Saturday, May 27, 2006

Scofflaw No More, Part 2

Three months ago, I discovered I'd been an unwitting scofflaw for two decades. Devoted readers may recall the beginning of this story. Now that my misadventure and record have been resolved, the details are about to unspool in a Lord Zim first, a serialized narrative.

Welcome to the beginning of the end of the story of the longest-lasting minor infraction of my life.

Back to Monroe

"If the bus left at 9:10, why did you tell me 9:05? You lied to me."

He was joking. Bored and hating the bus ride, he was hassling to kill time. Probably. But he was right. I had lied. I tried honesty. "OK, I did lie. Yes. But I lied to myself to make sure I got there on time. And then I couldn't tell myself one thing and you another."

"Oh ho. You couldn't tell you one thing and me another. That's good." He smiled and looked away again. I smiled too, nodded, then turned to look out the window. Snow was melting all over outside, from the shopping centers to the slender third-growth trees to the rustic motels passing by. The blizzard had been huge but the sun was already erasing it.

"But ... you still lied to me." He wasn't quite done.

I didn't want to look at him again, but I turned anyway, slowly, to face him. "No more than I was lying to myself."

"But you lied to me."


Why had I lied? After the policeman stopped me for taking a walk in the wrong neighborhood and revealed my license had been suspended in New York State for 20 years because of a speeding ticket I don't remember getting, I went home and made some calls and determined that I had to go back to the scene of the crime to pay my debt to society. I had to go to Monroe, NY, to post bail. I couldn't just plead guilty to the speeding charge, because then it would go on my record. Big deal, I thought, until the court clerk said it might affect my insurance and my insurance agent back in LA agreed. He wasn't sure, but it was possible -- even likely, he allowed -- that insurance rates might be determined not by the original citation date but by the conviction date.

Usually, those two are just months apart. But in my case, the citation and the conviction, if there were indeed to be one, spanned a period in which the Berlin Wall had fallen, families had formed, children been born and educated and shipped off to college, computers and cell phones had nearly taken over the world, and both Islam and China had risen from impoverished slumber to threaten the American way of life. I had played unwitting scofflaw for an entire generation, and now my chickens had come home to roost.

We'd been roosting on the bus for almost an hour. P had subsided some, bored into submission, but my tailbone was killing me. I'd slipped on the sidewalk the first night of the blizzard, and the bruise was taking a long time to go away.

I'd lied to get myself to the accursed morning bus on time. Lying to him was just collateral damage.

"Look!" I said. That sign says 'Mt. P----.' (his name)"

"As far as I'm concerned, that's a sentence," he said. "An imperative command." I stayed put. He didn't mean me. I retrieved the last of our chocolate bar from the mesh bag on the seatback before me and broke it into two through the wrapper and we finished it. Ritter Sport milk chocolate with almonds. It was the least I could do. He was giving up most of a day to make up for this barely explicable mishap that had started with his storage needs 20 years ago.

... to be continued.

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