Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Reasons I Hate Parking Enforcement

10:13am Wednesday July 14th

A parking enforcement officer coasts down a residential Lincoln street, scanning the curbs for violations. Her eagle eyes were honed to spot a fire hydrant a mile away. She could smell an expired meter. On a calm days she could even hear the sound of tires grating against a fire lane and today was exceptionally calm. The bright morning sun pierced the gaps in the leafy canopy of trees overhead. There was a soft breeze blowing from an undetectable direction, not enough to provide any real comfort, but just enough to cause the leaves and taller grass to stir once in a while. It was hot. Hell it was July in Nebraska, it was supposed to be hot, but today was a record breaker. A high was expected that afternoon of 111, if it reached that level it would be a new record for this particular Wednesday.

For the officer, the heat was just another annoyance in a long line of things that had gone wrong that morning. Her coffee pot had broken sometime during the night and as she readied herself for the start of her six am shift, thick black coffee bypassed the glass decanter and percolated out across the counter and down the cabinets onto the floor. The coffee had evidently grounded something it shouldn't have, because moments later the circuit breaker for the kitchen had tripped and the house was plunged into that peculiar early morning darkness.

The rest of the morning had not gone smoothly either. She'd arrived at the station with barely enough time to check out her "Parking Enforcement Vehicle". The normal one she had been using for the last six months had needed a new transmission so she was stuck with the "well loved" standby, a re-purposed Honda Civic that was probably previously owned by a drug dealer. The interior was covered with cigarette burns and mysterious stains. The air coming out of the vents smelled like old socks and never quite got cold enough to make you feel comfortable.

She began her 12 hour shift by scanning the area around Nebraska Wesleyan, college students were notoriously bad a parking and on a good day she could rack up several hundred dollars in violations by just driving around the block. Unfortunately, it was summer, and with no serious classes in session there wasn't a parking violation to be seen. She hated when there wasn't something to write up.  As she continued through her area it became readily apparent that hell might have frozen over, there was not a single violation to be found.

As the hours wore on there was a growing sense of fury developing. A hint of annoyance that teased at the back of her mind like a bored child on a road-trip.  Then finally! Pay Dirt.

It was a stretch actually, but enough of a violation to warrant a ticket. Some hapless resident at 54th and Walker had left the car in their driveway just slightly over the sidewalk. Or at least it looked that way initially, but on further inspection the rear bumper was several inches in the clear. Darkness clouded her features as that nagging urge took hold of her. "Write a ticket!", "You have to write a ticket!".

So she wrote it. After-all it was only a ten dollar violation, not enough for someone to bother heading down the courthouse and contesting it. Even if they did, it would be her word against theirs... and who would a judge believe?

She chuckled to herself as she lifted the right windshield wiper, tucked the orange envelope underneath, and let it go with a satisfying "THWACK".

An hour later I would come out on my front porch to check my mail and discover this injustice.

I called the number listed on the ticket and was astonished to find it busy. If this is how they're issuing parking tickets, its no wonder the phone lines are all tied up. I waited five minutes, I tried again. And again. And again. Finally on my fifth call a voice at the other end greeted me with ,"Department of Violations."

I explained to her my situation as calmly as I could through clenched teeth. She seemed taken aback at my use of complete sentences and the extensiveness with which I utilized Shakespeare references. As if in a last moment of confused desperation she said that if I had a problem with my ticket I could contest it at the county courthouse... I hung up, already revving my engine down vine street towards downtown, the Fourth movement of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony blared from my speakers.

I sped down to the County Courthouse and was especially careful to park legally. I found my way to the county attorneys office. I waited. I waited some more. I kept waiting occasionally glancing at my watch, which apparently had died at quarter to twelve the following night. Like an insect having its last convulsions after being hit by a shoe, the second hand on my watch occasionally pulsed and fluttered between the 59 and the 60, never quite having enough energy to start a new minute. I waited. I instinctively looked at my watch. I waited. Every-time I looked at my broken watch I became more and more infuriated. My left eye began to twitch in time with my watch. Every so often one of the receptionists would pick up a phone and announce to the maze of cubicles behind her that "one was still waiting..."

At long last a portly, unkempt, desk jockey poked his bulbous nose out from behind the door, called my name and took me back to his padded square office. I explained to him my situation and he looked at me like a man who needed a nap. His head rested on his hand, his eyelids drooped and he did his best to look as uninterested as possible. His voice sounded as lazy and as paunchy as his mannerisms. It was what droopy dog would sound like coming home from the dentist. He explained to me that the law stated if even the tiniest fraction of your car was over the line it was within the officer's rights to give you a ticket.  I explained to him that this was ridiculous. That based on this the city could tow my car from my driveway. He said I could contest this in court, but if I lost I would have to pay the fine and a $48 court cost. Then, much like an NPC in a bad video game that is my life, he proceeded to spout the same several phrases over and over, no matter what I did to persuade him.

Finally, enraged by his lackadaisical attitude and overall absence of helpfulness, I left. Stormed downstairs to the violations office. Threw a ten dollar bill at them with my envelope exclaiming, "Here's your pound of flesh you TYRANTS!" and stormed off.

I spent the rest of the afternoon putting money in expired meters downtown.

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