I Am A Criminal. Officially.

Don’t read this. It’s boring. I just had to get it out.

On Monday I left early for an appointment. I took local streets because it was rush hour, which in Seattle is a nightmare. As I was tooling innocently through the south end of town, a patrol car pulled me over. I obediently drove into a corporate parking lot and parked.

The young officer asked me whether I knew why he stopped me. No. He pointed out that my license tabs had expired. Living in two places is an administrative nightmare and I try to keep track of everything, but… I could have sworn I got tags recently.

Then he took my license and registration to his car to “run it.” He was gone for several minutes and only after a second patrol car had slithered in next to him did he got out of his car and tell me he had some bad news for me. My license was suspended. Why? Because I had an upaid speeding ticket from September. I told him I was paying the ticket through an arrangement I’d made with Municipal Court (yes, really I had) but of course that’s not his problem. He said quite correctly that the court must have screwed up the paperwork.

The officer informed me that DWLS is an actual crime and he was issuing a summons for me to appear in court. I looked at the other, silent, police car and asked whether they were going to arrest me. No, he said, but there was a problem. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but I can’t allow you to drive with a suspended license.”

I guess I looked like the hysterical older lady that I was, or that I was fast becoming, so he said to “sit tight” until he and the other car had left, and then go. That was nice, at least.

Before we parted company, I asked the officer whether this meant I now have a criminal record. “No,” he said comfortingly. “Not until you see the judge.” Oy.

I immediately drove to my friend Judy’s house and commandeered her computer to see what I had to do next. Then she  very kindly drove me around. First, to the Seattle Municipal Court building in downtown Seattle, to pay the outstanding ticket. I had to do this before I could register the car or get a new license.

At the beautiful new courthouse, I set off the metal detector and had to be scanned. Only then was I allowed to go to the pay window. I paid and they gave my some yellow papers called an “adjudication.” They charged me the correct amount – with my earlier payments deducted, so I know they were accepting money from me. But some jerk decided to violate me anyway, causing my near arrest.

I needed  to to get tabs immediately, so at least I wouldn’t attract any more attention. Of course, I found out that this was the year I needed an emission test, so we went there first, and then to Department of Licensing office, where I paid for new tabs. Step one. The car was legal.

The drivers license places are closed on Monday, so Tuesday morning I went to the Renton Department of Licensing and took a number. I mean literally took a number. There were at least a hundred fifty people in a huge room waiting. Lots of crying children, junk food, teenagers arguing, and elevator music to calm us all. There were about six clerks and the receptionist said I’d be about an hour and a half. Or maybe half an hour. She wasn’t sure.

So I went in the hispanic grocery next door and got a couple of Spanish language newspapers and a bottle of my favorite hot sauce, El Yucateco with chipotle. I sat outside in my car for a while.

Finally my number was up, I gave the woman my adjudication, and she processed a new license. It cost $90. Then I was directed to another line to wait to be photographed. This was only about half an hour. I walked out with a temporary license and light pockets. My new license will come in the mail. And I still have a mandatory (they keep repeating that) court appearance on March 25th downtown at the courthouse.

The pamphlet they gave me for court emphasizes that if I don’t show up, they will issue a bench warrant. It also says that when I get to court, a lawyer will be appointed for me. It’s interesting to be on the other side of things. Interesting and intimidating.

About BG

Beryl Gorbman is a writer and private investigator who divides her time between Seattle WA and Merida Yucatan Mexico. She has published two works of fiction, 2012: Deadly Awakening, and Madrugada. They are both available on Amazon and other outlets. Also at Amate Books, and Casa Catherwood in Merida. You can read about them in various articles on this site.
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5 Responses to I Am A Criminal. Officially.

  1. Political Grump says:

    Like Abbie Hoffman, you could wear clothing made out of an American Flag.

  2. Alinde says:

    There is a lesson in here, Beryl. My best friend used to lecture to me a bit, saying that I should “simplify my life.” (I AM a dilettante.) As I age, I remember his advice more and more. That’s one of the reasons I chose to move here officially–not only do I not need to pay CA income taxes, but I do not have to worry about missing things ike drivers liscenses–we in the over 60 crowd have enough to remember, without such things that we seldom need, use or even read about in the newspapers.

    I don’t want to sound “preachy” here–it’s just that your sad episode did remind me of my friend’s admonition. Sure hope it works out on the court date!

    Saludos, Alinde

  3. David M. says:

    Sometimes we foreigners complain about the difficulties, inneficiences, and complexity of the Mexican legal systems. I think this post illustrates that the US is certainly no better. Perhaps we complain more in Mexico because we aren’t familiar with the language, and therefore problems with the system seem insurmountable.
    In fact, in Mexico, people in civil offices are generally more polite and helpful. American government agencies tend to be staffed by cold, unhelpful idiots who won’t go out of their way for anything.
    The only ray of light in your story is the action of the police officer in quite reasonably allowing you to leave and solve your problem.
    I hope you can return to Merida soon.

  4. Alinde says:

    You are so right, Dave! We so easily forget what we REALLY left! I can get caught up in “finding this” food, for instance, that I almost forget that IF I had been able to find a papaya in CA, it would have been too expensive to consider as a staple. But most of all, the service-orientation here is supurb.

    And yes, if the language barrier were still not present, it would go much more smoothly for most of us.

    So, with that in mind, imagine how hard it is for immigrants to the USA? My grandparents and great-grandparents had problems, I am certain. Except, maybe they were more welcomed. At least, they had an easier time finding employment.

  5. Christofer says:

    Don’t you think ‘being a criminal’ will give your novel that ‘dangerous air’ by affiliation? You know, all the rappers and hip-hoppers have to get arrested for something or ‘they got no cred.’

    You got cred, Beryl. Now, you got cred.

    You could become the Hunter S Thompson of Merida.


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