My [almost] arrest

An old adage that is said to be mistakenly attributed to Mark Twain says not to let the truth stand in the way of a good story. I almost had a great story last Thursday. Too bad the final result was much too mundane.

If matters had not turned in my favor, I would have called the office to tell them I won’t be able to come in as I had been arrested and needed somebody to post bail and spring me from prison. Well, I don’t really know if I had to post bond or just pay a fine but you get the gist. A lot of people would have rejoiced. Too bad things turned out okay.

I was renewing my car insurance and registration and one of the insurance requirements was my traffic history. So after paying the fees at the Guma Hustitia, I was directed to “Door No. 1” to obtain my traffic history. Cut and dried, right? Only to be informed, almost apologetically, by the staff that there was an outstanding bench warrant for my arrest due to an unpaid traffic violation. Well, powder me with sugar and call me a doughnut but I was floored! A friend who was helping me with the registration had the same experience last year and was handcuffed on the spot, so images of me in cuffs went flashing through my mind like a five-second video reel. And since I currently use an assistive device to get around, the thought of being led away in cuffs while I’m holding on to a cane and trying to keep my balance set off laugh tracks in my mind like a ghastly scene from a sitcom.

I racked my brain as to what traffic ticket I had left unpaid and I came up with nothing. I asked when the traffic ticket was issued and was told that it dated back to 2014! I do remember getting a ticket then as one of my headlights had conked out but I distinctly remember settling that by paying the fine. I remember because I had just gotten my rebate check and felt bad about using that money to pay off the fine. But that was three years ago! I have already thrown away my receipt for that transaction. How come the issue is just coming up now?

Thankfully, the Guma Hustitia staff checked with somebody else on the phone and, thankfully, that other person had a record of me paying the fine, together with the official receipt number. So whew! If I could whistle, I would have whistled with relief. The staff cleared my record, gave me my traffic history, and sent me on my way. Hopefully, the same problem doesn’t crop up when I renew my registration next year but, had I been arrested, I could just imagine composing the headline—Tribune editor…arrested!

•••

Next up was renewing my car registration at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. In fairness, that process was fast, with my friend getting in and out in record time (I stayed in the car and waited for him).

Thank God for mobile data as the next transaction took much longer than expected. I was almost done with the day’s New York Times crossword puzzle before he returned. I was applying for a vehicle plate card that would allow me to use the blue parking space for people with disabilities and I had a doctor’s certificate for that but I was told that my friend, who submitted my request to BMV, was asked if the application was for a U.S. citizen. Regardless of whether I am or not, I don’t think that is supposed to be part of the process. I don’t think federal law allows anyone to ask that question; it verges too close to discrimination.

I did eventually get the plate but the process that was supposed to be an open-and-shut case took much longer than anticipated and appeared like a violation of federal rule. It’s like when somebody calls me on the phone to verify the employability of a former employee. There are some questions where I respond that federal law prohibits me from answering them. Still, to have a CNMI government employee ask a question about my immigration status made it appear as if having a plate that would allow me to park in a blue parking lot is a privilege reserved only for citizens. The fact that I would lose in a rapid-walking contest does not play into it. And no, I don’t feel entitled. I don’t feel slighted by the fact that many able-bodied people now get away with parking in handicapped zones.

•••

Of course my mini-drama is nothing to the tragedy of other, much bigger things that are happening on the world stage. On the one hand, the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya that has driven nearly 400,000 to flee from Myanmar to Bangladesh in the past three weeks makes one despair about the cruelty of man against his fellow men. Then you have news about the escalating threat of an attack from North Korea, with the dismaying projection that the reclusive nation is at the cusp of developing nuclear weapons. Against that backdrop was Friday’s end of the NASA’s Cassini spacecraft when it made a fiery, final dive into the planet Saturn after an astonishing journey of 20 years. In between were news of a terrorist attack in London, violent protests in St. Louis, American diplomats being sickened in Cuba, and more tropical storm warnings elsewhere in the world. Makes you wanna wish for a dose of fake news, right?

Jayvee Vallejera Vallejera
Jayvee Vallejera is a 21-year journalism veteran and has been with Saipan Tribune for 14 years.

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