Monday, November 13, 2006

did I ever tell ya 'bout the time...

I went to court for a writing a bad check? Yeah, horrible ol' me, passing bad checks,right?

It was a long time ago, and I don't know what brought it to my mind just now, but here it is.

I was 19, a new mom, rugrat one being all of about 8 months old. I was struggling with minimum wage, trying to take a course or two at the community college. It was before I found out I was eligible for food stamps. I was hungry, and damned if I didn't write a check at the grocery store. And I did it knowing full well that I didn't have the money in the bank to cover it.

I wasn't worried when I wrote it. It wasn't the first time, after all. The stores would just turn you over to a collection agency, and you could make small payments each month 'til the debt was paid. This was before the whole quick check credit thing, so grocery stores never knew if you'd written a bad one somewhere else.

But for some reason, this particular store had a different policy than others. They gave you a week to pay up (yeah, like I'd have written the check in the first place if I knew I'd have money in a week), and then they turned you over to the courts. Yep, sent your bad check right on over to the court, who would send you a summons to appear. If you didn't appear, the notice said, they'd issue a warrant for your arrest.

So, I didn't know what to do, so I showed up. I had rugrat with me, since I did't have, and couldn't have afforded, a babysitter. Luckily, the court was right after lunch, and he fell asleep laying across my chest, and slept through it all.

The whole time I was there, I was completely terrified. I'd read about people going to jail for passing bad checks, and I had rugrat. What would happen to us? We'd been there about an hour when my case was called. The representative from the store was all official and professional, detailing what was purchased. The fucker.

And then the judge made me stand up and answer a question: Do you deny you owe this debt, he asked. Oh no, judge, I know I owe the money, I responded, my 95 pound body slightly rocking the rugrat to keep him sleeping while I stood and spoke. I just don't have it right now.

And he felt sorry for me. Gave me ample time to pay off the debt in small installments. And got downright snippy with the grocery store person when they tried to give him more paperwork than he needed. I don't need all that, he snipped. It isn't that big a deal, after all. It's just groceries. And by the look of her, she needed them.


jenny14 said...

Wow, Spring,

A judge who was a "human being" not an automaton

You have really had a hard life as I have said before and deserve all the respect you can get for the way you beat it


Spring said...

Yeah, cool about the judge, huh. I was so terrified going into the thing, and then it was sort of anticlimactic 'cause the judge was so cool. That was almost 27 years ago, though -- he probably wouldn't be nearly so understanding these days.