So I'd just finished dropping off groceries at the house, pulling out of the parking lot - where we don't have a designated spot - to find a space on the street. My new Blackberry is lying on the seat next to me. It rings.
Now understand, I tell friend, colleague and stranger alike that speaking on a mobile while ... uh ... mobile is stupid.
But here it was, ringing. And all I could think of was that BB had just remembered something he needed. So I picked it up. While I was looking for a parking spot.
Well, it wasn't BB. It was a contact I'd tried to get for a slightly unimportant story. She was calling too late to help, so, as I tried to maneuver very slowly up my street toward a parking spot, I tried to end the conversation by telling her I'd contact her later.
A Chicago cop car drove past me and my internal alarm went *whingggggg.* "I have to hang up, I'm about to be ticketed for talking on the phone."
The very nice officer handed me a blue ticket and explained that it wasn't a traffic ticket. Go to court, he said, and there wouldn't even be a fine.
Today was my court date. The el was slow, and I got started late, as usual, and then I got off at the wrong stop and walked in the wrong direction for two blocks. I ended up being half an hour late.
It was no problem. A nice administrative aide ran into me as I walked into the little windowless court-ette (too small and cavelike to be a court room), smiled and took my ticket, then beckoned me into a side room.
Had I been talking on my cellphone?
No problem, she said. It's just a fine of $100, plus $40 in court costs.
My usual response to shock (which I hate, but which I can't seem to control even after 53 years on this earth), set in. Tears - no sobs, just silent saline in rivulets down my cheeks.
I guess the officer was mistaken, I said.
My own fault, I allowed. My own fault.
So I paid.
I went back into the court-ette, sat quietly and waited until the Administrative Hearing Officer heard my case and gave me the bill to pay. Then he asked me how I was caught. "How are they doing it now? Did they get you for anything else? No? Just the phone?"
I went out to the cashier. The cashier was a very pleasant lady. We chatted as she took my money; cops say things like that, like 'There won't be a fine,' she said. "So that they can get away from folks."
I walked back to the el, came home, and ate a bowl filled with three flavors of ice cream and one flavor of sherbet.
Here endeth the lesson.