Forward Living Column: Her tale of woe just doesn’t measure up

I received this message from my son Greg, who lives in California: “Mom, I need to talk to you.” Mom-brain snapped to attention: Was my daughter-in-law Julie all right? Was Greg OK? I had to get home, and fast.

While driving home, Mom-brain was spinning scary tales. Then, I heard a bleep, bleep sound and saw a flashing red light through my rearview mirror. I pulled over and … you can guess the rest. How ironic: I didn’t use my cell phone for fear of breaking the law, and I’m one of the folks who complains about cars speeding on Peconic Bay Boulevard.

Fifteen minutes later, I walked through my front door and made a beeline for the phone. Greg and I discussed the matter at hand and then I swiftly dealt with the ticket. I pleaded guilty.

About two weeks later, I received an official letter from the Town of Riverhead. It stated that I had incurred six points on my driver’s license along with a hefty fine; however, I could conference my traffic ticket before the town justice. I called the court clerk and was given a date and time for the conference.

On the appointed day, I drove to court with a la-di-da attitude. After entering the courthouse, I immediately stepped up to the end of a long line. As the line inched forward, I passed through the metal detector, my purse survived its search (I carry too much stuff!) and my la-di-da attitude was gone.

Taking a seat in the courtroom, I thought, “This is the real deal.”

The fellow sitting next to me asked, “Whadjado?”

I quickly replied, “Speeding ticket.” He chuckled and proceeded to disclose his tale of woe.

That morning, I heard many tales of woe. When a recess was called, I had an opportunity to speak with a district attorney. She explained my options, all of which were unnerving.

Right about this time, the lovely gal who serves as a translator walked over to me and asked, “Are you ‘the Ceil’ who writes the column in the paper? I saw your name on the docket.”

“Lordy, lordy,” I thought, “did she say docket?” Wanting to disappear, I nervously answered, “Yes, but I’m only here for a speeding ticket.”

When the court reconvened, I waited anxiously for my name to be called and heard more heartbreaking stories. At one point, some folks in the courtroom snickered. The judge silenced the court by saying something like, show some compassion, everyone has troubles. I was impressed with his own compassion and hoped he had enough left for me.

When I heard my name, I jumped up and faced the judge. The upshot? I received 14 hours of community service and a fine, which will be imposed when I return to court in April.

Tearfully, I called my priest and recited my tale of woe. He told me not to worry; he had plenty of work for me. I vaguely remember the words “indentured servant.”

Frank volunteers on the first Thursday of the month when our parish, Church of the Redeemer, hosts Maureen’s Haven. I tagged along with Frank and began my community service.

Under Frank’s watchful eye, I made numerous pitchers of juice. Other volunteers were busy preparing lunches, setting up tables and heating the donated food. Everything was ready when our guests arrived.

While I was scraping and soaking mountains of dishes, I realized that we volunteers were all our guests had on this very cold night. I wondered what sad tales brought them here.

This whole episode gave me pause. I bumped myself to first class by insisting it was only a speeding ticket when, in reality, I could have maimed someone, hurt myself and caused untold misery to others.

I signed up for another night at Maureen’s Haven; methinks they are serving humble pie.

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.