My favorite route to my job at the major truck manufacturer took me through a round-about. In order for you to envision what happened, picture this round-about — an island of land surrounded by street and slightly higher than the street, so that the pavement at the entrances to it slope down to the street. Half of the island is a car wash and the other half is parking. There are two entrances on opposite sides.
Okay, so one morning I’m on my way to work and there isn’t much traffic yet because it’s early. As I start around this round-about, I notice a car parked at one of the entrances to the car wash. The car is facing the street, and because of the slope, it’s fairly easy to see into it. I didn’t think much of it and just briefly glanced at it as I drove by. But, a few seconds later it dawned on me what I had seen when I drove by — it was a man waving at me, and NOT just with his hand!
So, rather than making the next turn to get out of the round-about, I just continued on around and went into the car wash from the opposite side, drove across the “island” and pulled up behind the car. The windows were steamy (!). Okay, I guess it isn’t unusual for windows to be steamy in cold weather in the morning, I just have trouble cutting this guy any slack in ANY assumptions.
Anyway, I had already gotten a pen and paper out, prepared to take down his license plate number as soon as I got close enough to read it. But, he didn’t pull out right away — I’m assuming he was “making himself presentable.” So, I was able to write the license plate number down and even check it to make sure I had it right.
After a minute or so, he slowly drove away. I waited until he was out of sight before I went on to work, because I didn’t want him to have the opportunity to see where I worked. I felt sure that he could see me writing down his plate number, and I didn’t know what reaction he might have to that.
When I got to work, I called the police. They sent an officer to the office to take my statement. I worked in a small building with about 60 employees, so the word that a police officer was in the building spread quickly, with everyone wondering why he was there. After taking my statement, the officer left, and the buzzing began. Of course, I told those around me what had happened, so it wasn’t too long until everyone had heard the story. Frankly, at this point, we all thought it was funny.
Later in the day, a detective came to enterview me. He had already gone to the man’s home who owned the car with the plate number I had given to the officer earlier. The man admitted he was in fact sitting at the car wash that morning but he gave some weak reason, like he was adjusting his seat belt. And he was emphatic that that was certainly all he had been doing. During the conversation he had also told the detective that he was engaged to be married to a woman with a five year old little boy.
The detective told me the man’s story, and I no longer felt this was as funny. He was engaged and would have a young step-son!?
The detective asked me if I wanted to press charges or drop it. His recommendation was that it be dropped, because the man, after all, didn’t have any record. He told me as he left that I should let him know if I wanted to pursue this. When he walked out of the building, I’m pretty sure he marked that file “case closed” in his mind. I think he was fairly certain he had convinced me not to doing anything.
And, he would probably have been right if I hadn’t gotten a call from Victim’s Assistance the next day. Victim’s Assistance is a division of the city police department that was actually started by a friend of ours about 25 years ago. Its purpose is to give support, direction and just general assistance to victims of crime.
A Victim’s Assistance worker had seen the report the detective had taken from me and just wanted to let me know that they were there to help if I needed anything. When I told her about the details of what had happened, she told me that they have an “incident file” of crimes that they have been told about by victims that have never been resolved because the victims hadn’t pressed charges. AND, she told me there were a number of reports in that file that were similar to what I had witnessed.
That, and the fact that the man was engaged to be married and would have a young step-son, helped me make the decision. I felt that I at least wanted his fiance to know he had problems and I hoped that if I prosecuted him, the court would send him for counseling.
I called the detective the next day and said I wanted to press charges. The detective was definitely surprised. He apparently thought he had talked me out of it. (I later found out that he was just a month from retirement. I think he had a major “short-timer attitude” and just didn’t want to be bothered pursuing this relatively unimportant case.) I explained to him that I knew that Victim’s Assistance had a record of several other similar incidences, and that my thinking was that if every time one of these events took place, the victim didn’t prosecute, the same guy could be doing it over and over again and he never would have a record!
So, a court date was set. As the trial got closer, I got more nervous. Even though Hubby was a police officer, I had never been involved in any kind of courtroom procedure (relatives of police officers are seldom even called for jury duty, and NEVER, as far as I know, actually make it onto a jury).
When the day arrived, I went to the courthouse and was met by the Victim’s Assistance representative. She would go to court with me and explain what was going on. What a wonderful service! I knew quite a few people around the courthouse because of Hubby’s job, and even then I was appreciative of this assistance. Imagine how grateful some other woman would be who knew no one. A great service.
We went to the courtroom. When the proceedings started, the judge asked the man I was accusing if he had a lawyer. He didn’t; he was going to represent himself. But, then a lawyer sitting in the courtroom, who I assume gets all his clients this way, went up and whispered something to the guy, and then the guy said he WAS represented. Quality legal service, no doubt.
The judge had the guy come to the witness stand, and he was sworn in. The prosecutor then read him the charges and asked how he responded. He said, “Not Guilty.” Then the prosecutor asked him if he had any explanation for what I had seen. The man said, wellll, he DID have a water pistol that was shaped like, well, you know — what I THOUGHT I saw — and it WAS laying on the dashboard of his car and he MIGHT have been moving it just as I drove by. So, this was really all just a horrible misunderstanding.
Then, his “attorney” asked him more about the water pistol (probably the highlight of the low life attorney’s day) and, believe it or not, the man took the water pistol out of his jacket pocket! No more questions for “Einstein” and he went and sat down.
The prosecutor had me come to the witness stand. I was sworn in. Then the prosecutor had me tell what I had seen.
After I told my story, and the prosecutor asked me a couple questions to clarify my story, the guy’s lawyer had his turn to question me. He brought the water pistol and plopped it down on the edge of the witness stand and asked me if it was possible that that was what I had seen. (I think he was hoping to rattle me with the close proximity to the unusual water pistol, and I have to say it was a little disconcerting.) Hubby later told me I had missed a perrrrfect opportunity to say, “Oh, No. What I saw was muuuuch SMALLER than that.” But, I didn’t. What I said was that I couldn’t rule out the possibility that that was what I saw, BUT even if it WAS what I saw, I believed the man’s intention had been for me to THINK it was the real thing.
Then the judge made his decision. He found the guy guilty and fined him $400. Case closed.
Crap. While I had hopefully accomplished one of my goals — that this guy’s girlfriend be made aware that he had a problem, I hadn’t accomplished my other goal — for him to be required to get counseling. So, I approached the prosecutor and told him how disappointed I was that counseling hadn’t been required. He took me up to talk to the judge. The judge explained that because it was the guy’s first offense, the $400 fine was the maximum penalty he could assess. Rats.
So, this was all a learning experience for me. I learned: a) Flashers aren’t funny. Besides their obvious problem, they have family and friends (and fiance’s) who suffer too. b) In this instance, doing what was right didn’t get the desired result, but, I’m still glad I got him “on record” for doing it. c) There are stores that sell really bizarre water pistols. d) Victims Assistance is a wonderful organization, who made a nerve-racking courtroom appearance much less stressful for me.
All in all a very interesting experience that all started with just an ordinary drive to work one early morning.