Palm Sunday
Reflections on Susan Boyle

Pastoral Reflections on Traffic Court

I found myself in traffic court yesterday...again.  I live in Oakland Mills, a section of Columbia, Maryland which is just about as close to a police state as I've ever experienced.  I always see a police car--every single day--in the one mile perimeter of my house.  Their mission, as far as I can tell, is to enforce 100% compliance with every single traffic law, but their specialty is stop signs.  No rolling stops allowed, even if the intersection is completely clear.  I found that out when I got my first ticket.  Now I make a point of having a moment of reflection at every stop sign in my neighborhood.  Deep breath in, deep breath out.  But, a few months ago, Dan was running late and I drove him four blocks to the bus stop.  I didn't have my moment of reflection and I got another ticket.

So yesterday I went to traffic court to plead guilty to the charge but to try to get sentenced to "probation before judgment" so I wouldn't get a point on my license.  I wasn't the only one with that idea.  There were about 50 other people in the session trying to do exactly the same thing.  One by one, our name was called and we stood at a table in the front.  The charge against us was read, we plead guilty, and then were given the chance to offer an explanation.

I learned a couple things during the hour I spent in that courtroom, waiting for my name to be called.  First of all, I learned that I am certainly not the only one who has received a ticket at a stop sign in Oakland Mills.  But by far the most common charge was driving between 65 and 75 miles per hour on Route 29 where the speed limit is actually 55.  I drive on 29 a lot, and the speed of traffic is usually around 65 mph.  So I was glad to find out what the speed limit really is before I got pulled over. 

But secondly, I learned (again) that a lot of people lead very difficult lives.  One person after another stood before the judge and poured their hearts out.  One person explained that she was in the middle of a very acrimonious divorce and had just received disturbing news about her son right before she was pulled over.  One person had just lost her job and was driving to care for her mother who had a stroke.  One person had just received news that his father had died and he was going to have to go to Florida and wasn't sure how he'd find the money for a ticket.  One person's son was about to wet his pants. 

At first, I found all of these explanations kind of ridiculous.  I wondered how the judge could stand listening to all of these sob stories day in and day out.  But as the hour wore on, all of the sadness started to work its way into my hard heart.  I had the thought that I often have while counseling people or during our Longest Night service or when reading requests on our prayer chain:  there are so many people in this world who carry with them so much pain.  For many people, daily life requires a heroic effort.  They should be given the Nobel Prize for getting out of bed.  Or at least be given a break on a $160 speeding ticket.

I'm going to try to remember this the next time I'm at a stop sign in Oakland Mills, breathing in and breathing out.

Comments

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Nan Powell

Full stop, eh?
55 miles an hour, eh.
Thanks for the info. May well save me from traffic court. Nan

Pam

Thanks for the reminder. I will remember to breathe in and breathe out whenever I am caught up in the (relatively minor) pressures of my day. Blessed be.

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