When the Flashing Lights Start, Pull Over

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(Photo: Even for O.J. Simpson, a better option might have been to stop. Credit: Larry Ho/Los Angeles Times.)

“I never expected to go to prison over a parking ticket.”

The words came from a close friend of Pastry Chef Chris who joined us on our weekly Oak Park coffee klatsch. A middle-aged sweetheart of a fellow with a killer smile and a disarming demeanor, ordinarily I’d tell you his name. But given his recent troubles, let’s just stick with Gay O.J. The reasons why will soon become apparent.

“So that’s why you haven’t been online!” This from Chris. We had been joined by Gay O.J. because Chris had received a misaddressed Christmas card for him. Imagine their surprise while chatting each other up online a few years ago to discover Gay O.J. to be the previous tenant in Chris’s apartment.

Gay O.J. opened the envelope. “It’s from my ex-mother-in-law,” he said. “I gave her my new address years ago. She was always a conservative zealot, so I’ll be happy to report on her new descent into dementia.”

Ordinarily Chris and I love a good smirk, but in the rock-paper-scissors of gay gossip, imprisonment always covers dementia.

“How did you end up in jail?” we asked as we peered at Gay O.J. over our coffee.

His response practically required a seatbelt. It was a tale of parking woe compounded by a series of injudicious decisions made by a good-hearted man with an unfortunate propensity to totally freak out under pressure.

In fact, the whole story’s a moral in itself. To wit:

  • If you get a misdemeanor parking ticket in rural Cheese Curd, Wisconsin, pay it.
  • And if you forget to pay it, make sure you send the right amount in when you receive your penalty demand.
  • And if you screw up and send the wrong amount in, don’t argue with the cop who pulls you over in rural Cheese Curd three years later and tells you your license is suspended.
  • And if you do argue with the cop who pulls you over in rural Cheese Curd, don’t be surprised if he issues you a desk-appearance ticket.
  • And when you come back to Cheese Curd for your desk appearance, don’t be the one who’s driving.
  • And if you are the one who’s driving back to Cheese Curd, when the judge tells you all you have to do to fix things is go to the Cheese Curd DMV and pay a fine but make sure you don’t drive there, don’t get back in your car and try to drive there.
  • And if you do get back in your car and try to drive to the DMV, don’t be surprised if a Cheese Curd police cruiser tails you out of the civil court parking lot with lights flashing.
  • And if you’re tailed by a Cheese Curd police cruiser with lights flashing, pull over.
  • And if you don’t pull over, whatever you do, don’t panic, gun your engine, and flee for the Illinois border, barely squeaking between two additional police cruisers that try to cut you off from both sides of the road like the FBI in E.T.–except you can’t fly.
  • And if you do panic and flee from the appointed guardians of Cheese Curd, don’t expect the Oak Park Police Department not to ring your doorbell later that evening and arrest you–and don’t expect Cook County not to extradite you back to Cheese Curd.
  • And when you go before the judge again in Cheese Curd, don’t expect to be facing a misdemeanor anymore.

It’s always hard to know how you might walk in someone else’s shoes–and walking is certainly going to be a part of Gay O.J.’s immediate future. But I think anyone deserves to be forgiven for coming up against their edge with stress and finding out that sometimes no matter how you slice it, stress wins.

Still, I often wonder why people like Gay O.J. always open up to me with stories like this, no matter how many times I try to impress upon them that I’m a blogger who blogs about the people around me.

“You know,” said Chris, “you probably should change his name to protect the innocent.”

“Well, actually, I’m a convicted felon now,” said Gay O.J. “But they say I’ll probably just get a suspended sentence and pay a fine.”  He paused. “And lose my license for six months.”

I suddenly felt all sorts of new appreciation for my non-driver ID. “What will you do with your car while your license is suspended?” I asked.

“I dunno,” said Gay O.J. “I could leave it on the street…do you think they’d notice if I moved it every morning?”

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