Yeah, that's the ticket.

Let's talk about parking tickets, shall we?

Monday, March 29, 2010

And now it's time to play....

That's right, it's the game show where your stinky neighbor does something rotten to you, so you feel you have to escalate the nonsense by doing something equally or even more rotten to them! Before we start a new round, let's recap today's edition.

I was called up to one of the ritzier neighborhoods waaaaay up in the hills to cite a vehicle I was told was blocking a fire hydrant. Okay. I do this kind of thing all the time. I drove up there and turned down the cul-de-sac road and lo and behold, no blocked hydrant. I told the Desk (no, I don't talk to furniture. The Desk is what we call the place where the police dispatchers are. Wiseguy.) that the vehicle was GOA, that is, Gone On Arrival. I then drove back down the hill to resume the work I had to do. One hour later, while I was busy, I got another call from the Desk to go back up there. This time it was to assist officers who were called to the scene because of a neighbor dispute. Oh, brother. But at least there would be officers there.

I got there and I was (ta da!) by myself. No officers anywhere. The couple who had made the original complaint was standing outside their house waiting for me. Oh goody! The same vehicle was sitting there but it was way far away from the hydrant. Surely it couldn't be..... "Officer, are you going to cite this car?" "Why? It's far enough away from the hydrant." "Well, the code says it has to be fifteen feet away, right?" I hate when people quote the code to me. It tells me I'm just going to have a harder time of it. People who don't actually DO our job love to quote chapter and verse to those of us who do. "Yes," I said wearily. "Well, his car is fourteen feet from the hydrant and I want you to cite it." "But sir," I started, "there is the letter of the law and then there's the spirit. They also give us discretion and in my professional opinion this vehicle should not be cited." Then the tape measures came out. Niiiice.

When I told him I still wouldn't cite the car, he asked me to get my supervisor (She's not busy at all of course). But I had to call for her. Taxpayers, oy! This scene went on for quite a while until my boss and two (!) patrol cars arrived, but I'm giving you the abridged version. You can thank me later. Or you can thank me by making a generous donation to the old Parking Control Officer's home (I'd give you my address but I'm not crazy, you know).

When my boss got there she told them the same thing I did about that letter/spirit thing, while the cops went to talk to the jerk of a neighbor who never did make an appearance (turns out he really was acting like a creep). We all talked for a while and then I mentioned the one thing they really needed to hear: if I cite this guy, it's only going to make matters worse. This brought everyone up short (the main complaining guy was quite tall too!) and everyone calmed down. I even heard the wife say that she believed in karma and the annoying neighbor would get his someday. Whew, what a relief. Can I please go back to what I was doing before all this started? I can? Wonderful. I got on the radio and told the Desk I was now heading to lunch.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Rough Day

Not that the day was busy, most of them are. No, this day it hit home (with a sledgehammer) how bad the economy is for some people. Here's the story: I saw a car parked on a curve near an intersection. The rear tire was sticking out over three feet from the curb (you're only allowed 18 inches). I got out to cite it and it came up on my computerized, hand-held cite writer that the car had more than five unpaid parking tickets. I had the main desk check with Citation Management and sure enough, it was a "keeper," as we say, meaning I could tow it. So I called for the tow truck and started filling out the form.

After we got the car up in the air, the owner came out of her apartment with her young child. She was in complete distress. She had no money, she can't pay her rent, she had this or that shut off (I forget which), she had just come from a funeral (?), etc. I asked her if she had any friends or relatives who could help her out. She said no (I should have asked her where the baby's father was, but I thought that might have been going too far). I told her that I felt bad, which I did, horrible in fact, but there was nothing I could do. The state of California doesn't leave a lot of room for those who don't pay their tickets. And so here's my point: if she had just paid that first one, she would only have had a $40 hit. She let that one go too long and the fine doubled to $80. Still, that's a manageable amount. And that first one, I should mention, she got in October of 2009! She got four more after that, all of which she let double. This is such a big mistake. Sometimes do people really think, if I don't pay these they'll go away? The other thing is, if she had parked legally and not over 18 inches from the curb, I never would have noticed her car. As it is, it's going to cost her well over $500 to get that car back. And I felt like shit.

I hear you saying, why didn't you just give her a break? Let her go. Be a guy. Well, even if I would have done that, eventually this would have caught up with her. And if she kept getting tickets, the whole thing would have cost her even more! As I have posted before, causes lead to effects, and karma can be such a big bitch.

When I told this to one of the higher ups at the station, he told me "At least you feel badly. We have people who would have been gleeful to have 'gotten' her." Yeah, I guess so. Small consolation though. I know she feels a lot worse than I do. But I also know this could have been prevented if she had only taken responsibility in the first place. These were all street sweeping tickets. Two of them were on consecutive days! Which means we caught her on the sweeping side one day and the next day we caught her on the other side! For heaven's sake! Ugh!

I have said before, a perfect day for us is if we write no tickets at all. I wish that day had been today. I only hope this young woman can turn things around for herself and for the sake of her child. Maybe in an odd way I did her a favor. When your back is up against a wall, the only way to go is forward. Also, the only way to get rid of an illness, is after it has come out and shown itself. Maybe that'll happen for the economy too. But I still feel like shit.

Officer X needs a Dos Equis (or two).


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sad but true

I was in the office at the end of my shift today, when a gentleman came in to protest a ticket he had received earlier for parking facing the wrong way in an angled space - i.e. he had backed in. What's wrong with that? Well, it was on a very busy street, first of all, and he had to cross the double yellow lines to get into the spot that way which is a moving violation (and he'd have to do that again to get out), he'd also be pulling out into oncoming traffic which on that street can be extremely treacherous and defies common sense, and quite simply, it's a violation of the vehicle code! Well, he has a very large vehicle (oh yeah?) and he would have a terrible blind spot (I think he already does) if he pulled in forward, etc, etc and blah, blah, blah.

The woman at the window told him to take a protest form and fill it out. He kept yammering on that he thought it was a chintzy (his word) ticket and he should be allowed to park his truck the way he did. I thought, the arrogance of this man. The self-righteousness. He didn't care that he was doing the wrong thing, it should be allowed dammit because it was him doing it! Well, I guess we've all felt this way at one time or another. Maybe. I hope not. Because this kind of attitude is a poison in our society. I don't have to follow the rules but everyone else does, and should! Man, if we all felt like that and acted upon it, think of the utter chaos that would create. It's not too crazy to imagine that anarchy would ensue. I'm not a huge fan of Rudy Giuliani but he had a good idea while he was Mayor of New York City. He kept a tight lid on a lot of the smaller crimes, the minor infractions and it worked. Bigger crime did actually go down. He knew that people who have the attitude that it's okay to do this little thing soon started thinking it's okay to do this slightly bigger thing. And on and on.

I might be making too much of this. Probably I am. This guy didn't look like a criminal, just a jackass, and I don't think he'd be personally responsible for the end of polite society as we know it (tenuous as it seems right now anyway). But look around. This attitude is everywhere. Self-righteousness. It's there in government, in our sports figures, in our business leaders, in religious leaders, for cryin' out loud! Who says this is okay? What philosophy gets behind this kind of behavior? Is there anyone who sits down, self-reflects and says, you know what? I was wrong. I'm still wrong and I'm not going to do that again. It's rare to see that in this job, I can tell you. It's rare to see it in America in 2010.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Timing is Everything

See the title of this piece? I've always heard this. And I believe it too. But whose timing? When I was growing up, our cat always seemed to know when our father was coming home. I can't imagine why as our father never fed the little guy and wasn't even generally predisposed to liking cats at all. He didn't like the smell or the cat hair all over the place...but I digress. The point is animals have wonderful internal clocks. Humans seem to have poor internal clocks and this job proves it to me every day. Here are some examples: A person will park at a 10 minute, 20 minute, 30 minute, 1 hour, 2 hour, 90 minute, 3 hour, or amazingly even a 4 hour zone and incredibly, unbelievably, astoundingly not make it back in time and we, as is our job, will write the ticket. But then, of course, many times as we are writing that ticket THEN they show up (Murphy, I curse you AND your law). They argue with us and we (and by we I mean I because I don't know what my colleagues do really) shake our heads in complete bemusement.

By the way, it's futile to argue with me because you are not really arguing with me. You are arguing with the big, fat, juicy chalk mark on your tire and big, fat, juicy chalk marks don't lie. When I point that out, people usually calm down. Although I have had people snatch the ticket out of my hand (bad form), crumple it up (worse form), and throw it on the ground (really embarrassingly no-good form, if you ask me). I've even had people tear the thing up, throw it into the street and drive off triumphantly. I wonder how they feel (and I'd love to be the proverbial fly-on-the-wall to see how they react) when they find that I have simply re-printed the ticket and mailed it to their house, even out of state.

Oh yeah, back to timing. I hear, "But I just ran in for a minute" a lot which I have discussed before. Mostly this is simply untrue. Things don't happen that quickly and here I mean things like running into the store, going to the ATM, running into the post office (puuulll-eeeezzeee), or into the vet's office, doctor's office, dentist's office, or the DMV!!! (Honestly, what do you people think we'll fall for anyway?)

I guess I'm posting this because we've just gone back onto daylight savings time. You'd think with all the daylight people have saved over all these years, they'd be, I don't know, brighter.


A personal note to Ezra: You give me hope.