What is the difference between Lindsay Lohan and me? She is young, rich and famous and I am old, miserly and unknown. Another difference between us is that she stole an expensive necklace and got arrested for it, and I did not. But I did make a righthand turn at a red light, and was captured on video tape doing so. I don't know if Ms. Lohan has ever done this, but most of Los Angeles has, or else we'd all be sitting at a dead standstill.
So what is the same about Lindsay Lohan and me? We've both been sentenced to Community Service. Another difference: She is fulfilling her Community Service by working as a janitor at a morgue, while I am carrying out my Community Service by volunteering at a youth center in Echo Park. I'd rather do my Community Service over hers, so I totally trump her there.
Almost two years ago, way back in March of 2010, I made a rolling righthand turn at an intersection where the light had turned red 1/10th of a second too late. In other words, I did not come to an absolute, complete stop at the red light before preceding to the right. I know for a fact that I looked both ways before I did this because I always make sure I carefully look both ways before turning right ever since that time I hit a pregnant woman, but that is another story... The unfortunate part of this whole thing is that I was photographed while not coming to a complete stop, and a few weeks later I received a red light camera ticket for $446! Which seemed to both Sparky and I to be an inexcusably exorbitant amount of money. So I called the number and protested, and they gave me an extension plus a court date - a victorious 15 months later. They told me about the appointment - and I really did write it down, but I somehow lost it, and then forgot all about it. So when I didn't pay the fine or show up in person to contest it, I was sent a rather nasty bill from collections. When I called to explain how I lost the original date (they really should give you a reminder notice or phone call for fuck sake) they gave me another extension, which was eight months in the future. This time I vowed to not forget.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times printed a couple of interesting news story, first "L.A. Traffic Cameras May Get the Red Light", and then a month later "L.A. City Council Shuts Down Red-light Cameras". Which gave me hope of not having to pay the ginormous fine. But then I started doing research on-line, and found a rumor that stated that the city was going after all unpaid fines in order to recoup their losses. So that meant I would have to go to court and talk to The Judge. I firmly believed that I would be able to get out of it ... because how could they get money out of a Miser like me?
All of which led to standing in a very long line on my appointed court date to finally see The Judge. I then had to sit through a lot of other either guilty and/or not guilty people who had all committed/not committed various traffic violations. After a very long wait it was my turn, and I decided to plead No Contest just to get the goddamn thing over with. The Judge was very nice, I explained my situation to her, protesting the fact that the red light program was no longer in effect. She was very sympathetic and told me that I could do Community Service instead of paying that ridiculous fine. Hurrah! How bad could that be? I figured I would work a day or so doing something like clerical work and be done with it. But that wasn't the case. Instead, I had to stand in another very long line with all of the other poor saps who were also sentenced to Community Service. And when it was finally my turn, I found out that I would be forced to fulfill fifty four hours of Community Service. Which is the equivalent of being paid $8.26 an hour for over a week's worth of labor. Which is 26 cents above the minimum wage in the great state of California. (Now who could live off of such a miserly wage? Not this Miser.)
I've since had to go back and stand in more lines in order to obtain my assignment, which is at the Echo Park Youth Center. I haven't started yet but I don't think it will be very hard completing my Community Service hours there. In fact, I'm actually looking forward to it! I'm going into this whole thing with a positive attitude for once, and I'm thinking that if I like it I may just volunteer there on a regular basis (and not just because I'm being punished for making a rolling righthand turn against a red light). At least I don't have to go to traffic school. Or pick up trash on the side of the freeway wearing an orange jump suit. Plus I got out of paying $446 bucks. So I'm thinking that this may just be a win-win situation after all because it beats working as a janitor at the county morgue like Lindsay Lohan.