Back in October, I was on my way downtown to the library to pick up some music for my kids, and to stop by Fligner’s for stuff for dinner. I’m on Oberlin Avenue, and I get stopped for the light at Meister. I’m the second car back in the outside lane. While I’m waiting, a bus stops next to me, also waiting for the light to change. Its front end is even with my door. ‘Please don’t let me get stuck behind this bus’, I’m thinking. Light turns green and the first two cars get rolling. I hit the gas and I’m watching the bus in my side mirror. Going through the intersection, I’m ahead of it, but not by much. Traffic’s not moving any faster than the posted limit of 25, partly because the guy in front of me is talking, very animatedly, on his cell phone.
I’m now coming up on the “Merge” sign in front of Sunoco, and I’m looking at the bus in my side mirror, 75% of my truck is ahead of it, with its nose even with my rear wheel well. And she’s inching closer. ‘All you gotta do is tap your breaks, or be the least bit courteous’, I’m thinking, ‘and all is well and good.’ If I stop, the way she’s driving, she’s going to take off my front end. The guy in front of me is still jawing on his cell phone, waving his arms and looking like he’s trying to fly. WTH?
Suddenly, the back end of my truck is lifted up and bounced. I look at my side mirror and that damn driver decided she was going to be a -itch. I pull over on W. 29th St to call the police and inspect the damage. My left rear wheel well is peeled back like a can opener went at it. The officer arrives, takes some pics, passes out paperwork for everyone to fill out, and informs me he’ll be in touch.
Almost a week later, I stop by City Hall to pick up a copy of the accident report, and find I’m cited for a moving violation: failure to use caution when changing lanes. What a crock. I ask for the officer and we talk. He says it was difficult for the prosecutor to come to a decision because the vehicles were moved (I couldn’t sit there and block traffic waiting for a cop, I mean, come on! Oberlin Avenue northbound blocked just north of Meister Road? That’s a disaster waiting to happen.)
So he explains a couple things to me, and I complain about the HUGE LIE the bus driver, Ms. T. Nelson, wrote on her report: “truck came and tried to beat us at the merge and he side swiped us.” He smiles and explains how I can fight the citation.
I wait weeks for the envelope in the mail, and find my court date falls in the middle of a set of night shifts. Great. I come home that morning from work, sleep a little more than 2 hours, and get up and go to court. Pleading ‘not guilty’, I get ANOTHER court date. What the hell? Really? I have to come back? Asking for a date as soon as possible, I leave and try to go back to sleep. What a pain.
Monday, December 10th, I show up at 9am, for a 9:30 bench trial with Judge Mihok. At 10:15, I’m still waiting when an INTERN comes and asks to speak to me outside the courtroom. He offers a $75 fine in lieu of a trial. Excuse me, but are you telling me I don’t have a chance? $75 now, or I run the risk of a $150 fine if the judge finds me guilty and, in a roundabout way, informs me that the judge tends to lean towards buses with kids on them in cases like these. (What a crock of $hit!) So, my choice is to pay $75 OR roll a set of dice where the only outcome is snake eyes, and pay $150. (For two weeks, I’ve been going over in my head what I would say in court, and suddenly find that I’d have a better chance of winning if I talked to the fish in Lake Erie.) Screw it. Christmas is coming, bills to pay, $75 beats $150 for a fine any day of the week.
A few minutes later, a woman comes to take me to the Clerk’s office to pay my fine. $75 plus court costs. Whoa!!! Court costs? What are court costs? (I didn’t get to say Jack Squat in court except ‘not guilty’ and “as soon as possible” and I have to pay COURT COSTS???) She says she doesn’t know and that I can set up a payment plan, if necessary.
To say that I’m steamed right now would be a disservice to clams and oysters everywhere. $125 in court costs. And I didn’t even get a chance to defend myself. What a crock of crap. Asking for a receipt (after I found out there would be an extra $25? $50? per payment if I couldn’t pay in full right now), I look at the listing for “court costs”.
Court costs are $43.50. Miscellaneous costs are $76.50. Here’s the breakdown, and if anyone knows what any of these abbreviations are, please feel free to fill me in.
Local cost – 6.50
Legal Res – 3.00
Comp Fund -10.00
Comp Imp – 5.00
Victim Cr – 9.00
JA – 5.00
DEFC – 3.50
IATC – 1.50
So, thanks, City of Lorain and its related court system, for my due process. Get screwed, or get screwed harder. Wow, what a choice!
I’d also like to thank Ms. T. Nelson, driver for First Student Charters, for lying because you were too damn rude, lacking in courtesy, and too irresponsible to admit fault, or to even avoid this whole mess by TAPPING YOUR BRAKES so I could go on my way. And thank whomever you brought with you on the 10th to “vouch for” you, or to ‘bear witness” for you. Don’t know if it was Megan, Claude, Charity, Sarah, Victor, Kenneth, Yesenia, Cory, Mark, Teauna, Marrella or Kevin (all aged 26+), but it’s pretty pathetic (though why should I expect otherwise?) to bring in your friends to lie for you, too. In time, I’ll forgive you for being that kind of person, but it won’t be right now. Not until long after I lay out a few more hundred bucks to fix my truck.
And for the record, I drove a bus for 4 years for the University of Toledo, and for another 3-4 months for Elyria City Schools. I KNOW what it’s like, I’ve seen the way drivers cut in front of buses, and what it takes to stop a bus, how easy it is to be courteous and everything else that’s involved with being behind the wheel of one.
I also know how to drive responsibly, since in my almost 30 years of driving, this is the FIRST ACCIDENT I’VE HAD.
I also know how to tell the truth. My sincerest condolences on your lack of a conscience.
UPDATE: I just received a phone call from my insurance company informing me that some scumbag SOB on the bus has retained an attorney, claiming they were injured. Are you flipping KIDDING ME?! MY truck was LIFTED off the ground by the bus, and someone on the BUS was injured? I hope the judge slaps the snot out of this person. Lorain, you have achieved a whole new low.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Received a follow-up call from my agent. She assured me that this happens all the time, and not to sweat it. She informed me that at the time of the accident, the passengers on the bus, as well as the driver, told the police officer that no one was injured. Hope this person gets -itch-slapped by the court. Someone tell me how much impact my 4200# truck would have made by being sideswiped by a 24,000# bus? Traveling at 25 mph??