I was summonsed to Court.
I could have paid the fine but chose instead to plead my case in front of a magistrate at the local court. That seemed like a good idea at the time, but once the day of the actual hearing arrived I was twisted up with nerves and thought perhaps it would have been better to have paid the fine.
I was scheduled for the afternoon session and arrived modestly dressed in a business suit. I brought a folder full of papers, all irrelevant but I’ve watched too many TV legal dramas where if you want to look like you mean business, you carry papers.
I arrived on time and the foyer was full of around a hundred others, all hopeful of having their fines waived or reduced. It became obvious that we would all be in the court room together with each case being heard publicly. Desperately, I wanted my case heard last when the room had emptied.
While waiting to be heralded into the courtroom and by an unbelievable coincidence, I was tapped on the shoulder by Roger, a work associate of Carl’s. I was shocked to be sure and stupidly blurted out, ‘What are you doing here?’ And he said he was there because of a speeding fine. What were the odds!
I had barely recovered from my shock of seeing someone I knew at the same hearing when Frank came into my vision. Frank’s children were at the same primary school as Archie and Arabella and so we knew each other by association. I couldn’t believe it. I asked, ‘What are you doing here?’ and he said he was there to support his son who had a parking fine.
I would now be in the court room with two people I knew. Excellent!
The doors to the courtroom opened and I took a seat at the back of the room. The magistrate walked in and the policeman sitting beside me groaned. ‘What’s the problem?’ I asked. He said, ‘Oh, you don’t want this guy, he’s really tough. Doesn’t let anyone off. What are you here for?’ I told him I was there because of a speeding fine. He groaned. ‘How’s your record?’
‘Not bad’, I told him, ‘Just a handful of fines in 25 years’.
‘Two last year in 40 zones but I had no idea I was even in a 40 zone.’
‘That’s not good. He hates drivers who speed, especially through school zones. I wish you well.’
Confidence now totally shattered! The magistrate looked old, tired, bored and grumpy. He didn’t smile and just flicked through the papers on his desk. A couple of cases were heard and they didn’t go well. The magistrate was brutal and harsh in his decisions. While the room was still packed with Roger and Frank in attendance, my name was called. I took a deep breath and approached the bench and microphone.
The magistrate read out my transgression and asked, ‘How do you plead?’
‘Guilty’, I answered.
‘Then why are you here?’
‘Because I want to explain how it happened.’
And a look came over his face like I was about to put him through something excruciating. He beckoned me to being.
‘I had just found out I was pregnant with my fourth child. My other children are 17, 15 and five and I was distressed and anxious as I wasn’t sure how I would cope with two teenagers, a child just starting school and a newborn. I also had shocking morning sickness and so I thought I would go for a swim as in the past I’ve found that somehow it helps with the nausea. I was driving along a road that is 80kms and turned into a street that used to be 60kms but was recently reduced to 50kms. I didn’t know the speed limit had been reduced. This is a rural road with few houses and it is mostly deserted. I was the only car on the road. As I was about to turn into another street an unmarked police car emerged from the bushes and pulled me over. The policeman was abrupt and rude and asked, ‘When did you have your last drink?’ It was 11 o’clock in the morning. I told him I didn’t know. He asked, ‘Well, you must know, when was it?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, I can’t remember’. He said, ‘I’m going to ask you again, ‘When was your last drink?’ And I was starting to feel very ill at the very thought of alcohol and I said, ‘I am going to give you the same answer I just gave you and that is, that I have no idea when I last had a drink’. He then breatholised me and he kept wandering back to his police car and coming back to me and it was a very hot day and the sun was beating down on me and the interior of the car was getting hotter and hotter and I was thinking I was about to throw up. He finally let me go but with a fine of over $200. I was very distressed and upset and the next day I had a miscarriage’.
The room was deathly quiet and the magistrate sat there staring at me but saying nothing. I thought he must have wanted me to continue so I said, ‘I have the receipt for the pregnancy test’, and I started fumbling through my file to find it. The magistrate held up his hand in a motion to stop me and said, ‘That won’t be necessary. You have been through more than enough. The fine will be waived and you are not required to pay court costs.’
‘Thank you Your Honour’, I said as I turned towards my ‘audience’ and headed out of the court room. Roger and Frank awkwardly averted their eyes having realised they had heard something normally kept private.
I left the courtroom with mixed emotions. I felt elated at having triumphed over a speeding fine and uncomfortable about having to reveal the circumstances.
Have you ever run into people you know at an awkward moment?
I came home and arrived burnt out with a headache. We went to a local restaurant and ordered rice paper rolls.
Here’s some I’ve made from the Spirit House Essentially Thai cookbook.
Rice Paper Rolls with Pork and Herbs
Degree of Difficulty: 3/5 (maybe 4/5 if the rice paper won’t co-operate)
Cost: These are a very affordable appetiser as Asian ingredients are very reasonably priced.
- 75g (2 1/2oz) dried rice vermicelli
- a few drops of sesame oil
- 16 x 22cm (6 x 8 1/2 in) rice papers
- 250g (8 oz) cooked pork fillet, cut into fine strips
- 1 head of soft lettuce, such as mignonette or oak leaf
- 1 Lebanese cucumber, cut into matchsticks
- 1 small carrot, cut into matchsticks
- 1/2 cup mint leaves
- 1/2 cup coriander leaves
Spicy Coconut Vinegar Dipping Sauce
- 2-8 small red chillies
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup coconut vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1-2 tbspns fish sauce
- squeeze of fresh lime juice
- 2 tbspns roasted and finely crushed peanuts
Place noodles in a bowl and cover with hot water until softened. Strain and rinse in cold water. When well-drained, toss with a few drops of sesame oil and set aside.
Fill a large bowl with hot water and soak the rice papers until just soft. Place a soft rice paper on the bench and then add a piece of lettuce, some of the noodles, a few pieces of carrot and cucumber, a strip of pork and a few mint and coriander leaves. Fold the sides of the roll over the filling and then roll from bottom to top to form a tight roll. Repeat.
Note: After soaking the rice papers, if possible hang them off the edges of the kitchen bench. Leave for about 10 minutes and then come back and start rolling. Drying them out slightly makes the process easier.
To make dipping sauce: In a mortar and pestle, pound the chillies, garlic and salt to a paste. Transfer to a bowl and add the sugar, vinegar, water and fish sauce. The sauce should be hot, sour, sweet and salty. Adjust to taste with the sugar and fish sauce. Just before serving, squeeze in the lime juice and add the peanuts.
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