Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Endings, the ones you know are coming, are never what you had supposed they would be.  Sometimes, another day passes and what you were, you aren’t.  Sometimes there is fanfare and a big to-do, but when the door closes, life on the other side keeps going without you. It’s up to you to figure out what to do with this side. And sometimes what you thought would be ending, doesn’t.

What I’ve enjoyed the most about my husband’s retirement from the Justice Court bench is that there will be no more middle of the night phone calls asking for a search warrant. That’s an ending I can sleep right through, night after night.

Today I accompanied my husband on the last day of his monthly stint as Cannon Beach Municipal Judge.  However, what was supposed to be his last court day, wasn’t. Instead, he was asked to come again next month because his replacement has not yet been chosen.  We didn’t know that, though, before court, so I sat through court and watched him preside for what we both thought was his last time. 

He asked a young man to take off his hat in respect for the court.  The kid had gotten a ticket for taking his parents’ car without their permission, and driving.  He wasn’t apologetic for that at all.  Will I sound like an old geezer if I say that no one teaches manners anymore?  Even geezier if I say no one teaches the difference between right and wrong?

I remember (yep, here it comes) back in 1968 when I began teaching in Burns, Oregon.  The judge, who was also the judge for the neighboring county, came once a month and the first thing I learned in that town was that the judge was loved and feared.  Everyone wanted to behave just to not have to appear before him.  The courtroom had to be absolutely silent during all the proceedings (not even whispering) and men had to remove their hats.  If either rule was disobeyed, he shouted at them and sent them from the courtroom.  A standard for proper behavior was set and expected.  If parents didn’t teach that, or teachers, or Sunday school teachers, someone did.  People still made poor choices regarding right and wrong as they have since Adam and Eve, otherwise why would there be need for a court of law?  But everyone with a lick of sense in Harney County took off his hat and shut his mouth in that courtroom. And they wore decent clothing as well.  No tank tops with rather indelicate language and logos splashed across the front.  My judge has had to ask young men to turn their offensive shirts inside out and leave their manure-laden barn boots in the hallway.  But, I digress.

Another young man appearing before my husband today had not done any of the work he was supposed to do in order for his MIP to be dropped, not a lick of it in seven months.  He asked for another month in which to complete his assignments.  He said he’d been moving to another city, and settling in, looking for a job. The judge was not pleased with the young man’s laissez-faire attitude but gave him another month, along with a reminder of the six-month jail sentence he would receive should he not comply. The judge did not comment on the young man’s earring holes the size of 50-cent pieces.  Self-torture is not against the law in Cannon Beach, I guess.

I remember (yep, once again) when one of my students returning from traffic court told me she believed no judge should never let off first-time speeding or MIP offenders because then all they learn is that they can do something at least twice and get away with it. Out of the mouths of…teens. And SHE had just gotten away with speeding for the second time.  I think she was wise beyond her years.  A terrible driver, yes, but wise. This is what I learned from my parents: NO! means NO!  The truth is, difficult as it is to stick to what you say as a parent, teacher or official, those receiving the NO! appreciate, sooner or later, that big STOP sign at the end of their noses. 

Yes, I digressed again.  After all, I didn’t get in trouble for it the first time.

The docket contained more miscreants and scalawags who either expected to be forgiven for driving 68 mph in a 55 mph zone “because it’s impossible to see my dashboard when it’s dark” or who just admitted their guilt and paid their fine. The court room finally emptied of all save the judge, the city attorney, the clerk and me.  Just when the judge prepared to adjourn the court, the city attorney worried that the woman in the red coat way in the back had not been heard.  The judge said, “That’s my wife.”

That has happened every time I’ve gone to watch my husband perform his duties.  Apparently to every attorney and official of the court, I look like a rogue, a scofflaw, a knavette.  An antique delinquent. 

The last day that wasn’t a last day yet ended with a laugh.

No comments: