe my soggy face on the car registration. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
|Courtesy Mad Penguin Creations|
So, I leaned my short self over the console and stretched out for the glove compartment. I had almost made it when I realized my foot had slipped off the brake pedal ever so slightly. I looked up as I hit the brake again only to see myself smack right into the 14YO Honda in front of me. Well, ain't that great. There I am BLUBBERING like an idiot BEFORE I hit the guy. Now I have to jump out at a major thoroughfare and explain to my victim that I am NOT crying because I hit him/her! Proven guilty before I have a chance to be innocent. I knew right then and there that I do not look good in an orange jumpsuit.
I jumped out, surveyed the situation and realized that there was no damage to either car. So, I ran up before this 20-something-year-old kid could get out and look for himself because the light was changing. I have to give him credit. If some crazed woman had just smacked my car from behind and came running up blubbering, I'd have been concerned too. Before I knew it, he had gotten on the phone to tell his mom and dad that some crazy woman was unhinged and that the cops were on the way.
Thankfully, the officer of the law showed up and agreed with me that neither car was damaged. He apologized and wrote me a ticket anyway because the boy and his folks wouldn't let me off the hook. Lance Cpl Mr. Officer said if I'd showed up at court today, he'd plead my case with the judge. So, today I guess I became an official adult. Being the good girl my mamma and daddy raised, I showed up like he told me and was there early. He was late. I didn't care. I got to see almost everyone go before me, so I was a graduate of traffic court university by the time it as getting down to case # BR549.
Man, oh man...we were a sorry, deer-caught-in-the-headlights-bunch. They separated the chaff (guilty) from the wheat (those that were innocent till proven guilty). They let those guilty suckers pay their fines. Then, the judged turned his attention to the rest of us. We'd waited so long that we had compared family trees and figured out half of us were related. There was a lady who had to leave there and go to the unemployment office. There was a postmaster. There was me. And, there was a local TV sports personality who was back because his case had been continued a time or two.
I had my story all set re my failure to self medicate with chocolate and was ready to throw myself on the mercy of the court. His Honor, the Summary Court Judge, called the sports personality first which I thought was fair. After all, he came dressed like a lawyer, had an official looking file of papers, and was back for his 4th visit. He probably needed to run back to the station for some face time too. I knew where I was in that pecking order! Still in all, I was a little miffed since I had my speech locked and loaded and was sure I could charm His Honor into reducing my fine.
I got all nervous thinking I didn't have a sheaf of official looking pics of my major intersection. I did have cell phone pics of the vehicles right after the wreck. I wasn't sure the court would accept that exhibit into the official record. I realized my ticket had gotten limp and damp in my sweat drenched hands. That TV fella did what he does best, he talked - more than I write. He talked so long that my ticket started to disintegrate about the time my 'arresting officer' (sorry again, Mamma) asked for it back.
The judge finally started talking about the state's burden of proof and the difference between 'reasonable doubt' and 'any doubt'. Given this week's court case in Florida, His Honor made me think about changing my blog post for tonight. I nixed that figuring I ain't no Nancy Grace or Greta Van Susteren. Much to my surprise, the judge told Mr. Officer that he felt Mr. TV had done a good job of raising reasonable doubt with all his measurements and pictures and other stuff I didn't have. Man...I was getting a vision of me in orange, and it was getting uglier every time I looked.
He let that smooth talking, guilty-looking TV guy sail out of there for 'time spent in court today' and canceled his fine to $0.00. I wondered if 'time spent in court' was the same thing as 'time served' about the time I thought I heard the paddy wagon pull up to the back door.
I was relieved when he called Mr. Postmaster next. I figured that would give me some more time to refine my sorry tale and have him cancel the tailor that was hovering in the door with a tape measure and orange fabric. So, Mr Postmaster launches into what I could tell was going to be as long and drawn out a story as Mr. TV guy had told. I settled back to eye that tape measure snapping tailor and wondered if he had a cousin that wore a red suit and carried a pitch fork.
About 3” into Mr Postmaster's diatribe, His Honor, my personal hero and new BFF if he knew I existed, held up his hand to quiet the fella. He gestured over to me and the rest of the motley crew waiting our turn. He said, “I've already found one fella innocent today. By the looks of you folks, I'm thinking I'll be finding a few more innocent as well. Ya'll can go. Have a nice day. I'll cancel your fines. No need for you to wait while I finish up with Mr. Postmaster here.”
I sat there in stunned amazement. Was he speaking English? Did he just say something like, “Go in peace, and sin no more”? Did he really expect me to leave without giving him my sob story? What about my perp walk? I had been practicing for weeks determined to make mine as good as Paris Hilton's.
|Courtesy mad Penguin Creations|
My distant relatives and I got up and began to stumble our way toward the exit. We moved in a tightly knit knot, so it would be hard to pick off any one of us if he decided to do so. We kept looking back in case we had stumbled into some Twilight Zone episode of Night Court in which he would say, “April Fools, you fools!” and ship us all over to the Tower of London to serve out the remainder of our days. I looked back one more time. His Honor the Judge said, “Shoo..go...I mean it...go...” Hah! He didn't have to tell me that 3 times. I looked over my shoulder at Mr. Postmaster and wondered how he was gonna look in orange. Anybody got the address for the Tower of London? I got a post card I need to mail.......