It's all done and over with. Finally!
I have to say, despite the fact that I had to go all the way out there to take care of this (something I still find utterly ridiculous), everyone involved (directly and indirectly) was extremely kind and accomodating, and I am very grateful for that.
I arrived in Manchester on Sunday afternoon, and had to take a cab to Salem (because there are no buses or trains going there). After checking into my hotel, I spent a relaxing evening watching TV and reading and preparing for the next day -- while I knew everything was pretty much all set, I was still a bit stressed and a little scared about the whole thing.
It turns out that my hotel was just about a half a block from the restaurant where all this started. I was sorely tempted to treat myself to dinner there -- but I just couldn't bring myself to actually do that.
The next morning, I walked the 1/2 mile to the police station and explained why I was there. Of course, no one had prepared any of the officers for this, so they had no idea what I was talking about. But, they got the paperwork and brought me back to the booking room -- which smelled disgustingly like fish. Now, as just about anyone who has ever gone out to dinner with me knows, the smell of fish is just about the worst smell in the world to me. The smell alone is enough for my gag reflex to go into full operation, and it took nearly all of my willpower just to not throw up all over the officer. I swear, if I had a mind for conspiracy theories, I'd think this was intentional torture.
The booking took about an hour -- I had to get mug shots and have my fingerprints taken and entered into AFIS, which was a pain in the ass in itself -- it took an average of 4 tries for each finger just to get the computer to accept them.
The officer then took me over to the court. He explained that after booking me, he couldn't actually release me without bail (which would have been $500), so he had to take me himself. Frankly, I was fine with that, after all, I didn't have a car so getting a ride was actually helpful. He kept saying to me that while he would have to make me sit in the back, he wouldn't handcuff me. Believe me, I was grateful for this, but he kept pointing it out to me so many times I began to think he wanted some special thanks for this (not that kind of "special thanks"...get your head out of the gutter).
Anyway, so we pull up in front of the court house, and the prosecutors (there were 2 of them) came over to the car. Apparently they had called over to dispatch and told them to tell the officer to stop booking me and bring me over to court (he could finish booking me after court) because the judge was about to hear a long trial. Unfortunately, the message was not passed along to the officer, and we got there after the long trial started. The cop asked him what he should do, and the prosecutor said, "bring her back at 1:30." The cop pointed out that that was 2 1/2 hours away, and what was he supposed to do, "make her sit in a jail cell for that time...that doesn't seem right."
So the prosecutors went inside to check on something, and then came out and said I could wait in the court house (they would wait with me). I had to sit in the back row of the courtroom during the trial that was going on. At first, I thought that all sounded like hell. But, it turned out that it was rather interesting. It turns out that, coincidentally, it was a Domestic Violence case being heard. It was just a procedural hearing, so the victim wasn't there, and we didn't hear from the defendant. But listening to the defense attorney was extremely interesting (in a humorous and infuriating way). I won't go into details about the case here (for the sake of confidentiality -- I know I wasn't sworn to confidentiality, but I still feel the need to do so), but I will say that I have to say, the defendant and his attorney both had gumption -- they tried every trick in the book, and a few I don't think most rational people would ever have thought of. Of course, the tricks didn't work, but it was amazing to watch them try.
The hearing took about an hour, after which I was called up in front of the judge. He read the charges and noted that I was pleading guilty. He confirmed that I was aware of my rights and what I was doing, and asked the prosecutors what they were asking for. They said a $200 fine (which we had agreed to on the phone) and restitution to the restaurant (which we had not agreed to on the phone). I thought (and still think) that it's somewhat unfair that I have to pay the full restitution for the unpaid bill (which came to $73.37) seeing as how there were 4 of us, and why should I have to pay for everyone else. But whatever, I wasn't going to fight it.
So, after that, I had to pay the fine and the court costs and then we agreed that I would go pay restitution to the restaurant and bring the receipt back to the court and then everything would be done. The problem, of course, was that I had no ride to do this. I didn't really think about it at the time, because I figured that I'd just call a cab and have the cab drive me around. It wasn't until I was ready to go that I found out that there aren't actually any cabs in this town.
I went to the security guard, thinking he might know of a cab company in the area that wasn't in the phone book or something. He didn't (although he also tried calling the cabs listed in the phone book, but got the same disconnected numbers I did). He called the cops and told them that they should have someone drive me around on these errands. I thought it was great that he was trying to do this for me, but I could understand the dispatchers point about the cops being rather busy. Then the court clerk overheard and said that if I had the cash for the restitution, she'd just give me a receipt saying I had paid it and would take the cash over there herself when she got off of work. I was amazed at the generosity and concern of these people, but unfortunatley, I didn't have that much cash on me. At that time, a woman asked me if I knew how to drive. I said I did, but I was worried she would offer me her car to do all this stuff -- which is incredibly nice, but I wasn't sure I'd feel comfortable with that. But, it turns out that she just needed me to move her car to the back of the court house, and in exchange she would drive me around. (Another guy standing there also offered, but I decided to take the woman's offer, because she also needed the help). She explained that there were some people outside that she didn't want to see her car.
So, she gave me her keys, described her car and told me to meet her around back. When I went outside, sure enough, there were 2 women sitting right by her car. And, as it happened, I recognized the women as the attorney and the sister of the defendant in the DV case I had just sat through. Now, they were sitting at the only picnic table in the area, so while it does seem strange that they were hanging around for so long (and the defendant wasn't even there), I don't think they were actually staking out this woman's car. Nonetheless, I can understand her concern and her desire not to let them know what her car looks like. She did make sure that I wasn't there for stealing cars before she gave me her keys. :p
After I pulled around to the back and got into the passenger side, she said, "this probably all seems strange, but you see, I work in the Domestic Violence field..." I said, "so do I!" I told her that I had also sat through the hearing, and recognized the women sitting out front and completely understood why she didn't want them to see her car. We had a nice chat about our work and the case that was going on. She dropped me off at the restaurant and said she was going to KMart (in the same plaza) to buy mulch and would meet me out front.
I went in to the restaurant and asked to speak to the manager. When the manager came, I explained the situation and gave him a copy of the court paperwork. Yes, I felt very stupid standing there saying, "Yeah, uh, I have to pay restitution for an unpaid tab from 14 years ago." He was cool about it, though, and after making a phone call (probably trying to figure out how to ring this up), he rang me up and gave me a receipt.
I got out of the restaurant just as the DV woman (for lack of a better name) was pulling up -- good timing! She dropped me off at the court house (the 2 women were still there!). I went in and finalized the paperwork. The court clerk offered to fax the paperwork up to Concord, NH for me, so that I could get the ball rolling on removing the suspension from my NH driving record (still think it's unfair that they can suspend a license that I never had in a state I never lived in -- but, oh well). I then walked back to the police station to drop off the receipt there for the prosecutor. (It wasn't really a long walk -- probably about a mile -- I just hadn't wanted to do that 3 times on a time limit in 80 degree weather.)
I still had plenty of time. In fact, it was still so early that I could easily have made it back up to Manchester for my flight out -- if only I hadn't decided to give myself an extra day in case anything went wrong. Dammit. So now I had well over 24 hours to kill. Since I hadn't eaten all day, I went out for lunch. And yes, I did pay. :p I hung out in Barnes & Noble for a while, and then hung out in my hotel room for a while.
The next morning, I left the hotel at 11:00 (check out time) and lugged all my stuff around with me -- going to breakfast, hanging out at Barnes & Noble until 3:00 when my cab came to take me back to Manchester and the airport. I was still at the airport about 2 hours before my flight time. Of course, I had a long layover in Minneapolis, which was made even longer because the flight was late. Which meant I didn't get into Portland until about 11:30. By the time I got home and unwound and got to sleep, it was about 1:00 am -- which meant I had exactly 4 1/2 hours to sleep before I had to get up for work. (Needless to say, I was way too tired yesterday to even attempt to write this update.)
Now that I have all this stress out of the way, I should be able to get back to more regular blogging -- at least, that's my intent. We'll see.
I will say, though, that I learned a valuable lesson. Don't let your legal cases get dragged out like this. Make damn sure that everything is taken care of -- especially if you ever plan to move to the other side of the country. Not only does it cost way too much money to take care of it all (all in all, after plane tickets, taxis, hotel, fines, etc, I spent about $1,000 getting this taken care of), but you never know the kinds of technological advances that will be made in the intervening years. Had I taken care of this back in 1991, it would not be in the computer -- it would be stuck in the basement archives. Also, back then they didn't have the whole computerized fingerprinting thing -- it was the old-style ink and paper. Now my fingerprints are on file in AFIS. Oh, well, what's done is done.