Here comes the judge
Posted: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 9:34 pm
By: By Lisa Smartt
I did it again. I’m a repeat offender. A law breaker. A criminal. A violator of justice and the American way. I’ll be welcoming 2009 with an appearance before the local judge. Happy New Year to me! Why is law breaking so tempting for some of us while others seem fully satisfied to remain on the side of good? That’s the age-old question.
It all started on a beautiful winter’s day. I wanted to snatch up some of those post-Christmas bargains, so I headed out on the open road to hit some favorite shopping destinations. The Trail Blazer was happily traveling down Highway 54 at what felt like a reasonable and moderate rate of speed. That’s when a patrol car came over the hill and flashed its blue lights. A word to the wise: Never depend on “feelings” when it comes to speed. Instead, I recommend that you make note of those little white signs with the numbers on them and that “thingamajig” called a speedometer. And trust me, no patrolman wants to hear the words, “Wow! It didn’t really ‘seem like’ I was going that fast.” It doesn’t matter what it “seemed like.” What matters is that the radar said you were going 70 in a 55. Yeah. Pretty cut and dried. I doubt I’ll hire a lawyer.
Here’s the grand mystery of my criminal history. Maybe some of you readers could enlighten me with your analysis. I would never shoplift. I would never rob a bank. If one of my kids threw a gum wrapper out the car window, I would be mortified. I would even deliver a speech that would go something like this (background music needed): “Kids, we live in a great country. In order to keep America great, we need to be respectful of its laws and principles. Laws aren’t made to squelch your freedom. They’re made to protect those freedoms.” Yeah. Why was that speech not rattling around in my brain when I was going 70 in a 55?
There’s a strange sense of shame when a patrol car is behind you with its lights on. With the bright lights in my rear view mirror, the inadequacies of my life came flashing before my eyes in brilliant color. An overdue library book on the kitchen counter. An overdue movie in the DVD player. A hall closet that can’t be opened because of avalanche danger. The mess under the boys’ beds. The mess under our bed. The unread library book about how to organize messes under beds. Unwritten thank-you notes. The rusty cans of Slim-Fast in the back of the refrigerator. Failure was looming in the cab of the Trail Blazer that day. The bright blue lights just served as a reminder.
When I arrived home, I was a little sullen. Regret hung heavy in the air. I should have been paying attention to my speed. I should have obeyed the law. Now I have to appear before the judge to admit my guilt and accept the just penalty. But I’m not going to get depressed about that. It’s more than a month until my court date. I should be able to get the hall closet cleaned, clean under the beds, lose 10 pounds and send my thank-you notes by then. The moral? When your own bad choices give you lemons, make lemonade.
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. Her book “The Smartt View: Life, Love, and Cluttered Closets” is available at The Messenger, The University of Tennessee at Martin bookstore or by mail for $10, plus $2 shipping. Send checks to Lisa Smartt, 300 Parrott Road, Dresden TN 38225. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 1.7.09