When Dawami arrived at the police station yesterday, dressed in a turban and church clothes, she was met, at the bulletproof window, with a warrant for her arrest.
The drama began this past May, on one of Dawami's first solo trips driving. As she made a left turn into the Thriftown grocery parking lot, an oncoming car hit her minivan broadside. No one was hurt. A cop came and took a halting statement from Dawami, and another from the American-born woman who hit her. He found Dawami at fault for "failure to yield" and handed her a faint carbon copy of her citation. In tiny print, it listed a court date of Aug. 5 and, according to Minnick Lenge, a church friend of Dawami's who moved here from Congo seven years ago and helps interpret for Dawami, an "expiration" date of Aug. 16.
Dawami's insurance, from American Century Casualty Company, covered $500 for the other woman's car repairs. But when Dawami inquired what to do about her court date, Minnick says that the insurance agent stopped returning their phone calls.
Dawami, attentive to the dates on her ticket if not quite their significance, showed up to court on Saturday, Aug. 16, to find the building locked. So first thing Monday morning, she and Minnick headed to the local police station to sort things out. When they got there, the woman at the counter informed them that on Aug. 5, when Dawami failed to appear in court, the judge had issued a warrant for her arrest. She demanded an immediate $340 payment to dismiss the warrant.
Dawami slowly counted the amount out of her wallet in twenties. (I don't know where it came from; I've never seen her with more than a couple dollars, and she regularly complains that her husband, Hassan, leaves her without money for food for Bill and Igey.) "Too much," she said bleakly, when she was safely outside the station.
Back at home, Minnick and Hassan tried to cheer Dawami up. They joked that the African-American police officer had favored the African-American driver over Dawami with her poor English. Minnick did a whole reenactment, hamming it up, doing the accents for both people in turn - "Eh, I turn? ... light ... green ... go Thriftown?"; "Ok, ticket!" - while Dawami and Hassan laughed and laughed.