My Day in Court

THE OREGON COAST

Investing in fitness is something that I’ve always thought was important, and growing tired of asking friends to loan me their surfboards, I decided to purchase my own.

We are now beginning the second month of Eli’s Unemployment Adventures™, so maybe walking out of the surf shop with a new 7’2” Torq Funboard (not full n00b board but pretty close) wasn’t the best idea. However, the joy I felt ripping waves that week outweighed the guilt from the missing chunk of my bank account.

When I pulled into another surf shop, fresh board strapped into the bed of my truck, my sister mocked from the passenger seat, “Aren’t you embarrassed with those California plates?”

“First off: Don’t turn your back on your own people Jennah,” I said defensively, “Plus, I think I only have the rear one, so they can’t see.”

Stepping out of my truck I checked, “Yeah I guess I don’t have a front plate,” I said.

I thought I used to though?

A fleeting thought as I readied for another day of surfing.

NORTH PORTLAND IMPOUND LOT

On the way back from the surf escape, my father sent me a text of a towing receipt and notice that my truck would be auctioned off I didn’t pay a large sum of money in a short amount of time.

I quickly sent my dad a picture of my truck and said that there must have been a mistake. That, or the City of Portland was looking to get me once again. (I’m still trying to fight a speeding ticket I was issued by a camera in 2016.)

Being that I recently moved to Portland, I haven’t changed my address from my father’s house. Being that my father’s house burnt down, he is having his mail sent to my mom’s house. Being that my parents are divorced, they don’t see each other all the time to exchange mail.

My chain of excuses seemed lost upon the woman at the tow office who really didn’t give a shit about my predicament. In all fairness, I’m sure she receives many calls from people who wrongly accuse her company of taking their vehicle. Or in my case, about people whose vehicles aren’t actually taken.

“Happens a lot. Looks like the guy was living in the truck,” she said, hardly looking up from her huge screen, “Screwdriver is in the closet.”

Squatting in impound lot mud, I removed the plate from the older model Toyota. I found it among the rows of half-smashed cars and forgotten projects.

I’d guess that my plate wasn’t the only stolen part that had gone into frankensteining this truck.  In the past, I’d considered building mine out with a shell and living space over the bed – I would not be taking inspiration from this one.

MULTNOMAH COUNTY COURTHOUSE

Days later, I’d spent part of the morning waiting in line to get to a ticket window where I would have to pay $285 and request a trial date to plead “not guilty.” In the delayed way that I get my mail these days, I’d also received the original ticket for abandoning the vehicle. For traffic charges in the state of Oregon, you must pay the bail in full even if you plead “not guilty.”  The bail would be held until my trial and then possibly refunded depending on the outcome.

Another cog in the justice system that just doesn’t seem right.

While I waited, I reflected on my surfboard purchase and if it had really been a good idea.

As someone who has had to ask public employees a lot of questions, I’ve found it’s best to always use manners, a little flattery and above all conciseness during interactions.

When the woman at the window responded to my question of how her morning was with an unamused, “just peachy,” I knew I had to throw out my first two tactics.

I spared the details of my story, showed her my case number and quickly explained my predicament. She paused for a second, narrowed her eyes at me and said that I could wash my hands of the situation this same day if I wanted.

“You really think we can beat this case,” I asked her in earnest. Every TV courtroom drama flashing through my mind.

“There’s definitely no ‘Us’ and you don’t ‘Win’ a ‘no contest plea.’ But I think that you have good chance of getting it dismissed,” she responded. I only had to return to the courthouse later that day for an afternoon walk-in hearing.

Thankfully, I do have some experience cramming for tests, and I gathered all my documents quickly for my big day in court. The loss dealt by the speed trap in 2016 on my mind. The paper trail depicting my innocence laid out. I was ready to even the score with Multnomah County.

Turns out I didn’t need to call up a witness nor did I get to yell “objection!”

The judge wasn’t a hard-nosed bastard. I was seen second out of around 25 people and my hearing only lasted about one minute before my case was dismissed. Though his honor did briefly look at my papers, the theatrics of the courtroom drama, projected by Judge Judy and other small claims court shows, turned out to be hallow.

Initially, the child who grew up on televised daytime shouting matches was let down. Then, the young adult who realized he didn’t have to pay $285 felt relieved.

With adrenaline flowing and my documents returned I scampered out of the courtroom and walked past the desk where my unofficial legal counselor was still at work – collecting payments from other good citizens who weren’t as fortunate as I.

I threw her a thumbs up. She smiled and gave me a me a kind GTFO nod, which I did.

Multnomah County: 1 …. Eli: 1

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