Saturday, August 11, 2007

Quality Time with My Fellow Citizens

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is goosebumps. I'm not a fan of scary things, so I tend to get my goosebumps from reality.

Remember the 1980s TV show Night Court? Remember how much fun that wacky assortment of people could be? Okay, if you're still with me, remember that was television. The real night court starts off pretty funny but then it gets scary and sad.

I know because I was recently at night court in Middlesex, New Jersey. For the first part of the evening, it's traffic court. Then its time for all the other petty offenders. I was there for a minor traffic offense (yippee for saying good bye to the nasty points) but, due to a paperwork fracas, my minor speeding violation wasn't dispensed until late in the game, so I had plenty of time to see and hear the madness of my fellow citizens.

There was the drunk woman who was in court on a charge of disorderly conduct and public urination. She was 55 if she was a day and she was totally lit, sitting in the back of the courtroom and commenting on everyone and everything and using language so foul that even I was shocked.

Now that's saying something.

There was the man who admitted that yes, he drives day workers to jobs and no, he doesn't have commercial insurance. "Why?" said the judge.

"Because it's too expensive," the man explained. The judge laughed. But that particular infraction carries a steep fine, so I'm guessing our driving friend will go and get some commercial insurance real quick like.

Next up: a mother and her teenage daughter in for assault. Both charged for hitting one another. The judge encouraged them to drop the charges ---- mutually ---- and see a family counselor. They agreed ---- begrudgingly ---- and then left through separate doors to collect their bail refunds. Bet they'll be back.

Most disturbing was the woman in for violation of her probation. For the 5th time. The judge told her it was a mandatory jail sentence. She said, "who will watch my kids?"

The judge said, "I gave you 7 days last week to get that taken care of."

"I'm still working that out," she said, nonplussed as if that wasn't her responsibility. And the judge sighed heavily, clearly feeling the burden of this job he performs and then he said, "I don't have any choice." So off she went in handcuffs while the police were dispatched to her home to get three children (10, 3, and 2......the judge asked) and take them to foster care.

At this point, it's just not funny anymore. And by now, my paperwork has been found and I'm all set to pay my fine and leave. And I'm really, really happy to come home to my 7 year old. But as I tucked him into bed, I started to worry again about that other woman's children. Where are they tonight? Do they have clean pajamas and a lovey to cuddle up against? Have they had supper and a story? Will someone smooth a hand over their brow and whisper, "I love you?"

I fear not. And that makes me really sad and scared for them in a way that lingers so that I can't quite shake it off.


Rob Kistner said...

Makes you think... and appreciate!

Fledgling Poet said...

Like you, I'm a mother and got choked up wondering about those poor kids...thanks for a wonderfully written post that really made me appreciate the blessings in my life.

gautami tripathy said...

Thoughful post. Thanks!

Paul said...

It may be just a drop in the sand but surely someone out there is helping them.

sister AE said...

I saw something on TV earlier this year about an organization gathering small bags and filling them with pajamas and books and a toothbrush - the kinds of things a kid might need. I didn't remember the site, but I did a web search for "pajamas for foster kids" and came up with several organizations. I think the one called "Pajama Program" is the one I saw. You can check it out at if you are in a position to help even a little.