St. Lucie Clerk of Courts: We ain’t got no internet

It’s 2008. Really. But if you live in St. Lucie County, you might not know that.

I just had to pay a speeding ticket I received sometime ago (thanks FHP!). Apparently, “sometime ago” should not be much longer than 30 days. Else you get a nasty letter from the State of Florida. The patrolman who wrote the ticket was nicer than the letter I got from the Department of Motor Vehicles - and he had a gun.

So, I called today to pay the ticket. Over the phone. Big mistake.

Their clerk of court doesn’t have a music-on-hold system. It just rings. And rings. And rings. My first call rang over 100 rings. I know because I counted. I was going to use my calculations to determine which would be cheaper - paying for brain cancer treatment ten years from now for staying on my cell phone or driving back down to St. Lucie at $3.60/gallon.

Finally, the phone is answered: “Traffic”. That’s the greeting, in case you couldn’t tell. A noun is now a greeting. It’s genius in its simplicity. I’m thinking about changing my greeting to “Man”.

I explain that I’d like to pay my ticket. “Over the phone?”, she says. Yes. “You’ll have to call our ‘pay-by-phone’ number.” Uh, okay. Can I be transferred to it? No.

I dial the special pay-by-phone number. It rings over 100 times. I begin to do math in my head again. I imagine someone’s grandmother 25 years ago struggling to get to that one kitchen phone from that far back bedroom. “I’m coming, I’m coming” she says to no one as she hobbles toward the phone. The vision helps me.

I call the first number back. After over 100 rings, the same lady picks up again. I know it was the same lady because she answered the same friendly way with that certain ring of sensuality in her voice as she greets me: “Traffic”.

I verify the pay-by-phone telephone number again. The number is correct, she says. I ask her that I’m just wondering if it is normal for their phone to just ring and ring with no phone mail system or music-on-hold or a greeting or a “press 1 for this, press 2 for that”. Yes, it’s normal, she says not so reassuringly.

I call the ‘pay-by-phone’ number again. After over 100 rings, it is answered by a different woman: “Traffic”. I momentarily have a collision of electrons in my head that prevents words from coming out of my mouth.

“Traffic”, the voice says again.

“I’m sorry”, I reply. “I was trying to reach the ‘pay-by-phone’ number.”

“This is it. What’s your traffic ticket number?”

I become immediately convinced that this women is sitting directly next to the first traffic lady. Probably winking at each other at that very moment.

We go through the process of paying over the phone. I ask her if there is supposed to be an automated pay-by-phone number. There is none she says, as if the very idea is a threat to good pay-by-phone operators the world over. Pay-by-phone operators like her. You can’t just trust your credit card number to a machine these days. It needs that special human touch. At least in St. Lucie.

While waiting for my confirmation number, I take a deep breath and slowly and politely ask, “Just out of curiosity, there wouldn’t be any way to pay this over the internet, would there?”.

“No, we ain’t got no internet”.

No, I didn’t think so.

But I did discover that they take Money Orders. That’s got to be a huge plus for the Money Order industry down in St. Lucie. You walk into a 7-Eleven to buy a money order for $82.35 and the clerk looks at you: “Traffic ticket?”. You nod sheepishly.

I guess we here in Brevard should be thankful to Clerk of Court Scott Ellis for keeping the Clerk’s office on the technology fast track. I realize that we have twice as many citizens as St. Lucie, but from a technology standpoint, it’s as if we are the Starship Enterprise and St. Lucie is the Model T Ford.

Still, it was a quaint, amusing experience - except for the 45 minutes of my time, the cell phone radiation pulsing through my brain cells, and the complete lack of personality by St. Lucie Clerk of Court phone operators. I now feel good about my 3-year old laptop and the fact that I don’t have an iPhone yet. And that’s a warm, low-tech comfortability that you just can’t buy - except with a traffic ticket in St. Lucie County.

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Very funny.

It sounds to me like the police station in Mayberry where Andy Griffith takes off his Sheriff’s cap and flips over a sign to become the traffic judge as well.

But seriously, I just subscribed to your blog. The newest version of Netscape has this newfangled blog subscription feature. Just one click. Can you believe it?

And by the way, my students ask me all the time: “Is this the only pencil sharpener you’ve got?” Pointing to this contraption that has a handle you turn and an internal rotary machine that goes round and round and drops all the shavings into a little canister that is attached to the machine.

“What other type of pencil sharpener is there?” I ask.

“Mr ___ has an ELECTRIC pencil sharpener in his room.”

“ELECTRIC! Well I’ll be! Ain’t that fancy! When we was kids we had to use a whitlin’ knife. Will the wonders of modern technology never cease?”

Did you know that Henry David Thoreau held a patent on pencils?

Our I.T. guy wanted to know how many teachers would use a technology that would do away with the scantron. Come final exam time, instead of running 150 scantrons cards manually through a machine and then entering the scored by keyboard into our computer grade book application. The tests would get scanned directly into the application.

I guess by the time when everyone has a holographic projector screen built into their mobile phone, they will be asking me, “What’s a pencil?”

It reminds me of Mr. Scott in Star Trek 4:


[faced with a 20th century computer]

Scotty: Computer. Computer?

[Bones hands him a mouse from a Mac Classic and he speaks into it]

Scotty: Hello, computer.

Dr. Nichols: Just use the keyboard.

Scotty: Keyboard. How quaint.


I am just waiting for the day when I don’t have to do anything at school. Just turn on a computer and collect my paycheck (by automatic deposit of course).

We are reading THE TIME MACHINE by H.G Wells in English 2 right now and the more I think about it, the more we are like the Eloi.

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