Browsing Archives for Small Town Stories

The Pyro Crew

July 11th, 2008

Every Fourth of July. our small town hosts the most spectacular fireworks show in the area.

It is planned, organized, designed, built, and set off by a volunteer group of local men known as the Pyro Crew.

This year the fireworks show was moved from it’s old location in the City Park to the brand new ballfields, which meant that the show could be even bigger, louder, and that even more people could watch it from the surrounding soccer fields and hillsides.

Because I am a very serious blogger and am also practically dripping with investigative reporting skills, I went down to the ballfields on the morning of the Fourth to interview the guys about the process of being a member of the Pyro Crew.

They told me a lot of things about all the planning…

and the organizing…
and the technical difficulties…
and the paperwork…

But mostly…
I just noticed how cool their shirts were.

And it made me want to be a part of the Pyro Crew so that I could have a Pyro Crew shirt.

But I don’t think they are going to let me join them.

Because after talking with them for quite a while… all I really remember is this one little detail…

The Pyro Crew uses pipes like the one pictured above to light the fuses on the firework thingys…  
I asked them how long they had after they lit the fuse to get away.

They told me you have about one second.
Then they said…
You don’t get away….  

You just try and duck down a little bit…
After that I decided that I don’t really want to be on the Pyro Crew after all.

But that is okay…

Because the world of investigative journalism needs me much more.

My Day in Court by CDW

January 8th, 2008

My appointment with the municipal judge was scheduled for five-o-clock in the afternoon.  Right around four, I started to get jittery.  I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find my tag receipt which was my only proof of having paid for my expired tag.  I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find the ticket the officer had given me which I needed to give to the judge.  I worried that I had the wrong time and kept checking and re-checking the e-mail that the clerk had sent to me with the new time and date.  I made a cup of tea to calm myself down and then left the house with plenty of time to find the municipal court.  Never having been accused of a crime before, I wasn’t sure where it was.

Note to readers – we live in a small town.  Our municipal court is located in our police station which used to be the library which moved across the street to a building that used to be a bank.  The bank moved out to the highway across the road from the new hardware store which used to be downtown, but got torn down to make a larger parking lot for the Methodist church. 
When I arrived at the police station/court/former library – the entrance hallway was crowded with several people.  I quickly located the small courtroom and sat down.  Three other people were already in the room.
“Is this the only courtroom?”  I asked a lady that was already seated when I arrived.
“Yes,” she paused a minute and then added, “they usually start right on time.”
“Oh good.” I said wondering what kind of hardened criminal gets to be so experienced about court start times and why such an unsavory character was wearing a nurse’s scrub uniform.
Five-o-clock came and went.  More people filed into the room and took seats.  A thin man with impressive horn rims and a tie came in and sat at a long table in front of the judge’s bench.   He turned out to be an attorney.   
The judge came in at about ten after five.  He sat down and immediately began to rattle off courtroom factoids about pleas, arraignments, representation, remaining silent, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.  
The judge called the first person forward.  
It wasn’t me.
That’s when I realized that everyone in the room was going to be on trial together.  We all had the same five-o-clock appointment.  The judge read off the crimes of which the person standing in front of him was accused.  This person stood awkwardly in front of the judge balancing on one foot and then the other, trying to find a place for his hands.  The judge asked the person for a plea and the person said, “guilty”.  
I had read (on the internet) that you should never admit guilt in a courtroom.  Even if you are guilty, you should say “no contest”.  I was a little concerned about that person admitting guilt to the judge, but I reserved my right to remain silent.
Several more people got up before the judge and had their crimes read publicly and then plead either guilty or not guilty.  No one said “no contest”.  I started to get a little nervous about my courtroom strategy.
Finally, my name was called.  I got up before the judge.  He cited the violation for which I had been accused which was operating a motor vehicle with an expired tag.  He stated that the maximum penalty for my crime was either thirty days in the county jail or twenty five hundred dollars.  I started to sweat profusely at that point.  
I handed my tag receipt and my ticket to the attorney.  The judge asked me how I wanted to plea.  
“No contest.” I said.
“No contest?” the judge asked.
“Yes… no contest.”  I repeated.  I did not mention that I had learned this answer from the internet.
“If this case were to go to trial, do you think you would be found guilty?”
“I… well… I don’t know…” I said.
“Do you think the county has a clear case against you?” he asked again.
“Well…I… um… I really don’t know Your Honor…”
I wanted to say, “Do you have a crystal ball?  Can I whip out my tarot cards?  Do you mind if I conduct a seance to find out?”   I mean heck… the County Treasurer sent the renewal to our old address, but managed to send renewals for the truck as well as outrageous real estate valuations to our new address.  Is it my fault they don’t cross check these things?  Is it my fault that I don’t sit around chewing my nails every year until my tag renewal shows up in the mail? It’s not like I don’t have anything else to do!  There are walls at which to stare! There are ceiling fans that need me! 
The Judge said, “I need a yes or a no.”
“What…?” I asked.
“I need to either enter a yes or no to my question,” he stated, “Do you think a trial would result in a guilty verdict?”
“Oh” I said, “um… well… I guess.”
“Okay,” the judge sighed, “I will take an ‘I guess’ for a yes.”   
He bent over his desk to write something down, probably:  this defendant is a complete moron, while the attorney looked over my receipt.  
After a few seconds the attorney looked at the judge and said, “The city moves to dismiss the charges against the defendant.”
I didn’t even have to cry or beg or rent my clothes or scrape my boils in a pit of ashes or… or.. or anything!
The judge then asked me why I had not paid my tags on time.
“Well your honor, we moved…  and the notice did not come to our house… we got the truck notice…  but we bought the truck after we moved…  so I guess it is registered under our new address…  and I just didn’t think about the van…” I stammered.
He then looked me over and said, “weren’t you supposed to be here a few weeks ago?”
My face turned bright red and I stuttered, “Uh… yes… I just got the uh… the wrong date in my head… and uh… well… I am easily flustered.
I have no idea why I said I am easily flustered.  Maybe I should have just said… I am easily an idiot… but I think the judge already knew that.
The judge went on to explain that the reason the penalties for expired tags are so high in our county is because the same statute that covers an expired tag also covers a blah blah blah bl

ah blah…

“Oh… um… well… yes… okay… thanks…” I said wondering when the hell I could leave.
The judge grew silent.  
I smiled at him and at the attorney and said, “thanks” again.  
Then I grabbed my bag and FLED THE COURTROOM.  
What can I say … I am easily flustered.
The end.

I rented four movies this week. That’s right FOUR! Two for my boys – so that on Thursday I could send my children down to the bleak basement to watch a movie while I had the girls over for Bunko. Then I rented two more for myself, as a coping device to try and stave off a hideously busy weekend which included a dress rehearsal and the performance of a local fundraiser/variety show. On Sunday, my children’s choir sang and ACH OY! am I dead yet?

I rented the movies under the delusion that I would squeeze them in sometime before they were due back on Sunday night at 8 pm which has come and gone and I still have not watched them. Now I am suffering post traumatic renter’s late fee stress disorder sydrome.

In our small town there are three options for movie rentals. One – drive fifteen miles to Manhattan and rent a movie with little to no worries about retuning them in a timely manner. Two – rent them from what we call “The Other Movie Store” which is a somewhat frightening place with a display case full of knives and lots of other weirdness. If you are a minute late returning the films from “The Other Movie Store” they call and let you know. There is often a small yipping dog on a chain that likes to come ripping around the register whenever a customer comes in at “The Other Movies Store”. But sometimes I go there, because I don’t want to pay the ludicrous fines that so quickly compound at the local grocery store.

Renting from the local grocery store is a very pleasant shopping experience. The store is clean, well organized, no yipping dogs, no knives, but I do have to endure the choking, coughing, gagging, reflex from the teenage cashier every time they bring up our account and tell how much I owe in late fees.

“Uh…um… ma’am…you… uh… owe…ahem…uh…six thousand nine hundred and eighty two dollars and twenty three cents in late fees…ahem… do you wanna pay that now???”

So I have done it again. Rented another movie that I still have not watched and now I have four movies that are past due. Tomorrow I will forget to return them as that is laundry day and I am soooo dedicated to that particular task. Tuesday I help out in Jack’s classroom in the morning and then I spend the afternoon recovering. Wednesday I panic for eight solid hours about my children’s choir and then I have to actually show up to direct it. Thursday…hmmmm…I think Thursday is the day I am scheduled to stare into space and get sidetracked from dusk to dawn. Friday – drive to Manhattan and rent some movies.

So you can see – I am far too productive of a person to bother with movie returns. These late fees are just a by product of a fascinating life and it is a cross that I must bear.

I know I know – Net Flicks. Let’s just all say it together! Net Flicks. I am still contemplating that one. I keep waiting for the ceiling fans to give me the answer. Until then, the local grocery store will continue to make a mint off of me and my late fees. I call it supporting your local business. I am just a never ending font of do-gooderness.