Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I beat City Hall!

Bean's daycare has several 10-minute parking spots in front of it for the convenience of parents who are loading and unloading their charges. I park there twice daily for this purpose.

The parking around the daycare is usually not too crowded. There are several metered spaces on both sides of the two streets (the daycare is on a corner). But for running in and out, obviously, it would be preferable to park in one of the 10-minute spots.

The problem is, there are all kinds of five-year-old things that can cause delays: the child not wanting to leave, the child refusing to put on his/her coat, the child needing to go to the bathroom.

All of which happened on one particular day, and so when we got outside, I found a parking ticket on my windshield. What was especially aggravating about the ticket was that it was given at exactly *eleven* minutes - which suggests to me that the meter person stalked my car and hung around for exactly eleven minutes just in order to catch me.

Since those spaces are meant to be helpful to parents, I was annoyed. I can understand if a car has been there for a half hour, but eleven minutes?

So I went to City Hall.

Contesting tickets is an interesting business. While I was there, I met two other contestors. One was clearly angry and had a 'tude. I don't recall the exact nature of his traffic crime, but I believe it involved turning right on red where there was no right on red allowed. His position was that the traffic ticket policies in this city were terrible and needed to be completely overhauled. He said several times that he loved living here except for the tickets. (Which kinda made me wonder just how many tickets he'd gotten in the couple of years he's lived here.) Not surprisingly, he did not get his ticket waived.

The other contestor was an elderly man who came along with his wife. He had been in a traffic accident and was told by the police officer who responded to park his car at the side of the road. He was sitting with the officer in the police car when the meter person came by and ticketed his car. Also not surprisingly, he *did* get his ticket waived.

(Tangent: For some reason, this man felt compelled to tell me, more than once, that the person who hit his car was a "drunk Indian." I think he thought it was a joke, and he half-whispered it the way that white people here do when they say "Indian." Like an Indian might hear them, and then they might be embarrassed for having said something racist. And then they'd have to get angry because they don't like being embarrassed, and of course they aren't racist; it's just a simple truth, isn't it, that the Indians here are always drunk.

Effing white people.

So he said that the cops arrested the "drunk Indian," because apparently there were laws against being a drunk Indian. And I suggested rather strongly that perhaps the laws were against being drunk and applied to everyone, which was the only thing I could say at that moment that wasn't a profanity. I am terrible at situations like this - I admit it. I need to practice telling people off without resorting to screaming profanities in City Hall, which would have probably gotten me kicked out. The only other thing I could think to do was not to crack a smile at his "joke" but to look at him, stonily, and without comprehension as to why on earth such a racist comment would be funny.)

So then it was my turn. I went in, and I had to stand at a podium in front of a fancy court bench and swear to tell the truth, and then I had to explain that while I was parked for eleven minutes and not ten, I felt that perhaps a little leniency was in order for those parents who parked there and who had the task of wrestling the little monsters out to the car. I wanted to make a point, I said. Secretly, I was hoping that my point would be heard 'round the city and that the new policy would be not to ticket any cars in front of the daycare. Instead, they made an exception for me and waived my ticket, essentially warning me that I should be careful not to park for longer than ten minutes next time. So I did not effect lasting social change, but I did get to keep my $5. (Yes - $5. What can I say? It was the principle of the thing.)


Anonymous said...

$5?! I need to move to South Dakota! Here parking tickets start at $50. Ouch. I once got TWO for parking in a "no parking 4-6" zone- one at 4:01 and the second at 4:07. And then I tried to contest the second one, I was summarily denied. Sigh.

Plain(s)feminist said...

I know - cheap parking tickets are certainly a perk of living here.

When I was living in Hartford, the city needed to clear the very-populated street in front of my house - a street on which it was difficult to find parking because there were so many of us with cars living there. So, at 5 in the morning, they drove through with a bullhorn announcing that residents needed to move their cars, and then they ticketed them. It was infuriating. (It was probably $25 or $30.)