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By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer
Real men don't pay traffic tickets, at least not without a court order.
We know that tickets are just so much paper until a judge says otherwise. We know that until judgment day it's our word against the officer's, and we know who we're going to trust on that, don't we?
That's how I came to be standing before a stern-looking man in a black robe in the cold, stark Kane'ohe division of the First Circuit of the state's District Court one recent Tuesday morning.
"Just pay the ticket," my wife had said. "What's the big deal?"
The deal is that all men know we drive safely. We were born to it. Are you going to tell a red-blooded American man raised on Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" and Springsteen's "Born to Run" that he doesn't know how to operate a motor vehicle in a safe manner?
Sure, we break the law once in a while. Sometimes, we do 45 in a 35-mph zone. Sometimes, we run a yellow light. Once in a while, we even make rude gestures at other drivers. None of that means we were doing anything illegal, or at least anything dangerous.
"Just pay the ticket," my wife said again. "You're getting yourself worked up over nothing."
Nothing? No way! I wanted justice. In America, we get to confront our accuser. We get to tell it to the judge. We get ...
"You get a larger fine if you don't pay it right away," my wife said.
I wasn't paying any fine, though. I was going to be vindicated by a court of law, if not by a jury of my peers. I was going to march right into that Honolulu courtroom and plead my innocence.
So on my appointed court day, I woke up early, drove for an hour in rush-hour traffic to the wrong court in Honolulu, then broke at least three traffic laws racing back to the Windward side just to make sure that I could have my say.
"So what's the story Mr. Leidemann?" the judge asked. "It says here about 9:15 a.m. on the Pali Highway S-turn you made an unsafe lane change right in front of a police officer, forcing him to swerve and brake."
Confronted with that stern face and the bare facts, I admitted everything, except the unsafe part. I told the judge how I checked the mirror, signaled and then moved into an open space. Really, I was expecting him to throw the book at me, if for no other reason than I was stupid enough to cut in front of a cop, but he surprised me.
"OK, you've got a clean record and an honest face," he said. "I'm dismissing this."
Later, my wife called at work to find out how it went in court.
"Piece of cake," I said. "Like I told you, real men don't pay traffic tickets."