Being Religious? $20
I attend this gathering of Humanists called the Humanist Contemplatives Club. We meet at the Rothko chapel each month. The Rothko Chapel is sort of a multi-faith chapel used for many reasons. The Contemplatives Club is about exploring a more 'spiritual' aspect of naturalistic Humanism, so we chose the Chapel because it's a very serene and beautiful location.
Anyway, I come out of there one night and see I have a ticket on my windshield. Even then I had to look carefully to see why. There isn't really a parking space at the chapel; cars just park on the street. But there are parking signs all around on the curbs. They're all normal except the one I was next to, which was a handicapped sign. Unfortunately, the signs are turned parallel to the curb so that you can't see them when you're approaching, and they're pretty high up too, so they're past the view of my little car's windshield. Not only that, but it was pitch black night around there and no street lighting.
The ticket was $205 so I decided to see if I could plead my case.
Several days later, I went to the area of the courthouse where tickets are adjudicated. I had never done this before so I didn't know what to expect (I've never even been in a court before). They had me sit in this little waiting room that felt kind of like the principle's office.
Then this guy comes and gets me, who looks very 'lawyer-like'. As it turns out he's a judge. He showed me to his office and I sat in the seat in front of his desk. He then turned on a tape recorder and told me to raise my right hand and swear to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (I noted that he fortunately didn't say the "so help you God" part). For a moment, I thought about saying, "You can't handle the truth!" but instead just said, "I do".
Then he looked at me with a cynical look on his face like, "here's yet another joker trying to BS his way out of a ticket." I told him I was guilty, but that I'd like to throw myself before the court and beg for mercy. Then I told him that it was an accident and there were many good spaces available, and I'd never do that, but before I could even get to the stuff about the darkness and the angle of the signs he said, "ok I'll knock it down to $75" and wrote it down on some form. I thanked him humbly.
Then a weird thing happened. He turned off the tape recorder and started to tell me something about how the reflective material on those signs is falling off and it turns out the stuff is radioactive. In retrospect, that might be an important thing to know, but I wasn't really sure what was going on. 'Are we chatting now?' I thought. I sort of went along with it, then he asked me why I was in that area - if it was to see the game (I guess there's a stadium or something nearby, I'm not into sports).
So I told him it was to go to the Rothko Chapel. He didn't know what that was so I explained it was a multifaith chapel. Then he said as he wrote over his previous figure, "ok, I'll cut it down to $55 - I wouldn't want to discourage you from being religious."
Hmm - too much there to think about in an instant so, rather than debate the finer points of what "being religious" meant, I decided to nod, thank him, and get out of there.