To be fair, I had not exactly applied myself in finding an attorney - his was the last letter I had received in the mail advertising legal services for people who found themselves in my situation. In fact, I think I chose him for his incompetence, so it would be hypocritical to hold this endearing factor against him. I had been amused at the time that anyone was still sending me these letters, the incident having occurred over a month before. What's more, the tone of the letter had been very relaxed, even casual, and the address had been hastily scribbled on the envelop almost as if it had been completed just as the mailman had knocked at the door.
Of course I realized that I was taking a chance, waging my entire future on the skill of this already unpromising attorney. And maybe that says something about the state of mind I was in. I don't know. I was a little broke, but not as broke as some of the other people I had seen, and I had given up a little hope, but was not yet completely hopeless. So I hired a so-so lawyer, because it was certainly better than not having one at all. Plus, I figured if I was going to spend any more money on this debacle than I had to, it would be after I knew for sure what my fate would be - because winning one of these cases could not be thought of as a real victory, when you consider all the fines and fees one ends up paying.
And that was more or less how the rest of my experience with the justice system went. I was lucky because, for one, I was (and still am!) a girl, and an educated one at that, and you will be surprised by the kinds of free passes you get for simply having gone to college. How less threatening you are for not having been born a man. Maybe I am imagining these things. Maybe I am being primitive and not post- enough or whatever. But this is something that I felt.
I skipped my arraignment - one of the perks of having hired a legal representative, a fact I reminded myself of every time I cut a payment check and thought of all the things I could have been buying. I am pretty sure that this is one of the intended punishments. In fact, I remember one of the policemen at the detention center gleefully informing me that my offense would cost me up to $6,000.
I did, however, go to my pre-trial conference - here, I will admit to having been sincerely concerned, so much so that I had been unable to succumb to anything more than fitful little spells of sleep for about a week before that day. My presence turned out to be completely unnecessary since all the negotiations took place in a back room somewhere, and I spent most of my time watching other people's deliberations. Other people being those who could not afford (or simply did not think it vital) to hire someone to do their dirty work. I was determined to note their every feature, every movement, so I could write about it all at a later time. If this experience was worth anything, it was so I would have something to write about. Stories of my war days. My glory days.