In late March, I got pulled over for the first time in my life. I was on my way to a pediatric cardiologist appointment in Charlottesville and had even made a commitment that morning to NOT, under any circumstances, speed. That commitment apparently only lasted 20 minutes because on Route 3 a sheriff flagged me down and gave me a ticket. I felt distraught…ashamed…helpless.
There was only one hope: a court date on May 3rd.
Today I woke up and rushed the three girls out the door to the Spotsylvania General District Court. I was shaky because I didn’t know what I should plead nor what to expect, but I tried to sell it to the kids as a fun field trip.
“Will there be a KID’S SECTION at this courtroom?” Haley wondered.
The more she learned about what to expect from our outing, the moreunimpressed she became. A room full of people who had done bad things, a judge, and a lot of waiting. Oh, and a long drive to the other county.
“Can you please not call this a field trip?” She asked, rolling her six-year old eyes.
We listened to Part Four of Mere Christianity as we made our way down south of the Rappahannock. After getting lost deep off of exit 126 and having to stop twice to ask for directions, I was getting more and more nervous as the clock edged closer to 9:30. I stepped on the gas and then realized the irony of the situation: speeding so that I could go to court to pay a speeding ticket. Haley was getting carsick on the curvy roads and I was beginning to regret not just paying the fine online. We arrived at the Spotsylvania Courthouse at 9:31 and, after digging through a suitcase in our car to look for a pacifier, had to jog through the unfamiliar campus to find the General District Court. Once inside the right building I was informed that cell phones were not allowed to even ENTER the courtroom. I tried to explain that my cell phone was dead, it’s charger far away in Pennsylvania so it wouldn’t disrupt in any way, but the sherriff kindly told me to either go back to my car or hide it in the bushes outside.
We akwardly reversed ourselves back out the door and I attempted to hide my phone in the mulch pit so no criminals could find it. Back through security check-in and, this time, I passed. As I opened the double doors to go in the court room I noticed multiple signs saying the same thing: No shorts allowed.
I stared at the sign. I stared down at my shorts. Was this whole hour-long trip in vain? Would the judge refuse to speak to me since my calves were exposed? I tried to imagine how long it would take me to safety pin the car mats together to make a skirt and then remembered: I had suitcases still in the car from our Pennsylvania trip. I told the kids to hold on to either side of the stroller and we ran to the parking lot where I threw on jeans and hoped the construction workers weren’t looking.
Through security check-in for the third time, and this time they wished me luck and waved to the baby who had now become comfortable enough to coo at them. We took our seats by the aisle and had just gotten settled with our Highlights magazines when Gracie’s pacificer did a projectile launch down the aisle and she let out a jubilant “WAwaWAwaWAWAWAWA!”
A sheriff came over and asked us to wait in the hallway until our case was called. At this point I was ready to go to the public library down the street and pay the fine on a computer. We waited in the hallway on the floor until we were called to the front. The judge was trying to hide his smile as Gracie was gnawing on her toes and asked me for my statement. I sighed. What could I say? I told him that I was guilty and that I had come simply to ask for mercy. The kids, dressed in their Easter dresses, blinked at him with their baby blues. He sighed, looked through my flawless record, gave me $50 off the ticket and sent me on my way.
I think I spent almost that much to GET to the courthouse, but nonetheless…a rich learning experience indeed. Over brunch I got to teach my girls about the dangers of speeding and this evening in our prayers we thanked Jesus for being our advocate before the Great Judge and for giving mercy even when we are found guilty.