Monday, February 26, 2007

on justice, or the lack thereof.

I remember the first time I was pulled over. Tears streaming down my face, 18 years old, I apologized profusely explaining I was late for class after having worked with kindergartners all day and if he gave me a ticket my parents would be ever so mad. The officer sighed, leaned into the car and said "Promise me you wont speed like that again." I promised, and he let me go with a warning. I kept my word to him. Yet this past Thursday despite my most sincere efforts, it finally happened. I was in my neighborhood exhausted from a long day of classes, cavities, and groceries and about to turn right. I stopped at the stop sign and saw the blue and white flashing lights of a cop to my right just up the hill towards my home. I thought, better make sure to fully stop.. the cop's standing right there up the bend. I stopped. I turned right (turning my blinker on, and everything). I drove. As I drive up the slope he stops in front of my car, motions me to pull over and says I didn't stop. "But officer... I did stop" I began but he interrupted me "I saw you with my own eyes run that stop sign" I knew it was useless to argue. "You're giving me my very first ticket" I told him as he took my information, he smiled as he handed my license back to me, "I know" he replied.

I felt so hurt. I did nothing wrong. I know I stopped. I saw the cop. Ten years of a clean driving record I see a cop and his flashing lights directly to my right and decide, well this seems like a fine time to run that stop sign? It's illogical. Yet its a game of "my word against his" and there's nothing I can do.

The thing that upset me the most is the injustice. I did nothing wrong yet a cop set to meet his quota decided I would do since he was already out of his car writing someone else a ticket. It was strange to look him in the face as he lied saying he saw me run a sign I knowingly stopped at. Punishing me for something I did not do. Injustice ticks me off. Injustice bites. Injustice blows. And yet I couldn't help but think how injustice in this world is an inevitability and unyielding fact of life and it happens in far worse forms than my simple ticket. The police who evict the landless Mayans of Guatemala, their homes burnt to the ground for the sake of profit, innocent men on death row too poor to afford a decent lawyer, or the thousands of women who die each year by fire because their lives are not deemed to be worth as much as the dowry they were supposed to bring and the cops who take bribes in exchange for pretending these women didn't exist. Thinking of them, I can't help but acknowledge that my injustice is nothing but a microscopic speck of dust.

And even considering my personal fleck of injustice in this instance, I can't help but keep perspective. I'm fortunate to live in a country where I can contest my fine and explain my side of the story. In Brazil I wouldn't be livid at my unfair ticket, but relieved that worse hadnt happened. And I cant help but admit that this ticket happened while driving, a freedom many women such as my fellow sisters in Saudi Arabia who may never experience what its like to get an unfair ticket, but with whom I'd probably not trade with just the same.

I suppose even in the bad, there is space to pause, reflect, and be grateful.


Anonymous said...

You're going to contest it though, right? You should.

Mona said...

i'm sorry that you had to go through that.

koonj said...

bugger. i'm so mad for you. i hope you fight it.

koonj said...

in DC one time a cop gave me a wrongful speeding ticket. I wrote in, complete with details - fortunately he wasn't stationary and hadn't clocked me so the city found he hadn't met the burden of proof. what does one do in the case of a stop sign?

i don't know how it is in Atlanta, but here one can't write in - one must show up, which makes it much less likely a person will contest it. And GA tickets are enormously expensive compared to DC ones. It's such a racket.

Enyur said...

Authority figures that abuse their power make me cringe. I hope you do contest that ticket and win. Not sure how it works in the U.S. but here, if the cop doesn't show up for the hearing, the case is dismissed. If that's the way it's there, and if this jerk knows he's wrong...he won't show up.

And you're right, this injustice is nothing compared to those at the 'macro' level so to speak. But injustice is injustice right?

mystic said...

If you have time to go to court, contest it. I did twice and both time I won. Second time was ditto, I was pulled over despite stopping at stop sign. I went to court. Judge listened to the story and dismissed the case. There is a good odd he may not show up and case will be dismissed as happen to my first ticket.

Otherwise I believe all states have safe driving course which will keep points away from your license and will keep your insurance cost down.

(Speading ticket is like a bad thing which happen only to good people !)

AKA said...

I recently got pulled over for the first time in my life, without knowing I was speeding - somehow a 35mph zone turned into a 25 and I hadn't noticed, so when I saw the flashing lights, I thought I should pull over to the shoulder to let the cop pass by. THEN when he also stopped it all clicked. Apparently I was doing a 38, and though I tried my best to explain to the cop, he gave me a ticket and marked that I was doing a 30 in a 25 to "let me off easier". That was his understanding of a $145 ticket! Sadly, I paid it but am now paranoid everytime I see a squad car nearby.

frenchita said...

"freedom many women such as my fellow sisters in Saudi Arabia who may never experience what its like to get an unfair ticket, but with whom I'd probably not trade with just the same."

well, saudi women go to bahrain, uae..and drive..and yes it's sad that in saudi, women can't drive. the govt wanted to lift the ban, but some overly orthodox conservative people denied...
but Aisha, saudi is not like US, you've to be here for sometime to know why exactly they are hesitant to give the license to women..not that i'm supporting them..I personally feel it's unfair..

The friendly lion said...

Its the last line tht gets me!! i can never be like that. if something like this happened to me i would probably rant and rave at the cop and the system but not be thankful it is still miniscule as compared to the injustices many people/women endure everyday.

chai said...

ugh. i am so sorry to hear that. but your last line makes me heart you even more. :)

Baji said...

Argghh that sucks! I got pulled over for doign 25 in a 20 mph. I graoned and be-moaned and the cop kept saying,"But, Ma'am, it's law enforcement day" i.e. I have a quota to make and you better believe I'll be in court the day you contest this, which he was. The give em all out on one say and then they are paid by their bosses to be in courst the day the tickets are contested. But, fight on principle!

Anonymous said...

Well if you stopped then you better make sure you contest the ticket in court. I got a ticket for speeding once and then I realized that the cop was with the laser in a 25mph zone but he checked my speed approaching him from a 50 mph zone. Needless to say I got a huge ticket (50 in 25, I think the ticket was $300 or so). I took pictures of the speedzones and went to courtto defend myself. Was all pointless. The cop never showed up so the case was dismissed. I was all prepared for a court battle. LOL

Tee said...

Aisha - go to court on the date they set and contest it. Usually cops are too busy to show up and then it will automatically be dismissed.

As for quotas - when I worked at the police department they told me that's a common misconception. There are no quotas for tickets. There are just officers who take some kind of pleasure in handing them out. I did ride alongs with lot's of different officers. Some of them loved to set up speed traps and hand out tickets. Others stopped people occasionally and let them off with a warning. Others just parolled around for the most part just waiting to be called to the scene of more interesting things.

Anyway - even when one puts injustice and suffering in perspective, comparing it to the injustice and suffering of others - that isn't always helpful. I do that sometimes and I've come to believe it's not always a good thing. That invalidates your feelings and your feelings are valid. There's no reason to add guilt to the equation.

Aisha said...

Hey all thanks for advice and for sharing your own stories of bad officer experiences. It makes me shocked to know how I'm not alone. I mean, its comforting but kind of sad that this happens so frequently. I do intend to fight it. My date is in April and I will be showing up armed with pictures showing the angle he claims he saw me from, etc! :)

Mona, thank you

Koonj, they *are* higher in Georgia arent they?? Its insane.

Mystic, so you had a similar issue with a stop sign. What did you ague? Just a your word against yours or did you have any actual proof?

aka, welcome to the blog and thanks for sharing your advice. That must be an AWFUL feeling to try to let a cop pass and to find they were after you :(. I thought something similar in my situation. Since I knew I stopped, I thought he was waving me down b/c there was God Forbid something bad that happened in the neighborhood you know? :(

Frenchita, what are the reasons in Saudi for this? Perhaps coming from someoen who lives there you could provide some insight.

Friendly Lion, its a conscious effort to think through things and learn to balance heart and mind. It takes practice but its important b/c we have to remind ourselves we are still lucky..

Chai, aww thanks! I'm glad to know you're reading! :)

Anon, WOW, it dropped that drastically? 50 to 25? That's pretty much ASKING to give out tickets!! My cop will show up because I live in a suburb and alhamdullilah not too much going on here so they have nothingb etter to do.

Baji, so did you go to court and contest it? Did you win??

Tee, yeah I'm pretty sure its not a quota in the official sense but talking to him he indicated they were trying to catch ppl in my neighborhood in particular to show the HOA people they were serious about protecting our community. So he got a 2 for 1 by pulling me over. And I know you're right, you shouldn't feel guilty by comparing to others. I used to do that a lot. But I dont do that anymore. I do try to remember perspective and not get overwhelmed but what I am going through is significant as well since its the only life I have and its affecting that life. But remembering perspective doesnt make me feel guilty... it just makes me thankful.

yasmine said...

Man, remembering your "speeding" ticket story reminds me of mine. Okay, so I've gotten numerous speeding tickets, but I mean the time a police officer tailgated me, causing me to speed up, before pulling me over for "speeding" several blocks later.

To get back to the real point of your post - thank you for the reminder. I think I say that every time I read something of yours. =) But, really, thank you for always being able to put everything into perspective, and share it with us. We do have it so much better than do many women (and people, in general) all over the world, yet all too often we get bogged down in our own trivialities and forget how blessed we are in comparison.

Speeding tickets come with hefty fines, I well know, but sometimes that's the (relatively easy) price we pay for our freedom.

Aisha said...

Enyur, look at this, I'm so used to you being gone, I missed your comment! :( It works the same way here, if the cop isnt there the case is dismissed, but I head the cops in my neck of the woods always show up for court dates :( Oh vell

Yasmine, wow thanks so much for your kind words. Jee I hope I dont sound like a big old purple dinasour named Barney or something! lol. Its just that.. y'know, there just is a reality that the situation could be worse, and you dont hae to research hard to know that truth... You said it well in your last sentence. Thanks!

Baji said...

Yes, I went to court expecting he wouldn't be there and I would win by default. He was there because his dept. scheduled him to be there to defend all the tickets he handed out on that particular day AND it was a quota or political point of some kind or a plan to give tickets all on one day and then have thw cop in court two weeks later. No I didn't win. You have to pay court costs regardless if you win or not, too!

Maliha said...

Salamaat Barney :) (j/k)

Yasmine is right, it's awesome to be able to put things in perspective. Man, do I have cop stories (i have gotten *cough* a few tickets.)

but i have been good lately, I think mommyhood has made me a very cautious driver.

take care and try to contest it if you can...

frenchita said...

well, Aisha, like I said there are some overly conservative people out here who couldn't want women to drive. The govt was almost gonna lift the ban..
In dubai, you have these women only taxis, the driver is a woman, and only woman can travel by them..this is so great! I mean in saudi, women travel along with their chauffers who would be their non-mahram, isn't it better for them to drive all by themselves than be in a company of a stranger?
If they lift the ban, there would be problems, for one, guys would follow women(we have some pretty stupid guys out here)..but they could create some kinda awareness..saudi arabia tops te world when it comes to accidents..looks like they banned the wrong sex...women driving would definitely bring down the rate..
Also, there could be more patrol cars around and strict road rules enforced...i guess that would help a great deal..
If you know, there's a hadeeth that says a woman can't travel without a mahram for a day and a night (24 hrs) women driving won't be against the shariah too!
I was born and raised in saudi, and my parents lived a considerable part of their lives here..I'll continue my education in some other country, and will get my license insha'Allah, my parents got no problems with that!
Having been here all my life, I admit some of the saudi rules are unfair, yet it's a blessing to stay's so close to Makkah and Madinah..And maybe it's weird, but I feel really luck to be born in the same place as the Prophet(saw).
apologies for the long comment.

frenchita said...

overly conservative people out here who WOULDN'T want women to drive.

a typo

Enyur said...

OK I have to be honest, I almost did 'think' for a moment that you were giving me the silent treatment - a "punitive measure" to discipline me for performing these vanishing acts that I have been doing ever so often now lol! But then I was like "nah! she wouldn't do that...or would she?" *tee hee*

By the way, are you able to link to my blog? Ever since I switched over to this darn beta sheta, my link disappeared. I have added it now (click on homepage). I want to show a direct link to my blog...but it won't work! Do you mind checking when you have time? Thanks.

Aisha said...

Baji, i'm sorry to hear you had to go through that and not win at the end of it :(. I think similarly here the cop will show up too... but I have photographic proof (once I take a photo) that it would be tough from where he gave the ticket to know for certain whether I ran the stop sign. You have to pay court costs even if you dont win?? :( That sucks. I'll have to make sure they arent more than the ticket itself. Because then I might have to instead opt out and do an op-ed letter to the editor on the matter.

Maliha, thanks for the support :0) I will contest it for sure.

Frenchita thanks for sharing your perspective, "saudi arabia tops te world when it comes to accidents..looks like they banned the wrong sex" <-- that made me laugh! lol. Good point! you should be a lawyer!

Enyur, no no, I am not giving you the silent treatment! I'm glad you're back. Hopefuly it will be for a sustained amount of time :) I am just going to pop over to your blog after posting this.

Anonymous said...

yep, drastic drop. main road with a church and a synagogue next to each other. So they decided to cut the speed limit for about 100m and then back to 50. And its on a downhill. Talk about a speed trap.

Enyur said...

Phew! :o) By the way, thanks for checking the link on my blog. It is working now (I've changed the settings to show the link on the bottom).

mystic-soul said...

I took picture. There were branches of tree hanging over stop sign which helped but judge looked at my previous clean record.

k said...

they're so high in GA I'm surprised. with all the poverty in the athens area, what do people DO, I wonder. I have a ticket for $175 and I'm thinking of passing a hat around.

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