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J.R. Buchanan

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A heap of trouble

One evening more than twenty years ago a friend and I were cruising in my car up Madison avenue on the south side of Indianapolis. This was "the" cruising street at the time.

Suddenly the engine died, along with the stereo and lights. This was accompanied by a strong burning odor.

I coasted into a K-Mart (or was it a Target?) parking lot and came to a stop. It didn't take long to find the trouble, the primary wire from the battery had come off and shorted to the frame.

As I was lying under the car tying it up out of the way, someone kicked my feet and said something to the effect of "You're in a heap of trouble boy!"

I crawled out to see a cop with a real attitude staring down at me. "Do you have anything in this car I should know about?" "No." "We'll see about that."

He proceeded to search the car from front to back making a horrible mess, and finding nothing.

He wound up giving us a stern lecture on how dangerous it was to drive at night without headlights and would not listen to my pleas that it was an electrical failure, he just yelled every time I tried to say anything.

He left after writing a ticket for driving at night without headlights.

I decided to fight this in court, it was ridiculous.

I went before the judge, and the first thing he said was, "Were you in a moving vehicle with no headlights on Madison Avenue at such and such a time?" I said, "Yes, but..." He interrupted with, "One more word and you'll be in contempt of court, Guilty! Next!".

I was almost dragged to the clerk where I paid my fine.

If I were in the same situation today, I think I would have answered "No", and then maybe I could have explained. On the other hand things might have gone worse, as I would have technically been telling a lie in court.

I'd learned that trying to represent yourself in court was a bad idea unless you wanted to be railroaded around. I suppose a lawyer for an inexpensive ticket would be a bad idea financially. Sometimes you just can't win.