Dear Lord, Thank you for the creation of Red Robin. Amen.

You wanna talk comfort food with me, we are talking about Red Robin. But it’s not all about the Teriyaki Chicken Burger with no tomato. It’s so much more. It’s the memories of sitting in a red booth, sun coming in from the window, and Pikes Peak on the other side of the window. It’s the people I’ve eaten at Red Robin with. It’s my dad ordering the Bonzai burger with everything, and my sister ordering the Bonzai burger with the meatless patty no tomato and no mayo, and me the teriyaki burger with no lettuce and no tomato. Yeah, times have changed, I add the lettuce now, my dad branches out and orders different stuff, and my sister and I have found new restaurants to eat at when we get together. But I can’t even pass by the restaurant without the memories of us laughing with waiters and waitresses about the three of us basically ordering the same thing, just with our own twists. It’s getting an entire Mile High Mud Pie to myself for my sixteen birthday. It’s my sister ordering the Cookie Magic instead of the Rookie Magic right after she turned 21. It’s eating there during Chase’s first R&R and the waitress finding out and making sure our meal was paid for. It’s visiting my best girlfriend for her wedding and the management paying for that meal because of her upcoming nuptials. I have been to Red Robin countless times in my life. Many different locations, over several states, all over the country. While there have been a handful of bad memories, none of those are due to the wait staff or the restaurant. I can’t think of a time when service hasn’t been up to par. When I haven’t been greeted with a smile and had a waiter/waitress with an excellent personality. It’s not like the Steak & Shake Chase and I love, where when Bobby was on duty, dining there was a great experience, but man, when Bobby wasn’t working, everything suffered. Or even the O’Charley’s in Cleveland. Every experience there was beyond amazing. But….go to a O’Charley’s elsewhere, the experience was just lacking. Every Red Robin, every time has been awesome. I’m sure there have been times and experiences that have left people wanting, but in my several hundred times eating there, nope, not that I can remember. So on days like today, when I am in desperate need of comfort, Red Robin is the place I go. And I was not disappointed. The staff was full of smiles, several people came by my table to see if everything was okay, if we needed anything, and even a couple “are you doing okay?”s. I guess my severely agitated state was showing. After a waiter offered to get me a new Coke, I gulped down what was left of the old one in anticipation of my new, fresh one. And before he could bring me my refill, two other people were trying to fill my cup. And the guy bringing my Coke was no slouch, it’s not like I was sitting with an empty glass for practically any amount of time. Everyone was just on it, on a day I desperately needed to feel valued. So yay Red Robin.

Why did I need comfort? I did go to court today. And right now I will say I hate, loathe, and despise court. Not court’s fault, but I never wish to see the inside of that building again. I’ll just explain my experience step by step to give the proper picture. So hearing set for 10:00. I’m a military brat, if you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re late. So I was there right at about 9:45. I’ve never been and didn’t know if there might be pre-trial paperwork, sign in, etc. And it’s The Court, authority, I ain’t messing with being late for that. Even if I’m just a witness who doesn’t actually have to be there. So I learned, how traffic court works, at least here in Anchorage. It looks like court times and dates are set around the ticketing officers. All of Officer X’s ticketees are given a time to show up at court, based on half hour blocks. The officer with appointments at 9:30 was Officer On Red Light Duty For the Month of January, all of his appointments were 9:30 and they just were going right through them. So I’m there watching all these…trials, I guess. Being me I was getting overwhelmed by the officialness of it all. The legal jargon. The police officer being all professional and authority-like. The judge using technical legal words and being all official. I learned something about traffic court today though. 1) In Alaska, if you’re guilty, you can’t negotiate points. Period. Apparently, a lot of the defendants didn’t know that, but now I do. Not that I plan on ever getting a ticket, but now I know, unless I know the officer doesn’t have proof of my misdeed, I’m stuck with the points. And if I’m caught running a red, the officer has a camera in the car, showing what happened in full color. 2) I’d always heard that if you went to court, you’d probably get out of the ticket because the officer wouldn’t show up, and you’d get off. Never had a ticket, so never needed to try that. But now I know, not in the municipality of Anchorage. I get the feeling that’s why some of the people came, and you could tell they were thinking, oh crap, the officer’s here with me caught on video. One lady pretty much even said so to the judge as she decided to just plead “no contest” and get back to her life. 3) Just about all you can change is your fine. And if that’s what you are there for, I will let you in on a little secret, the judge in my court room seemed to be a little more forgiving to the people who pleaded “no contest” than those who tried to afirm their innocence. Just saying. So I’m just sitting there and for no good reason getting really antsy. It was just the nature of court. Then right at 10:00, my defendant walks in. Looks at me, smiles, and sits down next to me. Hmm, I knew who she was, but apparently I didn’t make that much of an impression on her. Either that or she’s bolder than I give her credit for. Finally, our case is called. I’ll admit the police officer was a really nice guy. He thanked me for coming, asked about my van, and commented on how well-behaved my kids were. And they were great, by the way. Absolutely great. By this time the kids had been sitting quietly for about 40 minutes. Not getting up, not talking, just sitting quietly. They are the best. Then the judge asks her how she pleads. “No contest.” I begin to rejoice, maybe she was one of those people who had been told, just ask for the court date, the officer won’t show up and you’ll get off. I’d been getting really agitated because of the whole experience, but I could feel muscles untense. Then the judge gives her the opportunity to negotiate her fine. I’m all hey, she didn’t try to say she didn’t do it, whatever. I’ll even give my two cents that it wasn’t 100% her fault, I’m kind of in her corner since she decided to plea “no contest.” But then she opened her mouth. And begins to rip me to shreds. I physically felt like I been in a crash again. My muscles that had began to relax, un-relaxed. I apparently hadn’t been in AK for long and didn’t know how to drive in snow and had a driver’s license from another state. Wow, she can’t remember what I look like, but she remembers my license, which she never saw. Anyway my plates are from another state, honey, not my license. My husband’s military, therefore our plates only show where he signed up, not where we are now or even where we were last. Okay, so last was Georgia, and no it doesn’t snow there, but I grew up in Colorado. I’ve driven in snow before. Add to that, while the state our plates are from isn’t know for snow, it does snow there. Seriously, if your defense is where I’m from, do a little research first. Don’t make me out to be some country bumpkin who has never seen a snowflake before in her life. Not that those of you who haven’t seen snow are country bumpkins, this is the impression of myself that I got from the defendant. Then, she remembers precise details that she admitted she wasn’t sure about to the officer after the accident as she admitted she hadn’t been paying attention. But she did neglect to tell the judge that she hadn’t been paying attention. Then she knows she was driving exactly the speed limit, and hit her brakes in a timely fashion. The damage to my 5-Star safety rated van begs to differ. The insurance companies software that predicted the damage to my van begs to differ, according to that software, there is no way my van was totaled. She pushed the back-end of my vehicle in at the least 6 inches. There was bumper, and then space where my trunk should have been. And now there is some man who was involved in the accident. Granted, he didn’t show up, the officer never heard of him and I sure as heck never saw another car in the accident. I’m guessing he must have been a friend of hers because she gave testimony to exactly what was going on in his head during the accident. I mean, while I didn’t recall this guy, I totally expected him to stand up and talk because her testimony made it seem like they’d talked the accident over in depth. But while, they seem to be tight, they weren’t tight enough for him to actually show up. I’m inflamed, infuriated. This lady is dragging me through the mud to try to lessen a small fine. Seriously, it’s the smallest fine of court that day. I would have been okay with, “hey, this lady was doing something unexpected and I hit her.” I’d have agreed. Life would have moved on. But I loathe it when people invent stories about me. This wasn’t my first time driving in the snow, and I didn’t cause a three-car pile up. There was no third vehicle. (Which was kind of admitted to, “well, he almost hit me, so he would have hit her too”. Umm, if he didn’t hit you, he wouldn’t have hit me if you weren’t there. But still I say, where is he?). For those of you waiting for the conclusion to the story. I got all middle school on her, “I learned to drive in the snow, thank you very much.” Then got control of myself and related the accident as I knew it, leaving out any comments about her and our mystery driver. I was mad and struggling to have any class. Judge told her we all make mistakes and that’s why we should drive with due diligence and leave plenty of space between cars, so that you don’t make some one else’s mistake even worse. Thankful for my kids after that, as taking care of them ensured that we went down different elevators and left the court house separately. I was still livid. We’re talking shaking at her audacity.

I guess I did learn a lesson though. Don’t make judgements about people. It can be easy to get facts wrong when you don’t know them. Also, tell the truth to yourself. Here, I put myself in her shoes. Don’t know if this is where she’s coming from, don’t know her, not going to judge her motives here. But I can actually see where she might be coming from. You screw up, and feel guilty, and to relieve the guilt you start reinventing the story. You begin to “remember” details that put you in a better light. You exaggerate some truths and minimize others. And then when you tell the story you don’t even realize that you’re lying because it’s the story you’ve told yourself over and over. I’ve done it before. Sometimes friends even help you do it. I can see it now, telling a friend about the accident and mentioning the other driver was from out-of-state, and come on, you know how we all feel about drivers that aren’t from our state, none of them know how to drive. So the friend’s like, “that state doesn’t even have snow, it was all her fault.” And the story becomes this terrible, out-of-state driver who couldn’t have been in Alaska for long, and really, it was all her fault. To the point where this story is believed so much that one will testify as to where a driver’s license is from and how long someone has been in the state. Like I said, don’t know that happened, not going to testify to it here. But saying where, I can see similar things happen in my life. And it’s dangerous. We begin to believe lies. We begin to spout them off as truth, forgetting that lies do damage. It reminds me “Satan is the Father of lies, sent to steal, kill, and destroy.” And lies do that. Lies today killed my compassion, stole my composure and destroyed my morning. The next time I am tempted to tweak the facts a bit so that I can feel better about myself, I need to remember that. A tweak can seem innocent enough, but it’s a lie, and lies steal, kill and destroy. And friends, don’t help me to tweak facts, be brutally honest with me. Bring light and truth.