Court case, Boarding School.
20190906 00107 6 minutes

It isn’t often that I come up with exactly the right answer to a question. Two or three times in my life I have done so, in spades – and I’ve never forgotten them!

The first time was when I had been sent to my headmistress for some grave infringement of the school rules. During her discussion of my disobedience/infraction she said: “… so Sonia, what do you think rules are made for?”

I pulled myself up to my mighty 4′ 6″ and replied: “To be broken.” she obviously wasn’t used to students being honest, but she should have known better than to ask a twelve-year-old a question like that. I was pleased with the answer but she wasn’t. She sentenced me to write out six copies of the complete school rule book.

The next time I remember was when I was driving down the Taconic Parkway to work. .My commute was about 50 miles and I was driving with the traffic in the left lane. I wasn’t late and was minding my own business when I noticed a nice little white BMW enter the parkway a couple of cars back. They moved over behind me to let him in and he obviously was in a hurry.

He passed me on the right and forced his way into the left lane ahead of me. When the car ahead of him braked suddenly he braked but went into it, and I braked hard but hit him. It was a couple of fender benders and we exchanged insurance companies and filed the police reports.

He then sued me for hitting him and we ended up at the voir dire. He answered the judge’s questions, putting the blame on me for driving too fast and too close to him. Apparently he was 19 years old and had had an accident the previous year.

Then it was my turn to answer the judge’s questions. He asked how far I had been driving that morning, and I told him where I lived and he commented that I was adjusted to the road conditions, not just starting out.

Then he asked if I had seen the plaintiff’s car, and I said one always notices a little white BMW. He asked when I first noticed the car.

I replied, “When he passed me on the inside.”

His lawyer gave an enormous sigh and closed her file. Apparently that was the perfect answer and was the end of his trying to get money from me!

The next time was also in legal surroundings. It was at the hearing for the finalization of my bankruptcy. I was living in a $2,000 mobile home that I had put next to my very falling-to-bits house up-state, with the idea that I would live in the mobile home while fixing up the house. I was working in Albany and intended to use my “rent” money to work on the house.

A property could be kept after the bankruptcy if it was valued under $10,000. Not many such properties could be lived in! It didn’t have electricity or water, but I managed to survive, and I had a valuation from a local realtor that the property was worth $8,500. I had pictures of the mobile-home which showed exactly why that was all it was worth.

It looked, and was, terrible. The “front door” didn’t have a handle or lock but could be tied when I was inside, and when I went out I wedged it closed with a plank.

At the hearing the judge was unhappy because my lawyer was late and she didn’t believe he was coming. He had to drive from Kingston to Binghamton, and there had been an almighty snowstorm the night before. I persuaded the judge to put the case back to the last one before lunch, but she was unhappy. Eventually my lawyer arrived, which meant she was proved wrong, even before the hearing began.

The judge went through the necessary questions about the values of the debts to be forgiven in the bankruptcy, and the value of any assets to offset them. She obviously was interested in the mobile home so I described its deficiencies and showed her the photographs. I don’t think she believed me, that I could live in such a place. It had to be better than it appeared. She saw the photos and commented that the door being held closed by the plank was fine for the outside, but thought she had found my Achilles heel and asked how it was kept closed from the inside?

My reply: “You tie it. With string.”

With that she seemed satisfied and gave up. Apparently my answer was the right words at the right time. I was allowed to keep the property and the mobile home. I had somewhere to live; it wasn’t beautiful but at least “mine own.”