Scofflaw by
(7 Stories)

Prompted By The DMV

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Sometimes it’s not who you are, it’s who you know…

I grew up in rural Western Pennsylvania, Beaver County.  My mother worked at the Beaver County Courthouse, she was a clerk in the tax office where all taxes, including motor vehicle, were collected.

One sunny afternoon just after my junior year in college, I heard loud, resonant knocking on one of the plate glass sliding doors on the front of the house.  It was a Beaver County Police officer and he wanted to know if I was John Maruskin.

I told him I was and he said, “I have a warrant for your arrest. You have to come along with me.”  A rush of hippy horror roiled my brain’s convolutions like volcanic oatmeal, I probably shook, but I managed to ask, more or less calmly, “Why?”

The officer explained that I never paid near 100 parking tickets in Beaver, PA, ranging over a number of years , that I was a “Scofflaw” and that since I had ignored summonses, I was going to be arrested.

When I explained that I hadn’t lived in Beaver County for most of the last three years as I’d been in school in Washington, DC, he gave me an exasperated scowl and said: “Is your name John Maruskin?”  Since I’d already admitted it, I couldn’t suddenly change my story and say I was just a cousin visiting from “the old country.”

“Yes,” I said, “but…”

“No buts.  I’ve got a warrant for your arrest and you’re coming with me.”

“Wait,” I said, “I haven’t been in Beaver a hundred times in my life.  In fact, the only time I’ve been there in the past few years is when I’ve gone to have lunch with my mother who works…”

And then, as they say, it hit me.

“What kind of car was illegally parked?”  I asked.

“A yellow Chevy Malibu.”

“Oh,” I replied, breathing a sigh of relief, but trying not to seem flip. “That’s my mother’s car.  It’s registered under my father’s name, the same as mine, but my mother drives it to work every day at the courthouse.”

The officer’s attitude changed from adamant to jovial in a moment.

“You’re Dorothy Maruskin’s son?”

“Yes.  She works in the tax office.”

“Yeah, I know her, she’s a real nice lady.  Okay, I’ll go talk to her. Sorry.  Goodbye.”  He walked away.  I sank on the porch glider and recovered.

That evening when my mother got home I asked, “Why aren’t you in jail?”

She held up one index finger, gave a me coy smile, and one of those looks that said, this is just between us.  Then she said, real breezy, “Oh yes, a police officer came by and said he’d notice my car was parked near an expired meter.  He warned me not to do that because I could get a ticket.”

End of story. Whether or not she paid the fines, I never found out.  I doubt it.  My uncle was the police captain in Aliquippa, and a shot and a beer were sufficient to clear a ticket if the offender caught him off duty.  Heck, on duty.  Not corruption, comity

Sometimes it’s not who you know, it’s who knows your mother.

Profile photo of Zeque Zeque

Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written


  1. Thanx for this fun DMV story John!

    And welcome back to Retro, hope to see more of your stories!

  2. A great story, well told. The closing zinger elevates it even more. Keep on writing!

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Wonderful story, Zeque and you definitely proved that old adage of “not what you know, but WHO you know”.

  4. Khati Hendry says:

    Another great story–taking us from the uh-oh police encounter to the sigh of relief and insight into the ways of the world of “comity”. It turns out that the world still operates on human connections, for better or worse.

  5. Dave Ventre says:

    A fun story! I’ve only had the cops at my door once, Luckily they were looking for someone else in the building.

  6. Jim Willis says:

    John, this is really a great yarn about your near-miss with the law of Beaver County, PA. Written in your usual dry wit, succinctly told, and saves the punch line till the end. BTW, isn’t Beaver County where Henry Mancini was from? I have no idea how I know that but it’s in the overflowing closet of my brain’s trivia, some of which actually winds up being useful sometimes.

    • Zeque says:

      Jim, Yes indeed. Henry Mancini grew up in West Aliquippa. I dated his second cousin. Met her during a Hopewell High School PowderPuff football game in which she was a running back and I was a cheerleader. I helped carry her off the field when she sprained her knee. Think I’ll listen to “Baby Elephant Walk” on Youtube.

  7. Jim Willis says:

    Your introduction to Henry’s cousin is a true piece of traditional America at its best, John: female running backs and male cheerleaders rescuing them.

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