Wednesday, December 13, 2006

from the court house to the white house

day started with a long drive to henrico county for my court date. got a reckless driving citation for my "act of god" hydroplaning incident oct. 17. when i asked the trooper why i was getting a ticket the day of the accident, she responded: "i gotta give you something." judging by the amount of people in the court room today issued citations by this particular trooper, she ain't kidding. she definitely feels the need to give you SOMETHING... if you are a sleepy trucker who wants to pull off the road, if you just happen to be in the same car with someone driving with an expired license or if -- like me -- you had the misfortune of being in a one car hydroplaning accident. turns out there were 3 of us fighting reckless driving tickets for hydroplaning on the same stretch of road i crashed on. for once, being at the end of the alphabetic cue worked in my favor.

dad went with me (because he is THE best dad in the world) and we kept a running talley: 38 cases before me. People: zero. Cops: 38. The closest thing to a win in the people category was for a woman who had her speedometer calibrated after a speeding ticket. The judge dropped her ticket from reckless driving but still fined her and made her pay court costs. one of the hydroplaners was an engineer and had examined the grade of I-295, where we both had crashed, determining the road was tipped and a hazard. If that's so, the judge asked, why didn't everyone crash that day? the reckless driving charge stuck for that poor schmuck. dad and i took note and decided my best bet was to work the rental car angle hard. i'd also looked up the vehicle code -- thanks to some sound legal advice from jstew, non-practicing lawyer extraordinaire. that particular code of reckless driving is for failure to maintain brakes for highway driving. ps. i didn't use my brakes... i was hydroplaning.

my argument was sound but the judge wasn't merciful to those in his courtroom in this christmas season... best case scenario, i expected traffic court and court costs. finally, we got to the end of the cue and the W's were up. dad and i approached the bench... my legs shaking. judge asked the officer for the facts of the case and my plea. not guilty of course. officer davenport was a little fuzzy on the details of my case -- like whether or not it was raining (it was. hard) so i set the judge straight, gave him the pictures mom took of the poor tires on the rental car... and cited the code, explaining my brakes were never engaged in the accident. this is where the judge came alive: "you are so right, ms. wallace," he said. "if more people understood that we'd have fewer accidents." he then told me he was going to dismiss my case... but he phrased it more like a question. he repeated himself... this time with authority. he would dismiss my citation. and he thanked me for doing the right thing in the accident. jedi mind powers DO work.

without a look at trooper davenport or the judge, dad and i quickly gathered our belongings, turn on our heels and beat it out of there because neither one of us thought we could supress the AH YEAH that was bubbling up. right outside the courtroom doors: celebration, high fives, hand motions of sticking it to THE MAN. we fought the law... and we were the only ones today that WON. cops: 38. people: 1!

from henrico, dad and i made our way back to dc so i could get ready for dinner with george and laura. journalist reception at the white house.... first time meeting a sitting president (bill clinton post-WH years doesn't count). wow -- they do that place UP at christmas. sensory overload! we got the whole run of the upstairs west wing... two ballrooms, the oval sitting room, the library, the first ladies' room (with paintings of all the last ladies, from roosevelt to clinton) and my favorite... the map room. framed on the wall was the last WWII troop movement map FDR saw of the european theater before his death. if i could've rolled it up and taken it home, i would've. damn secret service agents. the food was beautiful to look at and even better in my mouth and ginormous christmas trees and exquisite nativity scenes were in each of the upstairs rooms. it was too much to take in.

i did meet the pres. i was introduced as "the friend" and W said -- oh... the FRIEND. i said... yup. that's me. he said i was a beautiful friend... and i told him he was my new best friend for saying that. Laura asked where i work and said i was lucky to be with national geographic. i told them they had a lovely home ... liked what they'd done with the place, photo was snapped and they were on to the next eager handgrabber. i chatted with tony snow (he likes trading punches with the press, he says) and a few other names you see in bylines. it was magical. all told -- not a bad day. got lucky at the courthouse and was pronounced "beautiful" and "lucky" by the prez and first lady.