Night Court

(sorry folks but we are in the throws of moving and I’ll be missing a few weeks from my post. Here’s something I wrote for the Brooklyn Eagle. I hope it brings a smile.)

I supposed when the direction of a street is changed there must be some kind of public notice. If that’s so, I didn’t get the memo. First, I was in my freshman year of college; secondly, I was 17, just gotten my driver’s license, and such notices are not sent to people like me. That sets the scene.

The change took place in the Madison High area. It was an area I was fully familiar with. My dad’s best friend and family lived there. It was but a short drive, but a drive none-the-less. I had been there often; I knew the streets. I certainly knew which direction that went because by the time I had my “learner’s” my folks let me drive.

I came home for fall break and went to visit. My mother, always putting something in a safe place and then forgetting where that was, left something behind. I was still at the age where this was good news. I volunteers to take the car and go fetch it.

I don’t remember the street now. Maybe E. 26? I made my usual left turn into the street. Something was amiss but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I did notice that at the end of the street where I would make a right was sitting a police car. No worries. I wasn’t speeding and it was a two way street so staying in my lane didn’t leave me too much room to get in trouble. My reverie was broken by a car blowing its horn as it passed me. As I got closer to the cop, I noticed that he had this incredulous look on his face. It was a look of “this kid is blind, stupid, or both.” Then it hit me. This forever two way street was now one way and it wasn’t the way I was going.

At this moment, I learned that soft-hearted cops didn’t work in Flatbush. On went the bubble machine red light on top of his car. He motioned me to stop, which I did. He approached. I rolled down the window. “License and registration.”

Now this presented another problem. License I knew. Registration? No clue. Additionally, wherever it was it was there because my father put it there meaning I had no idea, even if I knew what it looked like, where it might be. The officer emitted a real urgency about my both knowing where it was and that I should know what it looked like. This was not going well.

He said in a clipped tone, “Glove compartment.” I knew the what and where of that, which was too bad. I reached over, opened it, and found that there was no more room in the glove “box” as a clam has inside a shell. It was packed with all kinds of chazeri and acting as the center of the blocking line preventing me from sifting through the whatnot for the registration was a rag.

But it wasn’t a rag, it was what my father used as a rag because why, if you had a worn out pair of pajama bottoms wouldn’t you use it instead of wasting a perfectly good rag? Without giving it much thought, I pulled it out and watched with dismay as it unfurled in the officer’s face, which by the way was getting an intimidating shade of red.

Ok, enough. I found it. I got a ticket. I was told, “pull over there, turn the car off, and don’t you dare move until you haven’t everything in this vehicle in order. I did. More was to come, Night court. I don’t remember why I went to court. Nowadays you pay a ticket by mail. I believe on the ticket there was a place to check for “make an appearance” and the cop checked. This check mark was my ticket to enter a world as bizarre as the Fun House at Coney Island.

Frankly it was stranger than the show Night Court. I was stunned a by the sizes, shapes, heights and weights, and color variations G-d made people in. Mostly, except for the folks in suits and the guy in the black robe, most of them carried a stop-you-in-your-tracks odor. Some were flat out drunk. Some were dressed as if they had reached into a vaudeville performers trunk. In sum, it was the scariest place I’d ever been.

I waited almost two hours before someone mispronounced my name. I stepped up to the bench. The judge asked me if I’d done what the ticket said I’d done. I said, “Yes, Sir” and launched into an explanation that was sharply sliced short with, “Yes will be enough.” I paid my fine and took the subway home.

Lincoln told a story about a reporter whose article about his town didn’t sit well with the townsfolk. He was tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. He was met at the other end of the rail by another enterprising reporter was was going to do a story on the punished journalist’s feelings. He asked, “Say, what was that like?”

The response? “Except for the notarity, I could have done without the experience.

Same for Night Court.

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