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November 23, 2016 - How to pay a fine

This update has only one bit of important information. I paid the fine of 40,000 rubles today. When I am acquitted in the high court, we will file to have the money returned to us.

If you want to continue reading, be warned that this is a painfully detailed story of all the bureaucratic hoops I had to jump through to get them to take my money. It doesn't really add anything to the story, but I thought some people might enjoy following the steps I took. Stop reading now if you have more important things to do. :)

Tuesday was supposed to be a calm peaceful day. I was going to write my overdue update and configure some settings on my computer. It turned out to be a crazy day.

First, I thought I should unpack and do some laundry because I had just been out of town for several days. Then I got a call from my missionary friend. He will be coming for a visit soon, so I needed to make some arrangements about that.

Then, I got a call from Alex. He found somebody that might be interested in looking at my apartment, so I put some information together for him.

Then I got a call from another missionary friend. He invited me to come to a Thanksgiving celebration on Thursday. I decided to do that, so I took a while to make plane and train reservations.

Then I realized that I really needed to pay my fine right away, because I would be out of town again for a few days, and would have very little time left to do it after I got back.

I tried to pay it with online banking, which should have been easy, since I had all the information I needed. The website kept telling me the payment numbers were invalid. I double checked the numbers that are printed right on the verdict papers from the courthouse, and checked against the numbers on the courthouse website, under "how to pay a fine". All the numbers were correct, but the online bank wouldn't take them.

I hadn't planned to stop for breakfast, but I remembered that I had two krispy kreme donuts left over from Moscow, so there was no way I wasn't going to eat those with a cold glass of milk. It was already 2pm, and all of a sudden I got tired, since I hadn't slept much the night before. The donuts might have helped make me tired. I took a nap for an hour.

At about 3pm, I went out to a bank branch to pay the fine. On the way out, I checked my mailbox and found a notice for registered mail, so I would have to go to the post office as well. I also had a grocery shopping list, so I brought my two wheeled grocery cart with me.

At the bank branch, I took a number and waited a little while. I wanted to pay the fine with my USA bank debit card. The lady said I had to pay with cash. When I went to their cash machine, it would only give me 5000 rubles at a time, so i would have had to make 8 withdrawals. That kind of activity might flag my card for blockage. I decided to get the cash later. I know some ATMs that will give me 40,000 at one time.

Then I went to the post office. While waiting in line to get my registered letter, I realized that I had to go to the bathroom. My high blood pressure medicine has a diuretic, and it catches up with me sometimes. There is no bathroom in the post office, of course.

I went across the street to a medical clinic. They would surely have a public bathroom, right? The security guard told me "We are closed". I told him I just needed a bathroom - please? He said "everything is closed". I said, "The bathroom is closed?" He said, "everything is closed". He was an old guy with one of those twitches that makes him constantly shake his head gently from side to side, like you would shake your head to mock somebody that was doing something stupid. (We used to have a bus conductor that did that all the time. It always made us feel like we were doing something wrong)

As I was leaving the clinic, I noticed an ATM that I knew would give me the money. I withdrew 40,000 rubles, but I pressed the wrong button, so I got forty 1000 ruble bills instead of eight 5000 ruble bills. Now I had a fat wallet in my pocket. It's hard to concentrate when you really need to go to the bathroom. The closest bathroom I knew was at the pizza place. I ran over there, and almost didn't make it in time.

Then I went to another bank branch to pay my fine and get rid of all these bills in my pocket. I took a number and waited a while. The teller told me that the payment numbers from the courthouse are invalid. I showed her the documents and she tried again with no success. She said these looked like old numbers that she had not seen in a long time.

I tried calling the courthouse, but of course the line was either busy or nobody would answer, so I walked over to the courthouse. I went through security and got sent from office to office. Nobody could figure out where the new payment numbers are. "Come back tomorrow."

In the last office I went to, I started explaining my problem to the girl at the desk, when I noticed a guy at another desk was looking at me. I looked back at him - it was Dennis, whom I led to Christ last year. He is now working at the courthouse programming computers.

After I finished my business, he and I went out into the hallway and talked a while. It was the same hallway where I waited for hours on the day I was arrested. He said "This is a good job, but I hate the work environment - these people are cruel." When we talked about me going back to America, he almost cried. He said, "Your meetings mean so much to me. Sunday morning is such an empty place in my life since we stopped the meetings."

Then I went back to the post office and waited in line for a while to get my registered letter. Then I went to the grocery store and did my shopping. Finally home, I did a few things to get ready for my next trip.

I had just gotten home from one trip late Monday night. Here it was late Tuesday night. I would need to be leaving for another trip late Wednesday night.

Then I realized that I had two pounds of ground beef in the refrigerator. It had been there for several days and would go bad if I didn't cook it up as taco meat. I had to chop onions and garlic for that. I cooked the meat and decided I needed to eat some taco salad. I washed and spun some lettuce that was about to go bad, and chopped a tomato. I ate taco salad and watched Andy Griffith while I ate. At 1am I still had piles of clean laundry to fold, but decided to go to bed and fold in the morning.

On Wednesday morning, I got a call from the courthouse at 10 am. They said they had the proper payment information so I could pay my fine. I called Zacharich the taxi man to take me there, because I was in a hurry to get this over with.

At the courthouse I went through security and upstairs to the office to get my paper with all the numbers. I told them that the bank specifically asked me for a verdict number on the day before, so I absolutely needed a verdict number. On the verdict paper, there is not a number. They weren't too sure, but they gave me a number that they said should work.

After I left the courthouse, I needed to check my post office box, so I took a detour to do that.

I had been buying train and plane tickets the night before, so I needed to get some more money to pay my fine. That was a detour to Atoll shopping center and I needed to use two different ATMs to get what I needed.

Then I went to the bank again, took a number, and waited in a long line. When I finally got to the teller, all the new numbers were right, but the verdict number was wrong. They needed a 20 digit number. I tried calling the bank, but of course nobody answers the phone.

I walked back to the bank. I decided it was time for my angry act. I went into the reception office and demanded the complaint book. I wanted to write a complaint because "Nobody here knows how to do their job, and I have come here for the fourth time just to get basic information on how to pay my fine, and am I the first person who has ever paid a fine in this town?, and incompetent bureaucrats, and I am mad, etc. etc."

They told security to wave me through without checking so I could get right up to the office. I yelled at the secretaries in the office with the same speech. Dennis was sitting in the corner trying not to laugh. I winked at him so he knew I was putting it on.

They ended up taking me to the office of the judge who convicted me. I was a little more respectful with her, but just as direct. She got on the phone and called the police station but everybody was out to lunch by that time. She started to suggest that I would have to go back to the bank and get some kind of letter from them. I said, "No. You are obligated to give me a 20 digit verdict number so I can pay my fine. I am not leaving until you give me that number!"

They promised to get right to work on it as soon as lunch was over at 2pm. I said , "I will wait." I waited in the corridor on the exact same bench where I waited on the day I was arrested three months ago. Dennis came to me several times to see if I had been taken care of. He brought me a fresh apple pastry from the bread factory next door.

At 2 pm the judge returned from lunch and made some phone calls to get my information. She called me back into her office, the same one where I was convicted three months ago. She wrote a name on a paper. She said I needed to go back to the original police station and they would be waiting for me with the information I need.

At the police station they gave me a payment document with all the numbers and a QR code that would make it easy to pay at the bank.

Then I went to the bank and took a number. Waited for a while, and at last, they took my money and the fine is paid at last. I finally got home at 4:30pm. When my conviction gets overturned, I will need to file papers to get this money back. I don't expect it will be any easier to get it back than it was to give it to them.

I still need to pack for my trip. I have until midnight.

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