A prayer for judgment isn’t what it sounds like.

Or maybe it is, I don’t know. I imagine a supplicant on his knees, hands stretching toward whomever is doing the judging. Instead, it’s a way of postponing sentencing in traffic violations in North and South Carolina. You go to court and instead of making a guilty or innocent plea, ask for a prayer for judgment. If it’s granted, you aren’t sentenced, but if you commit a similar offense within a certain time period after, you are automatically sentenced for both offenses. Or something like that, I’m not quite clear on it.

On a recent East Coast road trip, I was passing through North Carolina and didn’t notice a speed limit change. Apparently it’s a common spot for that, as there was an officer waiting to ticket me immediately after the sign. He stopped me, we chatted a little bit, he gave me a ticket for 20 over. He was a nice sort, really, just doing his job and all that. It turns out a 20 over offense is automatically given a court date in NC, and I live quite far away. I should have known better than to ask what he recommended I do about the ticket. He suggested that I wait until the week of my court date and call the clerk’s office to request a prayer for judgment. I really should have known better.

In the pre-law school days, I got a speeding ticket or two, but where I lived before, you were able to resolve most things over the phone. There were no automatic court dates (showing up to court for a traffic ticket? absurd, unless you were contesting it!) Really. Should have known better.

This morning, I called the clerk. I explained my situation (live quite far away, have summer exams and interviews, cannot possibly show up for court date) and asked if she could help me. When she took my citation number, she let out an audible gasp. This was my first sign that I shouldn’t have listened to the officer. It turns out they cannot do anything over the phone. They can’t even continue the court date so I can show up later. I would have to show up in person to tell them that I cannot be there.

Or else, have someone else show up for me.

I guess today is a milestone for me. Today is the first time I ever hired an attorney. It feels ridiculous even to admit that I had to do this, as it’s something I could have handled completely on my own. You know, if I didn’t have an exam in four days. I don’t even remember the name of the damn attorney’s office, absurd, right? So now, my attorney (hehe… “MY attorney”) will be showing up to the clerk’s office this week to let them know that I cannot be there, that it needs to be continued, and then will show up again in a month to request a prayer for judgment. All for more money than I can afford, but less money than it would take for me to get there myself.

My fat little dog is sleeping on her back, on the bed beside me, tummy soft, all four legs pointed at the sky. She’s snoring a little, and when I shift my weight on the bed, she stretches and yawns a few times before falling back to sleep. Sweet, peaceful, soft.

I never relax anymore.