This is a cautionary tale.
Once upon a time, like last July 30, 2014 at precisely 8:31 in the a.m, an ever-so-slightly wretched (in a hot mess kind of way), somewhat old (but not so old that you wouldn’t poke her on the Facebook in hopes she would poke back and you could have some casual Skype-sex with, good times) lady of a certain age was driving north up Bayview Avenue in her boxy Scion chariot. She had just dropped off her daughter, the fair maiden(ish) Evangeline, at her summer job at Bayview Glen where she taught music at the day camp for the wealthiest children of the Land of Smoke and Hogs. Taking public transportation to said job was bullshit, according to the fair maiden Evangeline, because you had to take a bus, then subway, then another bus that meadered like a drunk beast in and out of the glens and valleys and the rest of the fuckery that is the urban sprawl designed from the minds of evil white men WITH A PISS-POORLY EXECUTED TRANSIT SYSTEM. It takes over an hour and a half by TTC and only 20 minutes for her mommy to drive her so that is what the lady did that summer when she wasn’t otherwise occupied working at the iniquitous dusty box known as the Home Depot, which is a whole other tale of whoa-fuck-this-shit (see archives).
This particular day, the lady dropped off her daughter and continued her journey northbound to visit her parents who lived in the faraway land up the hills of new developments and Asian strip malls.
It was a fine summer day, sunny and warm, the roads were clear of traffic with exception of the ubiquitous construction clusterfucks in various spots jackhammering your tax dollars away for the sake of make-work projects. The lady was cool with that for the greater good, all this construction is a productive thing, she thought, whatever keeps their hands busy and those forearms so muscular!. As she made her turn from Finch to Bayview Avenue, a burly (plural) of men were working in the right lane, the jackhammers were singing the song of their people: rat-tat-tat-tat-fucking-tat at deafening levels. The lady stayed on the left lane, motoring along at her usual lady-like pace which is maybe only slightly faster than your grandma’s, because that summer she had 3 flat tires and one broken clutch and she was completely convinced that her engine would spontaneously explode or all four wheels will fall off at once and she would die a messy roadkill death and her precious but maybe slightly spent organs would not be intact so they would have to be trashed instead of donated to a needy recipient to start a new and better life, happily ever after. That would be tragic and the fair maiden Evangeline would have to take TTC or get her driver’s license once and for all. Oh my God, her younger brother, the dashing burger eater, Frederick, is just as feckless with this endeavour, if not more so as he still has to finish up his driving lessons after an entire year hiatus. Come on, children, help your old mother out. Honestly.
As the lady approached the intersection of Cummer and Bayview at the speed it took for you to read and process that last paragraph, she noticed the traffic lights were flashing red.
What does one do in this situation? The lady knew all too well because back in the day, when she was taking driving lessons at the tender age of 16, she was faced with the same scenario on a quiet Sunday night in some scuzzy industrial part of Montreal approaching the Champlain Bridge. She was nervously driving through the city in Lauzon’s Datsun hatchback with her instructor, Jean-Claude Diqueface, clucking like a fishwife at her for every little thing which in retrospect was for her own benefit, but at the time, SUPER ANNOYING. She was following another car in front of her, probably fuelled by copious amounts Pepsi, lol because it’s true, the driver sailed straight through the flashing red BECAUSE THAT IS HOW THEY ROLL IN QUEBEC. She did the same thing. Jean-Claude slammed on the extra set of breaks and turned and screamed at her until the veins popped out of his head: YOU NEVER RUN THROUGH A FLASHING RED LIGHT! YOU TREAT IT LIKE A STOP SIGN! YOU STOP! MAUDIT CRISS TABARNAC!
Oh, how the lady (as a young maiden) cried when he yelled at her. What a nasty motherfucker was Jean-Claude with his slicked black hair, thick 70’s moustache and his leather jacket with a pack of Export A peaking out of the pocket. Looking back at the situation in present day, the lady thought, would she hit it? Why yes, yes she would, that Datsun would steam, rock, and roll. Good times.
At the flashing red lights on Cummer, she stopped. For the briefest moment, in her imagination, she saw the thick, pulsing vein on Jean Claude’s forehead. Something deep inside her stirred as she looked to the east, then to the west. All clear, she released the clutch and gently pushed on the gas and rolled through the intersection. SIGH! Unbeknownst to her, the red light camera above took a picture of her chariot’s red hot ass and so the tale begins.
Many weeks later, the lady opens her mailbox which is always a nest of serpents, you know how it is in modern times. Nobody writes letters or postcards anymore, anything that comes in the mail has an envelope with a window on it and a demand for some minimum payment due in two weeks or else we will call you on your land line incessantly during Dr.Oz and then again during Modern Family.
The lady comes across an envelope that says “Toronto Courts” on the top left: ‘”Yes! It’s jury duty!” she squeals as she frantically fantasizes about packing her lunch with strange and inconvenient fruit and being the twelfth angry juror with no air conditioning and Gregory Peck and Reese Witherspoon, like it’s a big Hollywood diversion and even if it isn’t, it’s better than working at the odious dusty box known as Home Depot.
She opens up the envelope and to her shock, it is a traffic infraction, and there it was: the photo of her car running a red light , clear as one of those hyper-realistic paintings that show up on your Facebook newsfeed by somebody with too much time on their hands and no social skills of a hairy man shaving his beard and his every single pore and hair follicle painstakingly etched with pencil: “You Won’t Believe What You Are Seeing!” WELL, YOUR WORSHIP, BECAUSE SHE WAS GOING LESS THAN 10K ON A FLASHING RED IN BROAD DAYLIGHT, of course it a was a beautiful, perfect, and incriminating shot. And they are requesting a payment of $325. Why, that literally is highway robbery.
“Of course I am innocent!” she thinks, “I am not worried at all! It was after all, a flashing red. The court will hear my story and understand totally and clear me of my falsely accused wrongdoing because we are living in a good and fair kingdom!”
She requests an appointment to discuss her case with a prosecutor. Surely he or she will see the truth. She has to find a stamp, when was the last time you mailed anything, seriously? She goes to the Shoppers Drugmart and buys a fucking stamp for $5,932 and with great confidence in the system, mails her request and goes about her day/weeks/months with zero fucks given UNTIL:
She gets an appointment to see the Prosecutor in December. Again she thinks: “I am not worried, the truth will prevail, and justice will be had!”
Also as a sub-plot during this time, the malevolent coque-suckers at the dusty box known as the Home Depot have sent her off on the ice floe and now she is piss-peasant-poor but still holds hope of justice.
If the court doesn’t have mercy, the lady thinks, the gods will pull something out of their intricately hairy asses. Right?
So the date with the prosecutor arrives. The lady takes the streetcar because she fears parking downtown will result in more highway robbery of some kind. The prosecutor, who is a lady of a certain age also, but even more wretched and probably not inclined to have Skype-sex with you so don’t get excited, tells the lady of our story, in a cryptic way, ‘Based upon the evidence, I cannot allow you to plead guilty at thispoint, you must request a trial.” In the meantime, she instills the fear of authority and the fine could go up to $1,000 if the court thinks you are liar pants on fire. YOU ARE GUILTY UNTIL YOU CAN PROVE YOURSELF INNOCENT. Pictures don’t lie, so it seems.
WTF? If the lady pleaded guilty at that moment, she could pay a reduced fine of $200 instead of $325 with her Christmas money and be done with pompous charade of “Operation Get Money, Bitch” by the Kingdom of Smoke and Hogs, she could save herself time and energy. And the weird humiliation of being treated like criminal cattle.
Some weeks later, the nest of serpents produces a letter with her court date: March 17, 2014, 9 a.m. ARRIVE 30 MINUTES EARLY OR OFF WITH YER HEAD!
Whilst waiting her day in court, the lady tells various fellow citizens the details of her story, they all respond disbelief, as though she is making shit up. “Why would the camera go off if the lights are flashing?” The lady begins to doubt herself and slams on the breaks when the lights turn amber. She will get rear-ended soon, and not in the good way.
On March 17, she arrives at the court house, a half an hour early as per requested and checks in the with the prosecutor before her appointment with the judge. The prosecutor is a lady leprechaun, played with malevolent spunkiness by Amy Sedaris. It is St. Patrick’s Day after all and she has raided her closet of all that is green. Her sweater is minty green with a cartoon bunny on the front, her MINI skirt is loden, LODEN IS NOT ST.PATRICK GREEN, and she is wearing dangling earrings that upon close inspection are actually Keibler elves. Her eye shadow is green. Okay, and then this: She has a mullet. The front of her hair is short and brown and the back is a blond Mrs. Brady-flip with green bits. The prosecutor, who has been to law school and passed the bar, has on ombre mullet. AN OMBRE MULLET! From here on in and forever more, her arguments must be rendered invalid. You know, the citizens of the Land of Smoke and Hogs paid for her toddler get-up with their tax dollars.
The leprechaun asks the lady if she will plead guilty or what up?
The lady explains about the flashing red but before she could finish, the leprechaun interrupts squinting her cold black eyes:
“The City of Toronto GUARANTEES there were no flashing lights on Bayview Avenue. If you want a trial, you’re going to have to wait until afternoon to see the judge. If you plead guilty, we will request a minimum fine of $200.”
“Well if the City of Toronto “guarantees” there were no flashing lights, then it must be true and I must be guilty, ” the lady said, resigned just because she wants to go home and stay there for ever more. By the way, the lady was tastefully wearing an emerald green scarf as an homage to St. Paddy’s, there really is no need to drag every mismatched thing out of the closet just because it is green or greenish. Mint and loden together on one body? Jesus Christ.
The leprechaun got her way but only for so long. The court room was filled with”guilty” red light runners and the first one was an immigrant woman who barely spoke English: “I am poor,” she told the judge, played with compassion by Robert Guillaume of TV’s Benson fame. His Worship reduced her fine to $100…hey, not bad, the lady would be happy that, although the leprechaun piped up: “Two hundred dollars is what we are asking!” Does she get a commission? His Worship looked at her like she was a frog on a highway; “One hundred dollars is appropriate and so this will be the fine set for today!”
Well that would have been the moderately happy ending to the story except the court room was jammed packed, a busload from the jailhouse arrived. One red runner needed a Farsi interpreter, another fainted, someone else barfed, it became clear the day would take over Guinness time.
The leprechaun read out a list of 12 names to go into another open court room. The lady’s name was called last. They all trotted across the hallway like a deflated chain gang.
The new judge was played by the woman from any given soap opera who is always sabotaging your favourite character’s chance at true love. She is bitter and vindictive although she would most definitely probably have Skype-sex with you so go ahead and fantasize about her, she was wearing a black robe. As it turned out, crossing the hallway just cost each of the red runners an extra hundred dollars, she was a stickler for the $200 set fine. The lady was last to approach the bench.
“How do you plead?”
“Guilty,” the lady flinched. You know her, she is not one to contain herself.
“Is there anything you would like to say to the court?” Her worship didn’t seem like such a bad egg. The lady went for it.
“Yes, Your Worship! I am poor! I am so poor, it’s not funny! I lost my job months ago! I am so poor! They fired me for blogging, seriously, there is no such thing as free speech in this country!” The lady’s voice cracked as she borderline hysterical at any given moment.
“Alright then, your fine is reduced to $150, do you wish to pay today or do you require more time?”
Getting it over with, the lady paid that day, grumbling about the extra $50 but then at least it wasn’t $200, she rationalized that she saved $50, which is like 5 or 6 pints of free Steamwhistle that afternoon at Murphy’s Law…although with fees and whatshit, the entire thing came to $180, it is still highway robbery no matter how you crunch the numbers.
It really was a flashing red. Crooks.