During the three weeks we lived with Scott, I frantically searched for a house worth buying. I even searched for an apartment or townhome that was worth renting. I couldn’t find anything. I was still working in Wayne. My commute was now an hour and a half. But I couldn’t quit my job until after I found my new home. I needed a job for my mortgage, but keeping my job cost me three hours and about $15 in tolls and gas each day.
Then I was pulled over. For not having a current inspection on my Pilot. As it was months overdue I was given a ticket rather than a warning. With so much going on, I temporarily forgot about the ticket. A few weeks passed when I remembered it. I had to call the courthouse to find out how much I owed and to whom. I wrote the check and put it in an envelope to run through the postal machine at work. Only I forgot to send it. I thought I had sent it until David’s 13th birthday.
September 26. As usual, we went to Red Robin’s so David could have a bacon cheeseburger and bottomless fries. Daniel always liked going there for the kid’s bottomless spaghetti (which has been discontinued due to kids like Daniel). We went from the restaurant to Target. A distance of about a mile. As I was turning into Target, lights went on behind me. I pulled into the parking lot and parked away from other cars to find out what was wrong. All I kept thinking was that I had one small drink at Red Robin’s. I was in a panic wondering if I had swerved a little in that miniscule distance from the restaurant.
But no. The officer informed me that my license was suspended. Suspended as in I was driving without a license. Suspended from not paying a ticket. Suspended as in I was not allowed to drive myself and my 4 kids out of the Target parking lot.
I was freaking out. I promised the officer I wouldn’t drive. She handed me my ticket. It came with a $350 fine. I called Scott and told him about the predicament. He said he’d be able to get us after his gig. Probably around 11. It was now about 9. I took a deep breath and took the kids into Target. The officer parked herself in the parking lot to make sure I didn’t try to leave. I tried to pretend I was calm for the kids’ sake as we walked aisle after aisle of Target.
David picked out his birthday Legos and we browsed until they closed at 10. Then we sat in the car as the lot emptied. And a street cleaner came and swept around us. We sat as the lights were turned off. And we sat as the kids started to panic and I tried to reassure them that everything was okay. Only internally I was freaking out and trying to figure out how to get my car back. How to get to work. How to manage until I could get this fixed.
Scott arrived a bit after 11. And we piled from my car into his. He said he’d get help the next day to bring my car to my house the next day. And that was that.
I called to find out what to do to reinstate my license. It entailed me paying the fine, printing and signing a letter, and waiting for it to be processed. I did it all quickly and sent it off. I called the number every day to see if my status changed. And in the meantime I took Amtrak to work every day for my last week of work in Wayne. I had been hired to work at the local family owned grocery store. Half the amount of money per hour and part-time, but a mile and a half from my new home. I figured out that with removing the miles on the car and tolls I could survive on a lower income.
I said good-bye to the Boy Scouts. Cried the whole train ride. Then for the last time I walked the few miles from the train depot home. I walked the mile and a half to my new job four days a week. And finally, one day when I called it said my license was reinstated.
I admit, I didn’t wait for letter to reach me. I started driving to work. I didn’t risk driving anywhere else. About a week later the letter came saying I was reinstated and that my license would be sent back soon. I waited eagerly.
But, instead of my license, I received a new letter saying that for driving without a license as of such and such day my license would be lost for one year. I could call and get the day moved nearer to start my year sooner if I so wanted. I freaked. I started calling people who claimed they could get my license back. They wanted two grand. I called lawyers. They wanted one grand. I made an appointment with the lawyer. And my mom gave me a grand.
I left work early and drove (I was not yet at the new loss date) to meet with a lawyer. And he never showed. I lost work time and the precious little money I earn to meet with some junior lawyer and he never showed. I was told two stories. In one version, court ran over and he was unable to come to the office. In the other version, he totally forgot his two appointments and was nowhere close to Lancaster and would not be coming. Guess which one I believe.
I was furious. When I left the office I called the main number for the group of lawyers I’d contacted. I went through a few people and was finally put through to a real attorney. He said a few important things. 1) I should not have paid the $350 fine. I should have called a lawyer then. 2) I needed to go to the courthouse and file papers to say I was taking back my guilty plea (that is what you are saying when you pay the fine). He talked me through it and I took a lot of notes. The next day I went to the courthouse and did exactly what the lawyer told me to do.
Then I prayed and waited. And did a lot of walking.
Finally, I received a notice of a court date. Scott drove me there. There were a lot of people—mostly men—milling about the halls, waiting. I checked in with a man with a clip board. And chatted with a man who had been pulled over by the same delightful woman who left me stranded at Target.
Then the officer checked in with the guy with the clip board. She gestured for me to follow her. First she wanted to know if I had a lawyer. I said that no, I didn’t. She said that most of these people have lawyers. I said that my mom gave me money but that I used it to put oil in the tank instead. She asked what I hoped to accomplish. I said that I just wanted my license back. I couldn’t lose it for a year. She wanted to know why I didn’t fight the ticket at a lower level court. I admitted that I didn’t know I’d lose my license for paying the fine.
She ended up talking to the assistant DA for me and working out a plea. I still had to stand trembling in front of the judge. I think that in itself would have been worth the money to have the lawyer stand there for me.
My voice shook as I explained to the judge what happened. I answered his questions with yes, sir and no, sir. And then the ADA offered the plea. The judge asked me if I understood. And then that was it. He said the plea was accepted and that my license would be reinstated. And that now I should see the importance of keeping Penndot aware of my address.