I set my alarm for 6:30 that morning. My friend and I had to be out of the house and on the road by 7:15. I wanted to be at the courthouse by 8:30 or 8:40, and Yahoo! driving directions said it was going to take 1 hour and 20 minutes to get to the address in Ottawa, Illinois, the seat of Lasalle County.
As my friend and I neared the work zone in which I had gotten my speeding ticket, I made it a point to take note of whether or not the zone was clearly marked. Yep. Cones and signs warned of the upcoming work zone. The problem hadn't been the signage or lack thereof. The problem had been me. Big surprise. No, really. Huge surprise.
(insert photo of traffic court sign here)
My only photograph of the traffic court building. Guards took my friend's camera upon entering the building, but she got photos of me in the courtroom using her camera phone. Tee hee!
We arrived at the courthouse with 30 minutes to spare. I took a photo of the traffic court sign. Two women were smoking and gabbing nearby, obvious employees of the court. They asked if I had photographed them. I told them I was taking a photo of the sign as a souvenir and that I could tell the place was evil. They told me I had no idea just how evil the place was. I told them I could smell it. Once inside the building and through the metal detector, I made a big deposit in the courthouse bathroom and waited in the courtroom with my friend.
The only other time I had been to court was when I was 19. The incident in question happened on July 4 that year. I was in a friend's front yard with my then-boyfriend. I had been drinking. I was drunk and holding a beer. All of a sudden, a man was in my face asking if it was my beer. I thought it was an odd question, but, in my drunken stupor, I managed an indignant "yes." Next thing I knew, he and his pal were reading me my rights and telling me to follow them several blocks to their car where they photographed me with the can. Evidence for court. They were two off-duty cops coming back from watching fireworks at a nearby park. I was charged with underage drinking and paid $75 in court to keep the charge off my record. This time, I didn't get so lucky.
Others began filing into the courtroom. They wore shorts. They wore tank tops. They wore jeans hanging halfway down their asses. They wore baseball hats. They chewed gum. They sported many tattoos and multiple piercings. They had attitudes that matched their youth. I, on the other hand, was dressed tastefully and respectfully in a jacket and skirt. My tattoo was hidden. I felt way overdressed but appropriate. I looked over at my friend and her multiple tattoos and piercings. I asked her what the deal was with everyone in the room having body art. She said, "What can I say. We're (people who have tattoos and piercings) lawbreakers."
Three attorneys sauntered into the courtroom just after 9 and proceeded to call out the names of the people who had actual court dates that morning. When the name was called, the person was to go to the front of the room, enter a plea with the attorney, sign the paper and wait for the judge. The judge entered and called out names one by one. After everyone who had a court date declared themselves guilty in front of the judge, they were to wait again for the paperwork to be entered in the system and were then led to the cashier's office where they were to pay their fines. The judge left the room when the last person had entered his plea. Then, they led in the prisoners.
Clear the front row, everyone! We're bringing in the prisoners!
Three men in leg chains were led into the room and told to sit in the front row. One of the men looked like a more scraggly version of Charles Fucking Manson with his long mangy beard and hair and gaunt face. Their files were looked over, and they entered their pleas with the attorneys before the judge came back into the room. Same system as before, and, before I knew it, the prisoners were led back out of the room - but not before the youngest of them stared at my friend with a grotesque open mouth and disgustingly perverse look on his face that said, "I want to rape you." She saw it, too, so it wasn't just me.
I was among three walk-ins that day. After the inmates, it was our turn. Same cycle. I asked the attorney if it was OK for me to plead no contest. I didn't want to say the word "guilty." He looked at me as if to say "Hey, dumb ass. 'No contest' means 'guilty,' anyway. Might as well face up to it." He practically said as much, too. He was right, and that's what I did. When my name was called, I went in front of the judge, referred to him as "your honor" and laid my guilt bare at his feet. It was over like that. What a relief.
That's when the fun started.
Some young cocky blond lawyer strutted into the room, and, I'm telling you, he was hot. I'm not normally attracted to blonds (I like my men tall, dark and handsome), but this guy was a rare specimen. My friend and I agreed that he could have been from Australia. Yes, he was a foreign kind of hot. A tiny moan escaped my mouth when he entered the room, an automatic response that signaled my friend to look up. Just when she started to drool, I was led out of the room to pay my fine.
The morning had been so entertaining, my friend repeatedly thanked me for getting the ticket. I kept sarcastically "you're welcom"ing her and told her she owed me $200. She thought that was funny. But, wait. No. Seriously.
(insert ottawa photos here)
I joked with the cashier, the woman who had the day before dug my ticket out of the stack thereby saving my life, that issuing tickets was not a very nice way of bringing tourism into the county. She said it brings more people to the City of Ottawa, where they spend money browsing through the shops and buying lunch. She was right. We had planned a whole day around the court visit. I ended up spending at least $100 additional dollars on a cool tote, ring and lunch before we drove the 12 miles to Starved Rock State Park, where we braved the deer ticks and wild animals, photos of which can be found below.
(insert starved rock photos here)