One of the strange and beautiful things about human nature is the way grief and sorrow can live next to joy and laughter. I don’t mean to say things that grieve us also make us laugh. I don’t mean to say that at all.
What I mean is the way one can get into a helpless state of the giggles on the same day one feels helpless about the state of things in the world.
I say all this because yesterday was my first day to “have court.” This is what all my co-workers say when they go to the courthouse, so I say it now too. When we “have court” we sit behind the DHS worker and the child’s attorney, available for information about the case.
It all sounds really serious because it is. You would be shocked to know what children face. You probably don’t want to know any more than that – just that it’s devastating.
So, here I am driving around downtown Des Moines looking for public parking so that I can “have court.” I’ve had problems with parking garages before, but I wrongly assumed Des Moines would be an easier animal to wrestle. I found a parking garage in plenty of time, but when I slung my briefcase over my shoulder and flew down the stairwell I decided I should be in a hurry.
Coming out of the parking garage was like someone had spun me around and set me down facing a different direction (which is actually exactly what a parking garage does). I didn’t know which way was North and what historical building to walk toward.
So, I picked one and hoped it was the courthouse. I got close enough to see “POLK COUNTY” written on it but as I was walking up the steps, a lady taking a smoke break said, “You don’t look too happy to be coming here. But, hey at least it’s not the courthouse!”
So, I walked in one door and out the other where I promptly asked a parking meter officer to point me in the direction of the courthouse. She looked at me, smiled with all kinds of pity, and said, “Just walk up Court Avenue right there and you’ll run right into it.”
Right. Court Avenue, silly me.
So, I got to court with time to spare (thanks to my enormous cushion I operate with due to my Latin tendencies). Everything went well enough and when I left I felt good about things.
And then I met the sidewalk and realized retracing my steps would lead me in all kinds of circles. Everything looked familiar because I had passed all of downtown on my adventure to the courthouse.
So, I did what any new-to-downtown would do – I walked briskly in the direction of a hunch with my briefcase slung over my shoulder and my heels clicking professionally on the pavement. I saw that nice parking meter lady again and gave her the grandest smile.
And then I walked in every parking garage stairwell I came to until I found the one that was just right. I can’t be sure how many stairwells I walked up, but I kept the brisk pace so anyone around thought I was going someplace important. I finally found the stairwell I was searching for – one with no numbers, partially inside/partially outside, and with my little car Eddie waiting on the fourth or fifth floor (no numbers).
And so my adventures in stairwells gave a different kind of ending to my first court experience – proof that a helpless state of giggles can live inside the helpless state of the world.