I had the day off so I planned on getting a number of things done. That’s how it always works, in the morning you start with high hopes and ambitious projects and the time quickly runs dry and before you know it the day’s been wasted, if such a thing is possible, a wasted day that is. In the morning I had breakfast with Lewis at the Elliston Place Soda Shop, biscuits with gravy. Classic Americana.
After that I biked downtown to go to the district attorney’s office. Apparently I replaced my totaled bike, I must have forgot to write about that. An interesting experience was ahead of me. A police officer leaving one of the government buildings directed me to the right place—the warrant screening office. I don’t know why, but I expected a cushy waiting room with nice chairs and magazines. Nothing of the sort. It was just an institutional looking room with metals detectors to pass through before you entered. I had to take a shit. The classic Americana cuisine can do that to me, it passes through like a flash flood. I noted the following written on the bathroom walls: “take a piss on Bin Laden” and “Nashville is Cracksville! Stinky Coons!”
In the waiting area there were a few people waiting to talk to the DA. Down one of the hallways a man, some sort of sheriff, was telling a long-winded story to another man. His southern accent was thick, and he spoke with enthusiasm, often laughing. Time passed and a man with a do-rag came in and sat next to me. By then we had filled out our paper work and handed it to someone in the office. It wasn’t exactly an environment where it was apparent what you were supposed to do. The guy next to me said, in reference to what they were doing in the office, “I guess they’re checking to make sure there aren’t any warrants on us!”
The sheriff was still telling his story. The man next to me was listening closely and remarked, “and he’s a sheriff!” I guess the guy had made some funny remark. I started paying closer attention and put down my book. My head was up my bookish ass, you might say, or rather, perhaps it’s my head that’s bookish, not my ass. Unfortunately I can’t remember anything from the story. If only!
A middle-aged woman arrived. She borrowed my cell phone to call her daughter to come and help her fill out the forms. It dawned on me that she couldn’t read, that’s why she needed help.
The man and the woman started complaining about the long wait. The woman was growing indignant because she felt she was doing the right thing, and instead of going ahead and fighting whoever was threatening her, she was getting a warrant out instead. She mentioned that the person in question was a woman…the whole thing involved an ex-husband, some infidelity I imagine…the details were vague. I didn’t know whom she was addressing, me or the other gentleman, or no one in particular.
The gentleman next to me, who was truly a genial fellow (I should have chatted with him more) explained that someone had put a restraining order on him but had contacted him after the order. He showed me the document and indicated the date, then showed me a text sent to him from the man in question that was dated after the date on the forum. Was he vying for my sympathy? I didn’t know. Maybe people just speak freely in these settings. And why not? All in all, it was far more enjoyable than waiting to see the doctor, or the dentist.
The DA was of little use. She didn’t have the police record yet; and besides, it was probably a civil matter anyway, out of her jurisdiction. She sent me to central records. There for 90 cents I easily obtained the report. I noted with satisfaction that the officer had written, with regards to the driver, “careless and erratic driving.”
The man’s contact info was there for me. I thought I might as well give it a shot. He did answer his phone, but when he discovered who I was, he promptly hung up. I had to make several phone calls to figure out where to go next. Meanwhile I overheard a real sob story; a young woman with a small child had been driving without a license, but she was taking her daughter, who had liver cancer, to the doctor. That’s more or less what was said, I paraphrase verbatim. She was talking to a man in a suit, an icy fellow who wasn’t exactly moved by the narrative.
I walked across the street to a large building. This one was expansive and vast inside and there were several metal detectors by the entrance, as if the foot traffic there was really high, even though I was the only one. It was like a Kafka story, and I was Herr. D, confronting the Law in all its grandeur. I explained what I needed to do to the security guy. I was in the wrong place, and he gestured to the building across the street. I was confused because someone else had told me to go across the street when I had been across the street—so I was across the street, in effect. I asked him to clarify. The white building, he said. I pointed out the window. My view was somewhat obstructed, and there was a building I knew wasn’t the right building getting in the way of the building that might have been the white building, I wasn’t sure. That one? I said, pointing in that direction, still unsure. The white building across the street, he said. The one over there, I said, pointing where I thought he meant. Yes, the white building across the street. Just think white building, he repeated several times as I walked away.
I easily found the white building and made my way to the civil court area. Filling out the required forms was a breeze. I questioned the clerks. What are my chances, I asked? I had to pay 100 dollars to file the suit. They couldn’t say really; they weren’t legal experts, but my case seemed solid. But, they explained, it is easy for a judge to decree that I have the right to the $450 (plus the court fee), but it is another matter forcing the defendant to pay. More headaches. What is it like? I asked. Have you seen Judge Judy? they said.