– Snip –
I went to court planning on pleading guilty with explanation. What I didn’t know going into the courthouse was the fact that in Halifax Dartmouth, because of its seventeenth century heritage, the Maritimers have a much more pragmatic and simplistic view of justice. Namely, the fact of a ticket proves the fact of your guilt else why would you have gotten it.
So therefore, if you tried to plead not guilty or guilt with explanation, you were considered just a snively little peon trying to get out of paying the tab. So they would throw the book at you. And then of course was always the questionable matter of the cash cow revenue at stake for the state. Between the two you didn’t have much of a chance.
Not even suspecting anything about this little clout of the culture going in of course, and standing in front of a judge who had already clearly proven he had gotten out of the wrong side of the bed in the morning by his two previous rulings, I said my piece to the judge.
Without even responding to my explanation, the judge charged me the maximum fine for the two tickets. I said, “that’s a little steep under the circumstances isn’t it”, believing in the self evident righteousness of my situation.
Completely missing my point, the judge pulled out a big thick book of traffic bylaws, and said, “Under bylaw number blah, blah, blah, amendment blah, blah, blah of section blah, blah, I can charge you a maximum of blah, blah, blah whenever blah, blah”. Intending to prove evidently complete justification for the fine. “Ok then”, I said, “You judge yourself by your actions”.
Big mistake, very big ‘innie’, very very big ‘innie’. If one thing had thus been indelibly proven for all time, it’s that you never ever tell a judge the truth because they can’t handle it. It’s also most proving once and for all that you should never Judge a Judge by his cover. He slammed the book shut and sentenced me to ten days in jail for contempt of court.
There’s no doubt about it, these uniformed Maritime penal guys really know their stuff. Once you’ve been ordered into their clutches, there’s no way in hell they’re going to let you escape or allow anyone enough time to change their mind.
In less than half a second the bailiff had me clamped by the arms and out the door. In less than an hour I was sitting on a cot in a cellblock in the Provincial jail in Stittsville about fifteen miles from Halifax, trying to figure out what the hell had just gone wrong.
Greydie’s turn before the Judge came up next. His was only a simple ticket. But because of the good mood I’d put the judge in on top of his already proven poorly disposed pre-disposition earlier, Greydie was now standing in the blinding white glare of a ticked off Judge’s stare. Greydie also went straight from the courtroom to the pokey and he had pleaded guilty. He just didn’t happen to have the money on him for the fine.
Unlike me through, he was only taken to the local lockup in downtown Halifax and locked in solitary confinement over night. It seems the judge had been really pee’d at seeing the same looking guy in front of him twice, both lawbreakers by dint of traffic tickets, and one of them a loudmouth to boot. And had ordered Greydie locked away in isolation with no phone calls until the fine was paid in full.
Please try and figure out how he was supposed to do that in a hurry if you can. Shades of America, pending or not the outcome of the aftermath of the election of two thousand and eight.
Fortunately, the afternoon shift supervisor at the can, who both of us had driven from time to time in our swank yellow streak taxi, had time to guide Greydie from solitary confinement to the front reception area where a phone happened to be sitting mysteriously on the front of the desk while he, the supervisor, had business to attend to elsewhere for a few minutes.
Greydie grabbed the phone and called a local Jamaican lawyer he knew. Who went through every drawer and pocket in our Keddy Inn motel room, coming up with most of the money for Greydie’s fine. It was about $3.00 dollars short which the lawyer pitched in himself.
And by another what are the odds, our friend the lawyer turned out later to be the older brother of an Afro Canadian MP, whose name and colour were both Brown, who rose high in BC politics. Rosemary had even begun to catch national attention as a potential federal candidate until one day she abruptly decided to retire.
When Greydie finally got out of the penstock that day he had nothing left towards my fine. So he did a rock around the clock taxi stint that whole night. By noon the next day he had enough for both my fines.
When he went to pay it, the clerk said, “don’t worry about it for a while, the ten days of the contempt charge have to pass before the remaining twenty days start for non payment of the fine”. But Greydie’s intuition prevailed and Greydie came back the next day insisting that they take the money.
Good thing. The judge had been so ticked at having heard me say something, that while it may not have been one the wisest things I every uttered, was at least in the fullest sense of the word true, that he had made my two sentences consecutive instead of concurrent. Something completely unheard of at that time.
Worse, he had put the ticket sentence in front of the contempt sentence, which was even more unprecedented. That meant that every day missed not paying the fine had to be served before the ten days for the contempt charge started. Kind of gives you an uncomfortable feeling of what ‘Hanging Judges’ of yesteryear must have been like.
Fortunately the clerk was more understanding. Because of his mistake the day before, he made the payment retroactive to only one day late. I was therefore still nonetheless in the pokey for a full eleven days and not ten because of the one day missed in paying the fines before the contempt time officially started.
I stayed in an open dorm with about twelve other guys. Some of the guys in there must have whatever it was that got them in there in their blood. My shoes disappeared from the foot of my cot one afternoon while I napped.
A couple of days earlier, the guy across from me had made a big secret ceremony of showing me his secret little hidey hole he had made in the wall under his bunk. I have no idea how long he had been in there. He had been in long at least long enough to at least be able to loosen the mortar around one of the concrete blocks in the wall so he could pull out the block exposing a sizeable little cavity in behind.
By his manner, I had to believe I had been let in on the covert operation of the century. So guess where I found my missing shoes in the very first place it occurred to me to look. Having too many brains wasn’t the felony for which this particular guy had been convicted evidently.
The thing about it is, he never said anything after I took them back. Or even indicated that he knew. To my considerable relief I might add, not been up for any kind of appropriate Macho fusings that could have just as easily occurred in the wake of my taking my shoes back.
– Snip –
The spring following my short vacation at the Sergeant at Bars resort, I received another speeding ticket. As usual, it was with one or another mitigating circumstances. So it counts as an ‘outie’.
This time, being much more familiar with the way things worked in the ticket department around Halifax Dartmouth and therefore being much the wiser, I decided to play it safe and hired our Jamaican lawyer friend to plead the mitigating circumstances for me on my behalf.
When he came out after the court appearance, he was beaming from ear to ear. “How’d it go”, I asked. “Fine”, he said. “So what’s next”, I asked. “Just pay the fine over there”, he said. “But didn’t you just plead not guilty”, I asked half aghast. “What!”, he yelled fully aghast, “You think I’m crazy”. Then sent me a bill for a hundred and fifty bucks for his services.
– Snip –
Maybe that’s one of the reasons why Murphy rules the planet with such aplomb. Murphy has a deal with whoever is up there calling the shots. Also probably why the people of old used to complain that the Gods were always interfering in the affairs of Man for sport.
The above computer example was just an example. Murphy has the whole world taped. In the summer of nineteen seventy five, we had swung from taxi into selling flowers in bars and restaurants. By the fall of nineteen seventy six Greydie had gone up to Whitehorse and I was on still on my own selling flowers in Halifax.
I had become so engrossed in my flower selling activities in Halifax for awhile that I had completely failed to notice that the car insurance on the car was coming up for renewal. Also because I had recently moved around a bit at the time, the renewal papers hadn’t caught up with me yet. So I had set myself up ripe for the picking.
You have to understand of course that I hadn’t had a single accident except for the ride down the slippery snow in the big Mercury Marquis taxi since I had front ended my TR3 almost eleven years earlier.
In the late fall of nineteen seventy six, I had been parked one evening in a driveway across the street from one of my downtown Halifax flower selling places. It was still relatively early, about nine thirty in the evening.
The driveway was approximately half way along the block. I came out of the club and hoped into the car. I looked up the street both ways and saw that the only other car on the road besides me was at a traffic light a full intersection and a half back up the street.
I put the car in reverse and backed out slowly into the street. I looked up. To my shock and horror the car from the distant intersection was already coming through the nearest intersection only half a block away. What I had failed to notice in my first quick glance up the street was that he was really flying, doing at least fifty or sixty mph.
I slammed the car into forward, jammed on the gas, and stalled the engine. Frantically I tried to pull the car using the starter motor like before. It was an automatic so nothing doing.
A few seconds later I heard a violent wrenching screech as the other driver finally woke to my covering at least two thirds of the path in front of his car and had tried to veer around the back.
He clipped my back end going around, splitting the gas tank wide open and spewing gas in all directions like water from a fully blasting street washer. Think about that for a second or two. Had even a small spark occurred I would be telling all this by poetry on a harp.
The fire hall was only a couple of blocks down the street. They were on the scene in seconds flat to wash down the street. The guy of course was plastered to the eyeballs so didn’t have a case. The damage on my car was about twenty five hundred bucks, an awful lot more if it had been today.
The next morning I went to the insurance company to file the claim. ”Tough Luck”, said the clerk, “your insurance was cancelled just yesterday”. Notice that, ‘Just yesterday’. I was both flabbergasted and flabbergusted. Well, financially wiped out would be a much closer description. No car no flower route, no flower route no money. I insisted the clerk have the company dig out my file and go over it with a fine tooth comb.
Sure enough, because of standard customer leniency policies regards renewals, my actual drop dead cut off point wasn’t for another two days. I gladly paid the premium and they not so happily covered the accident.
You have to at least give whoever it is up there full credit for trying though. I also have to give myself both an “Innie” for ignoring to re-buy my insurance in proper time, and a great big “Outie” for almost buying the farm.
I figure whoever it is up there is also in cahoots with the cops. Some policemen seemed to have a special little gadget in their forehead, that whoever it is up there sets a’buzzing to let the cops know when there’s felon on the loose nearby ripe for the picking.
I had received yet another moving vehicle violation one day picking up flowers from the airport a little later in early nineteen seventy seven. Because of all the tickets I had received while driving cab and since, I was now over the points limit for the given time period so my license was automatically suspended for six months.
I went in to pay the fine at three in the afternoon. I paid the fine, handed the clerk my driver’s license. Who stamped ‘Suspended six months’ on the back with a great big fat sloppy looking red rubber stamp.
Now I was really in a dilemma. I had no cash in the bank. Flowers always gave me money in my pocket but never money in the bank. Likewise flower selling was my only source of income. Likewise, between my happy hour run and two full night runs, I was logging in over a hundred miles a day in the car.
So for me at the time, no driving meant about the same as a cot at the Sally Ann. So no driving for me was not an option and I continued driving to the best of my ability not to look guilty of something every time I saw a cop on the horizon.
You may remember that I had already used up my six months grace of driving without a license back in the mid sixties in the TR3. The Karmic Car Gods never forget.
At precisely nine o’clock that night, that very same night I had been coming back over the MacDonald Bridge from Dartmouth to Halifax. This was scarcely six hours after the license had been officially suspended and my drivers license with the big fat red sloppy ‘SUSPENDED SIX MONTHS’ incrimination stamped duly on the back. Suddenly a car pulled up behind me with a great big Christmas tree on top and it was all lit up.
Turned out one of my taillights was out. A missing taillight is one of those things you don’t know about until someone, i.e., a cop, gets there first and tells you about it, i.e., fix it or else. Same for front turn signal lights.
In this case the cop had gotten there first and now he wanted to see my drivers license with the big fat red sloppy ‘suspended six months’ stamp all over the back.
I’ve finally figured out why they make you look so glum on your driver’s license photo. If you get pulled over, you’ll be looking about as glum as it gets and they want to make sure it’s you. In this case there was no doubt about who I was. I knew I was toast and couldn’t have looked glummer.
He looked over my license from the front. Opened it and looked at the inside. Then he closed it again and read the front again from top to bottom. Then did the same thing again on the inside.
The poor guy’s antennae must have been crackling so loud it was like short wave radio from a Moscow world propaganda station. But he never turned the license over to look at the back.
Finally he gave me a warning for the missing light, handed me back my licenses and was on his way. When my heart finally returned to its normal rhythm of four beats to the bar, I continued on my way to my next flower bar. I don’t know whether it’s the guy upstairs or the Karmic Car Gods I owe for getting me out of that hot spot. But whoever it is I figure I owe them big time.
Or maybe I had just lost track of the standings in my Karmic Car Cycles for a while. Maybe I had gone far enough ahead in its good books that despite the fact I was definitely in for a colossal “Innie” for driving yet again without a license, it had graciously coughed up a freebie “Outie” to balance out the books.
Or maybe the negative had just simply shot its bolt and didn’t have enough lightening left in the quiver to finish the job. Or maybe the Creators really do look after their own if you’re on the side of Humanity instead of self. At any rate, thankfully, I never saw the wrong end of a cop again for the whole rest of my time in Halifax.