A Loop Adventure
Many moons ago, in the year 1997, a young Ryebone turned sixteen years old. A true milestone of greatness, celebrated across the country as a rite of passage for teenagers who will now take to the road in their parent's cars to cause vehicular mayhem. My sister is four years older than me, and in her time, getting a license in Ontario was looking pretty simple: go and write your test, here's your certificate and off you go. In the time she received her license and when I was going for mine, the provincial government instituted a graduated license program - still in place today - that would see you go through various steps before they deemed you road worthy. As part of this process, it financially beneficial to go through a registered driver's training course. Not only will it reduce your insurance cost, but it will also allow you to advance to the second stage in your license a few months early. It's also extremely beneficial as it teaches you how to drive. The time came, during this training, to go out with my instructor. I logged a few parking lot hours with my parents, but it was now time to tackle the roads with real traffic.
Suffice to say and toot my own horn, I was a bit of a natural. The driving was fine, if a bit slow to begin with, but it was the route that we took that would become iconic and a staple in a few of my friendships. From my home, we would drive downtown, then come about along the waterfront, onto a road that bee-lined back to the west end of town. While that quick summary doesn't do it much justice, it's a decently lengthy journey - and I don't want to point you to my home in real life lest one of you be crazy. In my training we would follow this route, a loop, of sorts, enough that I was comfortable on it and when it came time to drive with friends in the car, this loop would be taken more often than not. It's a fairly natural loop too, as evidenced by the city's latest bus transit system taking the nearly identical route for it's new express buses.
For years, we would take this route. I had moved away for a decade, and upon returning we picked up where we left off and traveled again what was now known as The Loop. As the Loop Talk got deeper, the need for a longer route was in place. Also, one that wasn't so rough on the car. It became extended, and when conversation was particularly heavy and the night grew on, it was necessary to take a longer way home, which typically had us travelling slowly through various residential areas and suburbs. One such evening found us driving through a familiar neighbourhood (the one I actually grew up in). As we turned a bend, we saw in front of us a car parked on the grass between the road and sidewalk. This was around 1:30am. It was dark, drizzling and cold. As we approached, we got more detail: the car had driven into one of the concrete lamp posts, which fell directly onto the car and remained there, length-wise. The car wasn't crushed, but looked pretty beat up. What we saw next was shocking: a guy was trying to push the pole off the car.
We slowed down and stopped across the street. As we stepped out of the car we could now see a woman - quite animated - speaking with the man trying, fruitlessly, to uncover his car. He had now stopped, and another man approached us from across the street. It was a bit to take in. My first impression: that this car full of people steered off the road, hit the post, which broke and is now laying on top of the car. As with any accident, people will be in shock and try to do things they shouldn't or can't do, like push around a 30 foot concrete pole. The man coming from across the street began speaking to me directly, but I don't remember what he said. I was focused on the girl and the pusher, locked in conversation - that I couldn't quite hear. The girl was distraught though. Then, the man she was speaking with started walking away; it seems our presence on the scene now changed his motivations. The girl begged him to stay, but he was on his way, literally running into the woods nearby through a path I remember taking so often in my childhood. He was gone.
My friend went across the street to see the girl, while I remained and spoke with this guy. They were pretty young, and smelled of alcohol. Immediately I was drawing up some conclusions: they were late teenagers, drinking, then driving, and this happened. The driver, intoxicated, tried to recover the situation but with us on hand, decided to flee. The other two stayed, but something wasn't quite right. The story he told me didn't match exactly, as he said they were never in the car. Their dress led me to believe them, as they were both wearing pajama bottoms and were decidedly underdressed for any kind of outside the home activity. He said they heard the noise from down the street and came to see if anyone was hurt. They called the police, and they were on their way. He asked for water, but I had none.
Shortly afterward, a cruiser showed up, with lights flashing. The young officer assessed the situation, checked out the vehicle and spoke to all of us. Then he spoke with us separately, and put the man and woman in the cruiser while he spoke with us. He said they were obviously drinking, and wanted to hear from us: we told him briefly about the loop and our complete lack of alcohol consumption. We told our story, and then it was time to commit it to paper. He handed us a sheet of lined paper to write down everything. By this time the home owner behind us had come out, and offered us their dining room table to go inside and write our witness report. I ended up writing it out and signed it with my name alone, then provided our numbers and contact information to the officer. The home owners offered us umbrellas. It was getting real cold out, and we rarely dressed the right part for whatever weather condition we were out in on The Loop.
The officer had called for K-9 unit, who arrived shortly afterward. The dog smelled a few things in the car, specifically the drivers seat then set off in the exact direction the man had fled. They were in for a long night, as the officer said he could trace the trail but since it's been a while, they could be walking for quite some time. They'll do their best, and I didn't doubt it. We were losing track of time, our bladders will filling but we wanted to know what would happen. Unfortunately, we would go home without answers.
Fast forward about eight months and there's a voice mail on the phone from an officer of the local police force. He was looking for me, but gave no details. My stomach sank. What could this possibly be about? I mentally checked the past few days of my life but didn't see any outstanding criminal activity. Panicked, I called him back, and he informed me that he placed a subpoena to provide witness testimony in court. He provided no other details. Then it clicked in: my name was on the report for that incident we were at so long ago. And it was going to court. And I was going to take the stand.
It was terrifying, but exciting at the same time. I was eager to be part of the court system, and I mentally prepared myself be writing out the sequence of events I had seen. There was nothing to be afraid of, although the process was intimidating nonetheless. We had heard nothing about the situation, and I would walk into the court room with no knowledge of what else had transpired since we drove off. The subpoena said to be at the court room for 10:00am. I drove there, taking some time off work and telling them I had no idea when I would be back. I parked in the lot and approached the pay and display meter to get a parking pass. A man in a dirty grey suit was in front of me, putting coins into the meter. I was probably five feet away from him, when he farted. He peered over his shoulder without turning his body.
Thanks for that.
He got his slip and I advanced forward, getting my parking pass and heading into the court house. Luckily there was a wind so I didn't have to endure any nasty aroma while paying for my ticket.
There are no instructions, nobody to ask for help. This is what freaks me out, and makes me panic. I arrive early and worry about the course of events. If things are laid out for me, I don't need to worry, but there was literally no one to turn to. Nobody to even ask if I was in the right spot. I was sitting outside the court room and I saw the man and woman from that night show up. It was difficult to recognize them in proper light and in business casual attire. Knowing I was in the right place helped, and I entered the court room just as everyone was sitting down. As it goes, the room sees different cases throughout the day, with no set start time for any particular case. The first one up was a sad one. A small boy was present in another room, about to give testimony against his father, in what I could only guess was a domestic violence case. Then I saw the accused as we all stood for the judge: the farting man in the grey suit. I was unimpressed. What followed was heartbreaking, as we listened to this boy give statements, then a video was played which showed his original statement recorded from the night in question at the police station. It was difficult to hear the audio, so they gave everyone headphones, save for me and others not involved directly in the case.
A couple of hours later, the court took a 15 minute recess, and we all meandered down to the cafeteria, where I had myself a chocolate milk. As we sat around, we were approached by the Officer of the Court, who asked if we were here for our case. We all gathered around (just four of us, at it turned out) and he told us we could now leave, as the case had been settled.
An anticlimactic turnout, although a bit of a relief not to have to take the stand. Disappointment as well. We received no other details than "the case was settled" and could only speculate that the defendant had seen numerous witnesses show up to his case, and decided to plead in a back room of the court. You know, like how they do on television. I checked the papers for a few days but saw nothing about it. It was nice to have some closure though on that rainy, cold night from a year ago. Justice had been served - I presume - and I was able to play some small part in it.
The Loop lives on. It's an adventure. An opportunity for introspection and lively discussion. I can't wait to see what The Loop brings us to again.