After several weeks of burning the midnight (and weekend) oil to complete a system upgrade, my boss generously gave me a comp day last week.
The timing couldn’t be better since I promised a friend some much-needed moral support as the witness in her final divorce hearing (which, sadly, happened to fall only a few days before Christmas and on her birthday).
Her estranged husband had long since relocated out of state, so she just needed someone to fill in, locally, and sign off as a formality. No problem. I figured it was the least I could do under the circumstances.
I worked downtown years ago, and dropped a friend off for jury duty once, so I had a pretty good idea where we were headed, but we mapped it out anyhow, giving ourselves ample time, just in case.
Just as we rolled up to my previous jury duty drop-off point, the navigation app announced “You’ve reached your destination.” We couldn’t find an address, but the building was labeled “Court House” so we figured we were in the right place. Unfortunately, the usual public parking was now limited to monthly pass holders, only, so we burnt some time casing the place for additional parking before settling on a public lot a few blocks away.
Once parked, we hustled back towards the building (her in high-heeled booties and me in my fashionable, yet flat, leather riding boots), climbed the enormous cement steps leading up the side, and raced into the main entrance only to come to a complete stand-still inside.
We hadn’t accounted for the metal detectors and added security checkpoints installed post 9-11.
So we quickly jumped in line with the other visitors, looking like two sore thumbs sticking out (all dolled up in our fashionable winter ensembles), among the sea of dark hoodies, skull caps, and sneakers surrounding us.
Unlike airport checkpoints, there weren’t any signs instructing us to remove items or anyone really guiding the herd, just one or two guards on the other side of the detectors. Since everyone else casually passed through without much fuss, we followed suit, leaving our purses on the conveyor and waltzing right through the detectors, fully clad, including our accessories.
Except, we set off the detectors. Multiple times.
We discarded item after item (hats, scarves, gloves, jackets, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, watches, belts and boots) stepping in and out of line over and over until we FINALLY passed through “undetected.”
Once we crossed the checkpoint, I approached a security guard to confirm we were heading to the right floor. I glanced up at his seemingly 7 foot overbearing stature and sheepishly uttered, “Excuse me sir, is Courtroom 2 on the second floor?”
He looked down at all 5 foot 2 (and a half) of me and said, “Yes.” but quickly added, “Wait. What are you here for?”
I nervously shifted and then flashed my biggest ear-to-ear smile and firmly announced “Divorce Court.”
He belly laughed and rolled his eyes. Then started motioning me back to the front entrance, “Girl, you’re in the WRONG place. You need to gather up your stuff, and don’t even get dressed up again ’cause it’s the same drill over THERE! You gotta go across the street to the OTHER Court House. This is CRIMINAL court! You want to be in FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMILY court.”
FAMILY COURT. Who knew?
Running out of buffer time, we scooped up all our stuff and charged out the front doors like something out of an I Love Lucy episode, putting on just the necessities (coats, gloves, and boots), and cramming everything else inside my gigantic purse… until I felt my feet leave the ground beneath me and heard the gasps of horror behind me.
There I was, flat as a pancake on the brick ledges leading up to the front entrance of the (criminal) Court House, face down, just waiting for someone to chalk outline my terribly aching body.
Ok, maybe that’s a stretch, but I was beyond a sore thumb sticking out. I was the main event, the pudgy little red-head splattered across the front entrance for all to see. Cognizant of my friend’s high-heeled booties racing to my rescue, and a woman hollering “Someone call this girl an ambulance. She just fell down. Just fell down all them steps right there.” I peeled myself off the ledges (through the sheer adrenaline rush) and stood up, latching onto my friend’s tiny arm, and galloped off towards the (family) Court House, in a little bit of shock and a whole lotta pain.
Once we made our way there, my friend passed right through the metal detectors, no issues. I followed, tears streaming, dark spots oozing across my knees, and bruises surfacing on my wrists already. However, I triggered the alarm, repeatedly, until the security guard yelled, “Just go really fast. REALLY FAST. You’re going too slow!” So, I held my breath, winced, and darted through the detector. And it worked!!
With minutes to spare, we located the courtroom and met her attorney. She quickly briefed us while I divvied up our accessories, casually sliding her belt across the table, and quietly primping as we signed the paperwork, trying to look more presentable (and less like we were mugged on our way over) before heading to the bench to meet the judge.
Looking more like the one petitioning than witnessing the divorce (with my tear-stained face and runny nose), I held myself together for the hearing. The judge was super kind and truly impressed we arrived on time (if she only knew), and even gave my friend a handful of Hershey Kisses for her birthday!
Afterwards, we dressed my wounds (with Halloween bandaids) and laughed over lunch at how much more memorable (and painful) her divorce was for me than her. I was literally scarred for life (at least my knees were), but our little misadventure helped soften the blow and provided some unexpected comic relief to an otherwise somber day.
So happy birthday to her, and cheers to a new year filled with new beginnings (even those coming from some very painful endings)!