A Saturday evening in November, with wet snow splattering Edmonton. Settled in comfortable pew. Eagerly anticipating solo recitation of Ecclesiastes. I like Ecclesiastes. Will be good.
Trying to doff coat, grab for keys in pocket. Not there. Fear. Where, oh where? Oh, yes. Used single key for car and put in pants pocket. Still there. But locked house with key on ring. No ring. More fear. Left keys in door lock? Dropped on way to car? Fell out of pocket in car? Can’t enjoy Ecclesiastes while burglar finds keys and ransacks house.
Tiptoe out of sanctuary; check car. No keys! Rush home with pedal to metal. Find keys on sidewalk. Yay! Slip back in before soloist is halfway thru chapter 2. Stomp on toes. No problem. Not my toes.
Despite our best efforts, human justice is often a comedy of errors.
Fast-forward to December. Reap what I sowed back in November when I pressed pedal to metal. Letter carrier fires two photo radar tickets through mail slot. Same sin caught on two cameras just a kilometer apart. Not fair getting punished twice for same infraction.
Call nice lady at city hall. Agrees: not fair. Advises: attend hearing, give judge piece of my mind. Judge sure to cancel one ticket.
I protest. Will take all day to drive downtown, wait hours for case, vent spleen in sinner’s pit, drive home. All for lousy $89 ticket.
Even bigger problem. Was driving wife’s car. Photo radar sees license plate, not driver. Driver responsible. I tell wife: go fight ticket. She reads me riot act. Numbskull for losing keys, sneaking out, speeding in her car, and now asking her to take day off work for lousy $89. Me nuts?
I protest to wife: not fair getting nailed two times for same sin. Suppose 1,000 cameras on that stretch. Pay $89,000 for minor indiscretion? She empathizes. Poor baby, but get real. She won’t go downtown. I sin, I fix.
I pout. Use handy-dandy return SASE to plead guilty to both tickets and pay, though punished twice for same sin. Unjust. Sulk all the way to mailbox.
Fast-forward another five months. Letter carrier pops check from city through mail slot. Surprised. City never giveth, only ever taketh away. Photo radar machine wonky. Some other dude drove downtown, waited hours for case, vented spleen in sinner’s pit, and drove home. Saved $89 and nailed city. Court ordered refund to all tickets from that type of machine. Now city out a lot more than $89.
I know I was speeding. Deserved ticket, unlike righteous dude. But deserved one ticket. Ended up with one ticket. Fair. Somehow. Go figure.
Despite our best efforts, human justice is often a comedy of errors. But now and again it works despite itself. So let’s never stop trying for it—whether it’s at home, in the community, at work, in church, or overseas.
But don’t ever forget the wisdom of Ecclesiastes either: “Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there. . . . I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work” (3:16-17, NRSV).
Let your heart speak that comfort too, especially when lack of justice ruins entire lives instead of dinging you $89.