Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cinderfella and the $400 day

A tear in his decadently priced shoe could make or break this day.

He was looking at a $214 fine. The hubby contested the officer’s moving violation citation, so off we went for his day in court. We drove two towns north to Manteca and parked near the squat beige Superior Court building 15 minutes early.
It felt like a homecoming. This had been my stomping grounds as a 20-something cub reporter 20-odd years ago. I covered cops and courts, schools and new business for the long-since-defunct twice-weekly paper. Many of the police officers had been my age, lean and cocky. They were used to seeing me pop up and nose around.
“What’s shaking?” someone would call in greeting.
“Everything!” I’d oblige, making like I had an earthquake under my feet. Don’t judge me. I was young and hungry for a scoop.
The uniformed figures today were strangers. A few were portly. They avoided eye contact and kept their expressions bland. Wouldn’t you, if you were about to testify against someone standing next to you?
“Are you nervous, Dear?” I asked the hubs.
“A little. I’m rehearsing what to say.” I’ve known my husband to get break after ridiculous break just because people like his face. Let this be one of those times, I prayed.
We filed through the metal detector. I was wearing no jewelry except a ring and had stashed my purse in the trunk of the car. The husband, like most men, fished out sundry keys and enough coins to stall the flow of human traffic. Several women were giving my brown sweater dress and pleated scarf the once-over. I realized I was a tad overdressed in a sea of jeans.
“Thrift store,” I wanted to reassure them. Except for the polka-dot peep-toed flats—and underwear. I’m not on trial here, I reminded myself. But we did stick out a little.
Maybe that actually worked for us, because one of the guards kept sizing us up. Then he checked our paperwork and redirected us to the courtroom in the portable building next door, where we hurried with just five minutes before show time. Did I imagine it, or were the defendants here less hoodlum-looking?
 Note to the hubs: Always ask the wife to double-check your paperwork. Note to self: Listen to your gut when it signals that you’re in fashion misalignment with your surroundings.
The metal detector routine again. Plink, plink, plink went the coins into the little basket.
“Take a seat on the left side,” the guard told us. The hubs got busy putting his belt back on as I chose a seat. The right side of the room held only uniformed officers.
“Why are we crowding over here? Let’s sit over there,” the hubs nodded toward the right side. He does that a lot, tunes out and misses vital information.
“We’re on the wrong side of the law right now, Dear. Sit ye down.”
And that’s when I noticed the small tear in his shoes, near his big toe. The $200 shoes I had encouraged him to bite the bullet and buy because he’d been stoically putting up with foot pain for probably a year. These were supposed to make up for his high arches. The hit to the wallet that this day could bring could easily top $400!
Just then roll call began. Defendant and accusing officer were accounted for in pairs. “Here.” “Here.” Everyone’s accusers were present. Now hubby’s name. “Here.” Followed only by silence, sweet silence.  I suppressed a smile.
Called before the judge, the hubby stood like a jilted groom.
“The officer must not think your case was worth pursuing or he’d be here this morning,” the judge said. “In light of that, case dismissed.” He added something akin to “Go and sin no more,” but I was too busy jumping up and down on the inside to remember what he actually said.
“I’ll mind my ps and qs, your Honor,” the hubs promised.
I clenched one fist, bowed my head and whispered, “Yesss.”
The lady seated next to me leaned over and said, “Have a nice day.” And smiled.
We were out of there just 10 minutes after coming in. $200 saved, $200 to go. Next stop, the shoe store. I waited in the car. He had this down, he didn’t need my support. In fact, the rare times I needed to return a purchase, he did it for me.
White man with distinguished graying hair walks into a store, everybody calls him “Sir” and hops to it. No questions asked. Asian me walked around, and I’ve been asked by a little old lady store employee, “Are you worried you’ll set off the theft detectors?” I am not making this up. It happened at the Gottschalks in Modesto, CA. When they went bankrupt years ago I didn’t feel sorry for any of them. Now we were in the very parking lot where Gottschalks used to be. Just so you know, I’m not bitter, just given to random reminiscing.
Five minutes later my white man got back in the car, beaming. We sat admiring his brand new shoes.
“She said these were more expensive, but they wouldn’t charge me the difference.”
It was a good day to be him.
P.S. The promised post on the grandfellas and my gaffe will go up as soon as I've edited the video.