Thursday, March 26, 2009

Almost locked up in Barbados Pt. 7

By Kal-F

The heavy looking doors of the traffic court did not open until 10:30 am and soon those who had been waiting around the area gravitated to its entrance after a court officer came out with papers in hand and in the now blazing sun started calling out names. I waited in the shade for a few minutes and then just as the officer seemed to be getting to the end of the list walked closer to the back of the gathering of about twenty people.

As I stood there momentarily waiting my turn, a young man in front glanced back at me and then whispered something to another young man which sounded like, "Here comes the judge," and the two of them stepped out of the way, motioning to me to go forward. I approached the court officer and gave him my name which he ticked off the list and then asked,

" Yes , sir, what date can you come back for your trial?"

Glad that he had not mistaken me for a lawyer or a judge I explained to him that I was planning to be out of the island soon and would prefer to get the matter dealt with on that day. He said that the court was too busy to hear my case and that I could set any date I wanted.

With the emotional upheaval I had gone through in the previous weeks awaiting the trial, I did not cherish the thought of prolonging what for me was an ordeal, so I said him, " I don't want to come back. Can I not just plead guilty and pay the fine?"

"Is this your first time in court for a traffic violation?" he asked.

"Yes," I replied.

"And you haven't hit any chickens lately?"

"No," I emphatically replied, smiling at the part-time comedian and wondering how he knew my sordid past.

"Hold on for a few minutes," he said. "I'll see what I can do."

While he walked over to a room which said 'Criminal Court #1' on the entrance, I retook my place out of the sun and continued to wait. Moments later a young woman with a child on her shoulder passed by, heading for the Registrar's Office. She smiled at me and I returned her smile with, "Good morning."

Stopping momentarily, she looked at me as if trying to figure out who I was. The child on her shoulder also smiled at me and waved a cute little hand. Not wanting to explain to anyone again, "No, I am not a lawyer," I was glad when she simply uttered the local greeting, "Alright, ok," and continued on her way into the Registrar's Office.

A few minutes later the court officer reappeared and signalled me to come with him. He led me into Criminal Court# 1 where about twenty people had already gathered and told me to leave my umbrella and briefcase at the back of the room and take a seat at the front. Moments later I heard someone say, "All rise," and the judge, a man similar in age to me with a salt and pepper beard, entered the chamber.

Quickly getting down to business, the prosecutor, who was really the station sergeant, motioned me to take the witness stand and he then explained to the judge that my case was a traffic court matter which because of extenuating circumstances, had to be brought forward. He read the charge to the judge who then turned to me and asked, " How do you plead?"

" Yes, Your Honour, I plead guilty of making a left turn just as the light was turning red." The answer was superfluous but I was trying feverishly to impress on the judge that I was not reckless enough to actually go straight ahead through a red light and that turning left was maybe not quite as irresponsible.

My ploy seemed to have worked because the judge then asked the prosecutor to convince him about the seriousness of what I had done. The prosecutor in turn made a general statement that there seemed to be a growing trend among motorists in Barbados not to take a red light seriously, and then surprisingly added, "I am not suggesting that this is the case with this present defendant, Your Honour."

Those last words warmed my heart and the thought immediately occurred to me that the prosecutor should also be added to the list of potential candidates for some of my future mangoes.

The judge then asked me how fast I was travelling and how far away from the intersection I was when the light was amber.

"I was travelling no more than thirty kilometres per hour and was about ten feet away from the intersection before the light turned red, Your Honour," was my answer.

Expecting him to repeat the lecture I had been given by the arresting officer two years earlier when the officer said that I could have easily stopped without creating any problems, I quickly added, "Your honour, I admit that what I did was a miscalculation and a mistake and I apologise to the court."

He seemed to have appreciated my statement of remorse and said aphoristically, "Alright, where there's common sense , there should be a state of grace. I'll give you a discount partly because I really like your suit."

I tried hard to show a spirit 'restrained from overweening joy' as my favourite Latin poet Horace used to say but I started to like this judge so much that I wanted to go out and buy 'Just for men' hair gel for him and his beard. Pointing to the desk in front of him crowded with books and papers, he said,

"You see the status of my desk here? Well, we can do with some help."

I was not sure exactly what he meant and wondered if he wanted me to stay behind to clean up his desk after the day's session which I willingly would have done.

"Talk to the officers at the back of the room there and they will tell you what to do," he finally said and with that, the prosecutor motioned for me to step down from the witness stand.

At the back of the court two officers were sitting at a table recording court procedure and as I walked back and retrieved my umbrella and briefcase, one of them handed me a piece of paper on which he had written: "two packages of printing paper, one box of black-ink pens."

"What's this? " I asked.

The officer replied, "That's what the court wants from you."

"Seriously?" I asked, not believing my good fortune.

"Yes, the judge has discharged you but wants you to help us out by buying some stationery for the court in the next few weeks."

"Yes, yes, I'll get it right away," I almost shouted and with that I went skipping happily down the court steps to start my shopping for District A Criminal Court # 1.

Within minutes I felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders, like I had escaped from Alcatraz, almost as happy as on the day I had retired from teaching. The mid-morning sun was beating down but I was as cool as a cucumber and my only worry in the world at that moment was to decide whether to go shopping at Woolworth's or Cave Shepherd.

This is where the story ends folks. Look out soon again for more adventures of
Kal-F, who's 'home from the cold', a Bajan back home after many years in Canada.

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