Kafka in Traffic Court

Slide10

31 PLAYS IN 31 DAYS: Play 6, Day 6 –  Kafka in Traffic Court

 

FRANK stands in line in Room 101, Central Division.

A CLERK stands or sits behind a counter –if possible, behind a window with what looks to be security glass.

CLERK has little piles of yellow, green and red paper, which she straightens as FRANK waits.

The CLERK, by the way, can be brusk but never uncivil.

There’s a meanness here, but it’s not personal. When she is good and ready, she consults a clipboard and calls a name.

 

CLERK:

Kofko.

FRANK has already started forward, but CLERK calls again as if he’s not responding.

 

Kofko!

FRANK:

That’s an “a.”

CLERK:

You’re Francisco?

FRANK:

I  go by Frank.

CLERK:

But officially, it’s Francisco.

FRANK:

Yes, good afternoon. I have a letter—

CLERK:

You got your court paperwork?

FRANK:

Yes. Right here.

CLERK:

Where’s your proof of completion for the traffic school?

FRANK:

They assured me they would send it.

CLERK:

Who did?

FRANK:

The school. The court-approved school.

CLERK:

We’re not them. When did they mail it?

FRANK:

I’m not them. Immediately, they said. Electronically. I have their e-mail confirmation.

CLERK:

Did you print it out?

FRANK:

No, I didn’t think—

CLERK:

Wait here.

CLERK suddenly exits. FRANK takes out an I-pad, powers it up, moves his finger across the screen searching for the e-mail.

The telephone rings.

FRANK:

Yeah? … I told you not to call. … I’m there now. … I don’t know. I’m not done. … How should I know.?

It’s not in my control. They have all the— … When I’m done. … Me too. Gotta go. Bye.

FRANK hangs up. CLERK has returned, scowling at the phone.

CLERK points to a sign.

CLERK:

No cell-phones.

FRANK:

Sorry. I was just— I’ve shut it off now. My wife—  Sorry.

CLERK:

I have your confirmation here. You spelled your name wrong.

FRANK:

They did.

CLERK:

Who’s they?

FRANK:

The traffic school.

CLERK:

This is an electronic transaction. They only put what you enter. You entered this yourself.

FRANK:

My finger hit the “o” next to the “k.” Then I hit enter. The online representative said there was no way to change it without setting up another account and charging me twice.

CLERK:

The case numbers match, that’s all that matters. Just made it harder to locate. Lucky for you I found it.

FRANK:

Lucky me.

CLERK:

What’s that?

FRANK:

Thank you kindly.

CLERK:

What about your volunteer hours?

FRANK:

I have a letter.

CLERK:

Well, where is it?

FRANK:

I have it right here.

FRANK offers her the letter again, but CLERK won’t touch it.

CLERK:

Would you open it please?

FRANK:

Yes, I’m sorry. Do you have a letter opener?

There’s one in a cup right by the CLERK’s hand. FRANK looks at it,    but no.

CLERK:

Huh-uh. No sharp objects that side of the window. Anyway, this isn’t an office supply store.

Having nothing to open the envelope with, FRANK uses his finger to rip the envelope’s seal apart, withdraws the letter, and hands it to the CLERK. CLERK unfolds it, apparently trying not to touch it too much in the process.

CLERK:

This doesn’t have your case number on it.

FRANK:

It doesn’t?

CLERK:

Look at it.

CLERK holds the paper up to FRANK. FRANK winces.

FRANK:

But I asked them to put the case number.  I specifically asked them.

CLERK inspects the letterhead, holds watermark up to light.

CLERK:

Who’s them?

FRANK:

The place where I volunteered.

CLERK:

Well, it’s not here.

FRANK:

They didn’t listen. They never—

CLERK:

What’s that?

FRANK:

Yes. Nothing.

CLERK:

You’ll need to get them to put the case number on this, or come back to see the judge at two.

FRANK:

Can’t I see the judge now?

CLERK:

They finished at ten. The next session is at two.

FRANK:

But there’s no way I can get there and back before –  I can see the judge at two?

CLERK:

Afternoon session is from two to four PM.

FRANK:

But I’ll miss work. Can’t I just mail the letter—

CLERK slides a green slip of paper across the counter.

CLERK:

To this address.

FRANK:

Why didn’t you just tell me that?

CLERK:

You didn’t ask. I’m telling you now. Make sure you have sufficient postage. I suggest sending it with receipt confirmation.

FRANK:

I’d have to stand in line at the post office.

CLERK:

I’m not a post office. I can’t do it for you.

FRANK:

I don’t suppose we could just write the case number on it.

CLERK:

No.

FRANK:

It has to be typed.

CLERK:

It doesn’t have to typed. It just has to be in the text of the letter.

FRANK:

The text of the letter.  But the letter is typed.

CLERK:

It didn’t have to be. It could have been written by hand. It could have been written in crayon.

But it has to be in // the text of the letter. //

FRANK:

// The text of the letter. // Anything else I need to know?

CLERK:

I don’t know, sir. There’s probably a lot you need to know.

FRANK:

About the letter. So that it’s formatted to your… specifications.

CLERK slides him a yellow slip of paper across the counter.

CLERK:

It should be in a single paragraph, with a single sentence for each of five items: Your name, your case number, the number of hours volunteered, the organization’s tax identification number, and the name, title, and department of the signatory with their complete contact information.

FRANK:

That’s at least eight things.

CLERK indicates bullet points on the yellow paper.

CLERK:

Five. One-two-three-four-five.

FRANK:

So, a letter with the number in a sentence in a paragraph.

CLERK:

Signed in ink by the appropriate party.

FRANK:

So, it can be written in crayon but it has to be signed in ink?

CLERK:

It means no robo-signing.

FRANK:

Robo-signing?

CLERK:

It has to be signed by the person, and not by one of those machines that duplicate a person’s signature.

FRANK:

How would you know?

CLERK:

We have a machine that scans for that.

FRANK:

How would you know that it wasn’t just me signing it?

CLERK:

Is that a threat?

FRANK:

What?

CLERK slides a red slip of paper across the counter.

CLERK:

CA Penal Code Sec. 22.1b(3) makes the Class A misdemeanor a felony of the third degree if committed against a public servant or contracted employee while lawfully discharging an official duty, or in retaliation or on account of an exercise of official power or performance of an official duty as a public servant or in performance of work within the scope of a contract.

FRANK:

I didn’t threaten you. How would that be a threat?

CLERK:

The judge would decide that. He’ll be here at two.

FRANK:

Doesn’t the statute define threat?

CLERK:

Oh, it’s in there.

FRANK:

You didn’t memorize that part?

CLERK slowly reaches below the counter, obviously pushing a button to summon security.

CLERK:

They’ll be here in a moment.

FRANK:

Who’s they?

CLERK:

I suggest you leave now.

FRANK:

This is absurd.

CLERK:

Step away from the counter, sir.

FRANK:

This is truly absurd.

Exasperated, FRANK exits. CLERK straightens her piles of red, yellow and green paper.

CLERK:

Well. WELL! George R. Well.

LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK. END OF PLAY.

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