Opinion

My yellow Corvair and the rule of law

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Yesterday’s news of an illegal alien in California “being rewarded with a legal education, membership in the California State Bar, a career as an attorney, and elevation to state office” has me thinking about my yellow 1964 Chevy Corvair.

When I was an 18-year-old lifelong US citizen, I bought a Corvair from a “friend” to drive to-and-from my freshman year at college. New, the Corvair was probably fun to drive. When I owned it, it was awful. Especially the heater. Turned on, the hot air entering the Corvair interior included lots of engine exhaust. Driving without open windows was life-threatening.

Before getting rid of that car, I received from a county police officer a traffic ticket for “insufficient tail lights.” I wasn’t knowingly driving with a broken tail light. Usually, unless someone says, “Hey, your tail light’s not working,” it’s hard to spot.

Fast forward a few months. I was living at home with my parents. We were awakened at 3 a.m. on a Friday by the ringing front doorbell. My father answered the door, thinking something bad happened to my older brother, Craig, while riding his motorcycle. Two county police cruisers were parked in front of the house.

Craig was okay. The police officers arrested me for failing to take care of my insufficient tail light ticket. My fault. Out of sight, out of mind. With the Corvair gone I forgot about that ticket until the cops arrested me.

Even though I had no prior arrests, I was handcuffed behind my back, then escorted to the back seat of a police car. At the police precinct I was handcuffed to a chair for questioning. I remember two of the officer’s questions. “You smoke marijuana, right?”

“No,” I said.

“Well, you must drink now and then, right?” he asked.

“No,” I said. Both answers were true.

Meanwhile, the form questions the policeman was filling out were much different, something like, Does the detainee appear to use drugs? Does the detainee appear to use alcohol?

After fingerprinting, I was led to a jail cell. Other guys occupied nearby cells. After several hours the police emptied the jail cells, moving everyone into a paddy wagon. The paddy wagon traveled 40 miles to the county courthouse where we were moved to a large rectangular holding cell full of guys waiting to appear before a judge. I knew one guy from high school. Surprised to see me, he asked me, “What did you do?” to get arrested.

“I didn’t pay a ticket for insufficient tail lights,” I said. He chuckled. “How come you’re in here?” I asked.

“Ah,” my schoolmate explained, “I got in a fight with a guy and broke his jaw on a parking meter.”

I stayed in that cell all Friday morning and afternoon. Word filtered into the cell from somewhere that anyone unable to see the judge before close of court that day would spend the weekend in Riverhead County Jail, and appear before the judge Monday. As the holding cell ranks dwindled I grew worried. I did not want to spend the weekend in jail.

The day went down to the wire, but finally I was brought before the judge. I pleaded guilty. The judge asked if I had money to pay the fine. I said, “Yes.” My brother, Craig, had driven out to Riverhead with money to get me out of jail and to drive me home.

It was a good life lesson I never want to repeat.

And I remember that day whenever I read or hear about government officials, and illegal immigrants, who not only break laws, but mock America’s rule of law, and, at a minimum, walk away scot-free. I’m betting millions more American citizens are doing likewise with their own ’64 Corvair-esque treatment with the law.

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited AsMaineGoes.com and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.

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