Weary of the Wood Panelled Walls
It's starting to rain. The wind is howling in my ears and my legs are on fire as I pump my way up 'The Hill,' as I call it; a massive beast of a thing in my eight mile route, all black tar, flying cars, and nothing but some sweet elevation. As I crest over the top I take it real slow. So slow, in fact, that for about a minute I'm a balancing act as I wait for a gap in the cars. There it is! A break in the madness. Immediately after the last car passes I hear the flicks and clicks as the derailleur does it's work, throwing my bike into the lowest gear possible to make my descent. It's a little work at first, even though the road is sloping downward, but soon enough I'm flying down the other side of the hill as equally fast as the cars in front of me. I'm all adrenaline right now. Everything in my life is quickly left at the top of the hill and forgotten about as my speed brings a forgotten thrill to my soul. Didn't I just get off work? Wasn't it a graveyard shift? Aren't I almost broke? None of these things mattered to me in that moment, but as my momentum broke and the next big hill began it's taunt, those are the things my mind began to ponder.
How did I get here, you ask? No, I did not choose to suddenly take up biking in the middle of fall, and no, my van is not having any issues. I'll have you know Vinny is doing just fine at the moment.
In all honesty, this moment in time is directly related to a decision I made a little over eight months ago, when I chose to drive away - believing the car I had just barely bumped into did not have any damage. Well apparently I was wrong, for as I pulled into the Nike ES parking lot after the fact, I got out to check. Sure enough, there was a small dent in my car.
The damage doesn't make any physical sense, really. Both my bumper and the bumper of the brand new Cadillac Escalade were perfectly alright, though somehow their taillight had been cracked. Do I think I did it? Yes. Would I drive away if I knew I had done any damage? Absolutely not. Especially considering I was six months away from completing my probation, and getting a hit-and-run would constitute as a probation violation - which would really screw me.
But wouldn't you know, that's what ended up happening anyway! It turned out there was a witness to the accident, he reported me, the cop cited me with a hit-and-run misdemeanor, and I was going to be screwed. It didn't have to be this way though! Once my insurance fixed the Escalade (later that same week,) my lawyer and I reached out to the Cadillac's owner Martha, and pleaded to settle this with a civil compromise. Essentially: 'I'm sorry for hitting your car. Is there anything I can do that would help alleviate the situation? Oh yes Joe some more money would be swell, let's call it a thousand dollars, just 'cause I'm feeling generous. Ok Martha, done.' Shake hands, walk away.
But no. This Martha lady refused my offer to a civil compromise after she dug into my life and found out I have a felony. She judged me before she ever even heard my voice.
Court was pushed out after the initial date. Then it was pushed out again. And again. And again. I lost track of exactly how many false court dates I showed up to, but it has been dragging on for the last eight months until finally, (FINALLY) it was settled on Thursday. 48 hours of community service, $250 fine, 18 months bench probation, 2.5 years formal probation (I was originally sentenced to 5 years, but I was doing so spectacular they cut it to 2.5 - which was supposed to be done August 19th. Because of this, they tacked the other half back on;) and lastly, my licence suspended for three months. All because I made the mistake of not getting out of my car to really check for damage.
I hope Martha is happy. She got what she wanted. But really, I feel bad for her. She wouldn't make eye contact in the courtroom, the whole time we were there. Not even once! This tells me she is either scared of me (not likely,) or she feels guilty for some reason. Any reason, doesn't matter. But I feel bad for her because she is probably going through such a hard time right now. I mean, when she was on the stand she stated how awful her life was at the time, and I quote: "When we walked back to the car we saw it right away. My Cadillac! I had just bought it two weeks ago and the taillight was cracked!"
Rough life, woman.
In all honesty though this lady doesn't know me. She probably sees me as malicious felon with complete disregard for other people's property. I can't judge her for that, or at all, actually. I'm no one perfect, and while I would be much easier going than her in a reversed situation, I would probably act similarly. I think in a small way we all would. So if you ever read this Martha, I just want you to know. I forgive you.
I have found that over time life has been throwing a decent amount of punches at me. Nothing as bad as losing a friend or family member, but I've definitely had a couple crappy things happen in my life, and now I know how to handle them.
As I sat in the courtroom listening to this judge who did not care about my case find me guilty, I listened to her list off my punishment. My first thought was 'damn, this sucks.' Immediately afterwards though, I started thinking of my options, since my license was being revoked. I wasn't going to lose my job over this, so I have to make it to work. I know, a bike! The judge hadn't even finished talking to me and I was getting excited about my upcoming purchase. I really don't have money for a bike, but if I didn't fork the money out my savings I might lose my job.
So two days later after covering two straight graveyard shifts with an eight mile ride on both sides, I found myself climbing that next hill. I thought about it, and I wondered if I could focus on these hills like I do when I get another punch thrown at me. I quit thinking about the negatives going on (even though it is super easy when you're climbing a hill,) and instead focused on my absolute favorite part of the day I lost my license.
It happened as the judge was telling me I was guilty of my hit-and-run. She was going on about all the reasons the witness, the police who took the report, and the District Attorney's testimonies were 'credible'. Bla bla bla. Then she turned to me, and in one beautiful moment she said "And Mr. Keller, for these reasons I find you in-credible, and therefore find you guilty of failure to perform the duties of a driver."
She called me incredible!! I couldn't believe my ears, and as I stood there getting more punishment slapped on me, I couldn't help but laugh.
And you know what? I made it up the second hill before I realized I just how fast I had done it.