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The Letter I Did Not Send to Traffic Court

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Dear Court/court person/court administrator/traffic violation clerk:

First, I’m sorry, that was so awkward, right? But my speeding ticket says I have the option to send a letter of explanation with my check and my no-contest plea, but it doesn’t say to whom I should address it. So I hope one of those salutations covered it, because I certainly don’t want to be rude or get started on the wrong foot.

And not just because I’m hoping you will reduce my fine, but because I’m sure you have a rough job and I don’t want this to be one more whiny letter about why it wasn’t my fault (it was), and the cop was mean (he wasn’t), and I wasn’t even going that fast (well, ya got me there, I wasn’t).  Maybe this letter won’t be the worst one you get today.

Not that I think I should get credit for that, because I know that isn’t how things work, but I just want to spread light and joy even in difficult circumstances.

Of course, I don’t want to be disingenuous either, I definitely want you to reduce my fine. Please.

Still not sure what I’m supposed to be explaining here. I could explain my state of mind at the time of the incident, which I am going to chalk up to the fact that it was Friday, three days after Christmas. The days and weeks before had been a whirlwind of chaos, crisis, and change for my family, and come the day after Christmas, I was plumb tuckered. Emotionally, physically, even spiritually, I was just Done. In.

Not only was I exhausted, but I’m going to admit right up front that I was probably all hopped up on sugar. Wednesday and Thursday were days of rest rejuvenation comatose-like sleeping, fueled only by the Christmas food groups of fudge, fruitcake and mandarin oranges. (Without those oranges, I’d be dead of malnutrition.)

However, my kids had cabin fever, and my sweet mother-in-law, in town for the holiday, had taken to carefully poking me at regular intervals to be sure I was still breathing. By Friday, I was feeling beholden to rouse myself and be Fun Mom, Fun Hostess, Fun Daughter in Law, Fun, Fun, Fun. So off we headed to the local zoo, on a mission to see the new baby elephant.

Who is crazy cute, by the way. Have you seen her? You really should, I mean, baby elephants aren’t that common and the chance to see them before they lose their cute baby-ness is very rare.

Seriously, look:

Baby Lily, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo

Right. So, anyhow, I’ve searched the Internet in vain for what to include in this letter of explanation. You might want to include some guidelines, to help people tailor their letters to your needs. Maybe even specify when a person should do the letter of explanation, because it just says you can if you want. But not WHY. That kind of uncertainty probably brings out the crazy in some people.

Just a suggestion, because I can only IMAGINE what kind of wacky letters other folks probably send in these situations, with extraneous and unnecessary anecdotes about their personal lives.

I’m sure, for instance, you don’t want excuses, and I for one am not going to be offering any. The officer who stopped me on our way to the zoo said I was going 43 in a 25 mph zone, which is usually a 45 mph zone except for the fact that it’s a construction zone so they changed it, even though it has been a construction zone for over a year, but the fact that I know that because I researched it online doesn’t mean I’m making excuses, and I’m sure he was right. He seemed very confident, and truth be told I had no idea how fast I was going. (Runonsentencewhatnow?)

The officer was professional and polite the entire time. Honestly, I’m glad I just got the ticket I did. Because the minute he walked up to the car, I had a terrible, awful, terrible realization that I had made an ENORMOUS mistake, and that I could be paying HANDSOMELY for it.

I was driving my dad’s car because I had just brought him home from the hospital Christmas Eve (crisis, chaos), and I realized that in my rush to commence the funfunfun that the three boys in the back seat were NOT IN CAR SEATS. Not one of them. THE HORROR. THE HORROR. I know. Believe me, no additional judgement required. Mothers of my generation are well conditioned to understand the dire consequences of not using car seats. I’m surprised I didn’t burst instantly into tears.

Technically, as I understand the most conservative estimates, all three of them should be in car seats, and my uber-skinny eldest middle schooler may go to senior prom in a car seat. (The child is what our ancestors charmingly termed a “late bloomer.” I have a cat that nearly weighs more than he does.) But my younger two are always in car seats, and I in my fudge-induced intoxication had completely forgotten.

My fears seemed to be confirmed when the officer peered in the back seat and asked the age of my oldest. “Twelve, believe it or not,” I squeaked. But he didn’t say another word. I don’t know if he could tell by looking at me that I was a normally-responsibly-mama-on-the-edge-of-a-total-meltdown, or what, but I am grateful for his mercy.

Anyhow, I guess that’s my explanation. I mean, I don’t think it would be relevant to include the fact that the ticket wasn’t even the worst part of my day, which had to have been later that evening when the 6 yr old and I forgot we had started running his bath, and we found out 45 minutes later that our bathtub doesn’t have an overfill drain.

You should never, ever hear the sound of bath water running down the heating vent across the bathroom from the tub. That’s not good. And an overflowing bathtub does not care that you are MERELY TRYING TO ACHIEVE BASIC LEVELS OF HYGIENE IN PARENTING, after a really long day of trying to do the right thing and having bad results.

The Post-Christmas Flood of 2012 resulted in wet walls, wet carpet and wet mother-in-law belongings downstairs, some intra-marital yelling and a lot of wet towels. Nothing says good hostess like a wet basement guest room. Sigh.

So. Anyhoo. Enclosed please find my check, my signed ticket, and the remnants of  my remaining 2012 quotas of dignity and good intentions. And Happy Belated New Year.


Note: I am eternally grateful to the clerk I spoke to on the phone who was able to reduce my fine right then, if I would just please, please, please not send in a letter.

Also, this is a silly post about my misadventures, and is in no way intended to be either dismissive of my speeding OR lack of car seat usage, which were both unsafe and inappropriate, or critical of police officers. Or traffic court clerks. Who are all awesome.

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