Go Directly to Jail, Do Pass Go

at the courthouse
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.

The Redwood City map at the courthouse city center has a fake Monopoly map. That rocks! “Go To Jail” is in the lower left-hand corner. The color codes stand for different buildings, with addresses and room numbers written in.

10-year-old Eliz. steeled herself for the unnerving trip into the courthouse, past the metal detector, uniforms, guns, and benevolent smiles. Suddenly I was aware that I looked dubious, my head freshly shaved and my mohawk slicked back – but that Eliz, in a skirt and sandals, hair combed, fresh-faced, clutching a “Google” notebook and a pen, was my ticket to the friendly smiles from cops!

A courthouse employee took the time to look over the public posted dockets with us. “Friday is a slow day. Try Tuesday or Thursdays, when we start jury trials,” she advised us. At courtroom 4A, we hung out a bit in the hallway…. Eliz very nervous at the sign on the door that said “No Children”. Some dude told us that was only meaning young children and that Eliz. would be fine in there, and it was fairly innocuous pre-trial hearings. But after a bit, the bailiff came over and booted us… the Hon. Katherine does not allow any children in her courtroom. She told us some other rooms and judges (especially the female ones) who do allow children as observers.

Eliz was losing it a little bit, though she didn’t show it much outwardly; disobeying! the! rules! Not! Okay!

Finally in room 2A we caught the tail end of some kind of hearing. Two resigned-looking prisoners were led off in orange jumpsuits and handcuffs. For the next 20 minutes or so we listened to some defense lawyers and the judge discuss the character of a convicted burglar who is now in another state, whose fiancee lives here, and who has letters from his minister and employers that he’s turned his life around since 1995 and the burglary, and so he should have probation not jail. Pre-extradition waivers were mentioned; more of his character; the terms of probation. I hoped Eliz. was impressed with the seriousness of the moment as this human being’s fate was decided.

I liked it that she got to see serious unsmiling women speaking with thoughtful authority, & respected. The courthouse is a good field trip for girls or boys.

At some point a social worker explained to us about a law which says that minor drug offenders can’t be sent off to jail but must go to rehab or treatment.

Later I told Eliz. the story of how I got arrested in an airport and thrown in jail for a tiny knife, duller than a letter opener and shorter than my thumb. I didn’t know it was actually an illegal throwing knife! I used it to clean my fingernails and look all punk & stuff. (The arrest was expunged from my record, so I got to explain the lovely word “expunged”.) I left out the part about how much I regretted wearing a miniskirt with no underwear onto an airplane (and then to jail.)

Then we drove off to have some pancakes. Eliz. did a “mashup” for me, which consisted of lists of many elements of my possible future and some arcane calculations. By her mashing and figuration, I will someday drive a white Toyota, will work for BlogHer (!), will wear miniskirts, live in a mansion, and will make $600,000. (A year? over my lifetime? Inquiring minds want to know.) Other elements of life that I suggested other than money, clothing, and car color were rejected: the state of my happiness, soul, relationships, art, creativity, and such-like things did not count!

It was a nice day with her. I felt honored in this weird way, and got to fulfill my promise to take her to the courthouse and on other odd field trips that she chooses.

Now I’m off to play Godzillas for a while before I go out to a couple of parties in the city! (The City = San Francisco.) Yay! Grownups!

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