Am I a criminal?

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I remember writing previously that although I loved driving and had a car which was faster than others, I never ran afoul of the law. I prided myself on never overtaking on solid lines, staying within the speed limit and being considerate of other road users. Well, my stellar run has come to a crushing end and I am officially a criminal, or am I?  Let me tell you how it happened.

It was a Saturday morning, and I had to get to a meeting in town and I wanted to be on time. I had arranged with my mother to meet me at the office to collect the children to take them to their various extra-curricular activities.  Unfortunately, at the time, my son was limping, and could not walk for very long distances.

I drove along Crumpton Street and made a right turn in the direction of the Central Bank in search of a parking spot. In my mind I was being a good mother as I was considering the shortest possible distance for my son to walk as I was not able to lift him. I found a space on the sidewalk next to a container and I parked there, making sure that I was not obstructing any other driver from moving his or her vehicle.

Off to my meeting I went and my children were summarily shipped off to spend time with their grandmother, leaving me free to concentrate on the tasks at hand. The meetings were taxing, and I felt drained.  Be that as it may that part of my day was over and I was looking forward to going for the children and having a fun evening together.

I rushed back to my neatly parked vehicle and quickly got in having already stored my bags safely as suggested by the officers of the Royal Barbados Police Force. I heard the click of my seatbelt (as required by law) and I was about to engage my clutch, when a flash of white caught my eye. I was not wearing my glasses at the time and wondered whether it was a card about some party or fete I had no intention of attending. I slowly opened my door and took the few steps necessary to reach the front of my vehicle and lo-and-behold, I saw a most unfamiliar scrap of paper secured by my wiper blade. It could not be true… me… the one who obeyed the traffic laws to the letter had been served a parking ticket.

The emotions I went through after the initial horror included frustration, denial, anger and a deep sense of loss. This sounds melodramatic I am sure but for me the closest I had gotten to transgressing the laws was my father (a former policeman) threatening to report me if he ever caught me speeding. I felt deflated, low and my heart hurt with every beat of the journey to my home.

After just over two weeks I got over the issue of the ticket. I had committed an offence and was in breach of Regulation 31 (10) (b) of the Road Traffic Act, 1984-Vehicle having been left upon any footpath. I however, was not prepared for my encounter with the court system.

I decided to present to District ‘A’ Police Station since I had forgotten my ticket at home. Several clear signs directed me to the Traffic Tickets section where I encountered three police officers in a room. The sole male at the time asked me for my vehicle registration and then asked me to sit outside. This move just gave me more time to feel the accusing eyes of the law on me, but after what seemed like hours, he returned with my reprinted ticket and informed me that I needed to go to District ‘A’ Magistrates’ Court. ‘Court?’ I shrieked, whilst trying to place a trembling hand against my galloping heart. He replied I that I just had to go and pay the fine and all would be well.

I made a hasty retreat to my vehicle and whizzed my way down to the court, hoping that I would not get a ticket for driving 2km/hour above the speed limit this time. I eased into the courtyard and the guard informed me that I barely had enough time to get to the clerk, but encouraged me to try. I dropped my vehicle along the guard rails and slowly walked towards the court following the incoherent directions he had grumbled in my direction.

As I walked under the arch I looked around, trepidation cloaking me and weighing down each timid step to my goal. I was not sure which way I should go, but the need to get past this situation urged me to forge on. Things only got worse when I saw two women sitting on benches and automatically I assumed, (perhaps quite wrongly), that they were mothers of persons who were facing a judge for whatever reason. I thought my heart could not beat any faster but surely, it picked up the pace. I made the mistake of looking to my right. My eyes collided with those of a young male decorated with silver bracelets who was being escorted down the steps of the court by a prison guard.

Certainly this would be the end for me. I was going to be locked away in a jail cell. With my knees knocking and palms sweating, I asked a nearby policeman where I should go to pay a ticket. I thanked him profusely and rushed off to pay my debt to Her Majesty! When I regained my senses, I was safely seated in my car, reversing out of the courtyard, heading back to freedom.

In my defence I will say that I was not aware that where I had parked was prohibited, neither did I see a sign forbidding me from so doing. However, ignorance of the law is no excuse!

(Rénee Boyce is a medical doctor, a wife, a mother and a Christian, who is committed to Barbados’ development. Email:reneestboyce@gmail.com)

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