Aiyah

Gather ’round, children.  Your crazy Uncle Eric has a story to tell.

First off, let me explain the title.  Aiyah is a Chinese term used to express a sigh or general displeasure.  I picked it up years ago while I was watching the tail end of Lethal Weapon 4.  I still haven’t seen the whole movie, which is a pity because Jet Li is awesome even if Mel Gibson is crazy.  I thought it was a great word and it somehow managed to work its way into my general use vocabulary.  In some ways it’s kind of like uff da, which also somehow wound up in my vocabulary.  Uff Da is similar, but Norwegian instead of Chinese.  So, there you go: you now have two new ways to express yourself.

Anyway, this story begins in 2002 with a cat and a cranky neighbor.

Anyone who has cats knows that they tend to go where they want to go and there’s not much you can do about it.  I’ve had plenty of other people’s cats in my yard and never thought much of it.  At the very least, cats are good for natural pest control and usually fun to watch.

In 2002 we had a cat who was a natural escape artist.  Open the door and, poof, he was gone.  He’d come back when he got hungry so we never really thought much of it.  Come early December and it’s cold and snowy outside and we see the Animal Control guy driving around, so we manage to snatch the cat and bring him inside.  Didn’t help much, since we still got a ticket and an order to appear in court, but it did show we were trying.

Yes, we got an order to appear in court over a cat.

Court date comes, we show up to defend ourselves and the Animal Control officer shows up.  Turns out he thought the whole thing was silly, too, and says as far as he’s concerned there shouldn’t be any charges and tells us to please do our best to keep the cat out of the neighbor’s yard.  He knows it’s an impossible task, but he has to say it anyway.  We all shake hands, charges are dismissed, pay the court fee and move on with our lives.

Over time, the cranky neighbor down the street dies.  His house gets sold and gets sold again.  The cat, who was no spring chicken to begin with, dies.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, my wife is prepping a demonstration of how to do background checks and types in my name like she usually does.  Normally, this returns zero results.  This time, however, my name pops up for having an outstanding warrant for my arrest for failure to appear in court twice in early 2003.  Over the cat.

Over the past 12 years, I’ve had two national security checks done on me, been called to jury duty, voted, registered my car, changed jobs and never once did this appear.  Turns out, the Metro Court has been getting some flak for not digitizing all their records and, in the last month or so, managed to get all their data put into the main database, including my data.

Now, to make things more interesting, the local PD has a policy of doing warrant sweeps every now and then to, you know, pick up the various miscreants in our society and keep them locked away from the good people.  They like to do these sweeps Thanksgiving morning, that way they can maximize the amount of discomfort you get by locking you away over a major Holiday.  So, had Metro Court actually gotten everything done, I could have spent last Thanksgiving behind bars for a crime I didn’t actually commit.  Good times, good times.

So, here’s what had happened.  Some clerk failed to note that we showed up in court the first time we were in court.  This led to two summons being sent out within a week of each other, both to an address two blocks from where we actually live.  Naturally, they got returned and no one in our judicial system bothered to look any further into it.  They obviously know where I live because I got my jury summons at the right place, but somehow or another tripped up on this one.

End result: I had an outstanding warrant out for my arrest for 12 years over a cat that is now dead being in the yard of a neighbor who is also now long dead.  I had to post bond to keep from getting locked up and the court absolutely refused to believe I showed up twelve years ago because they had no evidence that I had been there.  I’m pretty sure a lack of evidence is not sufficient evidence to prove something happened, but that’s just my opinion.  Had to hire an attorney and go to court, again, over something that happened twelve years ago because some city clerk didn’t do his or her job right.

Ultimately, the charges were dismissed and the warrants quashed (which means they’re supposed to be purged from the system), but since these guys couldn’t get their act together over twelve years, I’m sure I’m going to have to explain what happened over and over again to every potential employer and in every DSS audit I go through from here on out.

On the plus side, I can say I was a renegade from justice for twelve years before the long, clumsy arm of the law finally caught up with me.

Aiyah.

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