Blue Light Special

Did you know in North Carolina that speeding violations of 15 or more miles over the limit require a court appearance? In person.

Neither did I.

I fancy myself a lifelong learner, always seeking new knowledge, but this is one of those lessons life hands out for free. Just because. And on our first official day of our grand adventure. Awesome.

We departed Atlanta in two rented Impalas, planning to drive as far toward Washington, DC as our afternoon departure allowed. We followed I-85 as far as Charlotte, NC and turned north, preferring the scenery of western Virginia to the monotony of I-95. As we approached the exit for I-77, however we became separated in suddenly heavy traffic. Car #1, in the lead, made the exit. Car #2 did not. Cell phone #1 rang.

“Hello…?”

“We missed the turn…”

“I know.”

“Just pull over and wait for us…”

Seems easy enough, right? Wrong. I-77 was narrowed to two barricade-bordered lanes.

“As soon as I can find a place, I’ll pull over.”

“We’ll turn around and catch up.”

“Ok.”

Scanning ahead for a reasonable exit or shoulder, while avoiding concrete barriers and other traffic took top priority. Somewhere lower on the list was noticing that the construction zone speed limit had dropped and my own speed in an unfamiliar rental car hadn’t. An issue quickly and effectively rectified by a NC State Trooper.

“Where’re you headed?”

“Washington, DC”

“Tonight…?”

“No, we’re just trying to get as far as we can tonight then find a hotel.”

“OK. License and registration, please…”

Bummer, I thought, already planning to logon on to a state website the next day and pay a fine.

“Sign here…and your court date is right here. You’ll need to appear…”

Wait! What?!? The ticket shows a court date of 20 July, 2016, a date on which I plan to be somewhere very much NOT Iredell County, NC.

“You can call the District Attorney’s Office in the morning and see what they suggest…”

“OK, thanks…”

At 8 AM the next morning, I’m on the phone to the District Attorney office in Statesville. Karen answers the phone. I summarize my situation.

“Let me start my computer…”

I guess I’m Karen’s first caller. 🙂

“OK, I see the summons here…”

“…I’m moving outside the US. I’ll be in Asia in July for several months…”

“Let me see if one of the ADA’s (Assistant District Attorneys) can help you…”

Turns out they can. Karen explains she will put a “call sheet” in an envelope with my name on it. I just need to pick it up and take it to the cashier’s office in the next door court house, pay the fine, and that’s it.

“I can’t just pay by credit card over the phone…?”

“No.”

“OK, thank you so much for your help…”

One giant hurdle cleared, one small hurdle remaining: Drive 90 minutes back to Statesville, take care of the fine and drive 90 minutes back to our roadside hotel. Drive time to destination just went up 50%.

Unless…?

Wait, I have family living a bit south of Statesville.

“Uh, Karen, can anyone pay my fine, or do I need to do it in person…? Great…thanks again!”

It’s 8:15. Not a bad start to the day.

Nine o’clock has us packed up and motoring north again, my brother-in-law generously agreeing to drive over to say “Hello” to Karen for me.

Lesson learned: One, don’t speed kids. Seriously. What’s the rush? Secondly, if you don’t like the plan, ask if the plan can change. Third, marry well. You never know when you’ll need to call on family to help you out of a jam.

Summons to Appear

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