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).