Thursday, October 13, 2005

The unfortunate Mr. Brooks

Tick, tock, tick, tock. Good thing they don’t have clocks that make that noise anymore. It would have made me crazy. Like I needed the encouragement! So I watched as person after person signed in, sat for a while, and got called into court. It was a big crowd, but slowly dwindling.

And it was a pretty interesting collection of people. Some of the young guys knew each other.

“Oi, mate, whotcha doin’ here?” with a big slap on the shoulder.

“Ah, criminal mischief. You?”

“Drinkin.” They all laughed.

Another girl, all dressed in black, signed in with the receptionist. When asked to fill in the “Means” form, she said in a clear voice, “Ah can’t read na write.” The boys in line behind her giggled, poked each other, and whispered.

“You can go over there to that desk, Miss, and those people will help you out.” An elderly couple sat together at a desk across the room, ready to assist. The girl headed over that way, but she almost walked by the desk. Perhaps because she couldn’t even read the sign, “HELP DESK”? My goodness. This was definitely a different group of people than I usually hung out with on Mondays.

There was a red-headed French girl with her solicitor. I eavesdropped to practice my French but never heard what the charges were (nosy!) There was a woman who looked like she slept on the street, and like she’d recently been beaten up. And fully 2/3 of the people in the waiting room were holding the DDE pamphlet (Drink/Drive Education, whereby you can reduce the length of your license suspension). So I wasn’t the only silly prat in on this charge. Not by a long shot.

Time passed. Files were delivered, numerous times. At last, the receptionist looked over at me, and flashed me a quick smile. My file had arrived. “You’ll be next.”

Now, the usher for Court 2 showed me into the courtroom. Again, “Just sit in the back here, while the magistrates finish the case before you. You’ll be next.”

So I got to listen to the case of poor Mr. Brooks. This thin, somber 20-year old kid had backed out of a train station carpark at high speed, run over a grassy bank, crashed his car, and had gotten arrested for reckless driving.

The clerk read out the complaint, and then the clerk said, “Well, Mr. Brooks, do you have anything to say for yourself?”

The kid replied in a small voice, “Ah was stoopid?”

“Well, yes, agreed, but can you explain your actions?”

“Nah, not really.”

The clerk continued questioning. “Apparently, your license was revoked in 2003. When did you apply to get it back?”

The kid looked confused. “Ah didn’t. Ah didn’t know ah had to. To apply.”

“They would have sent you a letter, telling you to reapply.”

“Ah can’t really read.”

The clerk interrupted. “You can’t read?! How on earth did you pass the theory test?”

“It was hard.... really hard.” whispered the boy.

“So you can read and write a little bit. But now also, it seems that you were driving without a license. And thus, I’m sure, without insurance. Do you understand that these are additional crimes?”

Expressionless, the boy answered, “Yes. Yes. Ah do now.”

The magistrates adjourned to another room to deliberate. They were gone forever.

When they came back, they ended up revoking his license for a further year, fining him for multiple charges, and querying him about how he’d pay the fines. It seemed like an impossible puzzle, because the kid needed to be able to drive to get to his job, so as to get paid, so that he could then pay his fines. It didn’t look very promising. And somehow I imagined that tomorrow, he’d be driving to work again, revoked license or not.

“You may go.” And he left.

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