That time I went to the courthouse for the first time

These fines will never stop haunting this house. Day after New Years, I received a notice that there was evidence of rats in the house. We exterminated and cleared out the place three months ago of course, but all right, I guess they have to make sure.

This notice was a $300 fine or a summons to the court for a hearing to defend yourself at the downtown Brooklyn courthouse.

At 8:30 in the morning.

So we go. I am of course freaking out that we are two minutes late.

Shit, it’s 8:31 and we are a block away! Quick!

The elevator squeaks down as it rolls through 8:33 and I wonder outloud (panic outloud) if I missed my chance.

We get to the right floor and I practically run up to the guard at 8:34 – my hearing is at 8:30, did I miss it?

He hands me a form to fill out. Please complete this with your notice.

My hearing is at 8:30, I say.

He nods. You’re all right. Just fill out the form and bring it back to me. They will call your name when it’s time to see the judge.

There are less than a dozen people in the waiting room, all staring at three flat screen TVs playing ny1.

Okay, I say. Thank you.

We fill out the form and take our seat in front of the TVs. I fiddle with my phone and wonder outloud how long it will take to call my name.

About 10 minutes later – not bad – my name is called over the intercom.

I follow the judge down the hall with rows of offices. She doesn’t even close the door as she leads me into her office. I guess this is the court hearing.

Okay, she says. I don’t think your case is even in the system yet. If it doesn’t get in the system, it will be dismissed, but I will hear your case now anyway.

Hmm. Not in the system. Okay.

I tell her we are new homeowners, we just bought the house last August, we cleaned it out in October, here are the receipts for the exterminator and here’s the second inspection check, we are doing a gut renovation, no we haven’t seen any rats since we exterminated, there are people there now pretty much every day, we should be done in a few months.

Okay let me make a copy of these receipts. Like I said, if this case doesn’t make it into the system, it will be dismissed. Let me check one more time.

She punches a few things into her computer as she mumbles to herself.

When was the date of the first hearing? She asks herself. Oh. She sounds a bit surprised. Today is the first hearing date. Maybe that’s why it’s not in the system yet.

I don’t say a word but am slightly confused at the comment. Did I not need to come? Or is it good that I showed my face so it wouldn’t escalate? Would it ever have gotten into the “system” otherwise?

I coughed.

She pulls back, kind or freaks out, and says, whoa what do you have?

Oh, I’m just at the end of a cold, totally not contagious, just the lingering cough, it always takes the longest to go away, I feel fine, it’s just kind of annoying at this point. I probably babble on a bit more, hoping my ailment doesn’t hurt my chances.

Yeah, this flu is going around, she says.

She clicks a few more things on the computer and hands me a piece of paper with proof that I actually came in today.

You will hear from us in 30 days with either the decision or dismissal. Keep this for your records.

Thank you, I say. I don’t go to shake her hand.

Okay. She stands up and follows me out to call the next case.

All in all, it was pretty anticlimactic. There wasn’t even a gavel involved.

UPDATE SINCE I WROTE THIS 8 HOURS AGO: Looks like I’m going back to the courthouse a second time. Just got another fine for $250 for having garbage in the house that was blocking access to the water meter when the water guy came to look at it.

Guess me and the germ-o-phobic judge are going to be friends.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s