There on the windshield, it was lying like a curvaceous woman beckoning me to release her from the lace lingerie concealing her body. Perfectly nestled between the dewy glass and windshield wiper. It was a parking ticket. I felt a sudden contusion in the pit of my stomach, worse than the time my mom caught me masturbating to a rerun of “Little House on the Prairie.” The middle finger in the shape of a yellow carbon-copied strip of paper, read:
“Parking Violation: Street Cleaning on Wednesday, No Parking. Fee: $96. Please pay in full within 21 calendar days from the date issued.”
The officer’s name was Craig. What a name? An officer by any other name would’ve been just as annoying. The ticket’s timestamp showed that he had been there only moments before me. Like a ticket fairy, he had bestowed upon me the gift of early morning high blood pressure. My whole day was now ruined. The ticket would be the only thing on my mind, looming over me like a dark omen.
This wasn’t the first time I had wrangled with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. While in college, I parked at a 4-Hour spot and after driving off of it, I wasn’t able to find another but the very one I had just vacated. In a mad scramble to get to class on time, I parked in the same space. Three hours and fifty-six minutes later, there it was. I came, I saw, I convulsed. $75. I requested, in writing, that the ticket be pardoned given the situation. They callously refused to do so. This time around, I knew that I needed substantial evidence in order to annul the ticket and not have to lose time from work to appear in court and futilely testify on my own behalf.
After I composed myself, I began to dissect the ticket to a near molecular level and noticed some glaring inconsistencies. First of all, my car wasn’t parked at the address that Officer Craig had written on the ticket. I was parked across the street from it. Then, I noticed that Officer Craig had cleverly written “A/F”–meaning “Across From”–in front of the bogus address. Touché. Craig 1, me 0.
The second discrepancy that I saw was in the sign I was parked next to. It read:
“No Parking: 4:30am – 6:30am; Thursday, Street Cleaning.”
However, every single sign in front and behind it read:
“No Parking: 4:30am – 6:30am; Wednesday, Street Cleaning.”
It read that way for blocks upon blocks. Was I crazy? Was the city of LA playing a prank on me? You need a tort law degree, an affinity for Seussian limericks, the wit of Aristotle and the patience required to read a Tolkien novel in order to decipher the mind-fucking circular logic that is LA street parking signage. These complicated ten foot totem pole puzzles would confound even the cleverest inhabitants of Carroll’s Wonderland.
I don’t mind getting ticketed for something that I’ve done. I pride myself in being a law-abiding citizen. However, I don’t appreciate getting one on behalf of the city’s blunder. I really shouldn’t have parked there knowing that this was the only sign that read “Thursday.” Did I think that this was a tear in the space and time continuum? The four leaf clover of parking? I took extensive photographic evidence of the sign. I wasn’t going to lose to a lazy parking officer doing the bidding of a negligent city. En garde. Craig 1, me 1.
The third and final misstep was the color Officer Craig wrote down for my car. He wrote gray. My car is light blue. My protracted apathy to take my car for a wash and the early morning’s dim lighting had strangely conspired in my favor. This was my final lunge. Victory was mine. Craig 1, me 2.
I wrote an impassioned letter to the Department of Transportation’s subdivision, the Parking Violations Bureau. It was a combination of a plea and a declaration. Oliver Twist meets Patrick Henry. “Please, sir, I want some more” and “Give me liberty, or give me death.” I was so sure of my overwhelming victory that I thought of paying a hooded horseman to ride through the night, at full gallop, and hand deliver my letter to the General Manager of the Department of Transportation. And just to make sure that she got it, I also wanted to send the message by pigeon and in a bottle dropped at sea.
Two excruciating months went by and I still hadn’t received word from the Bureau. Tired of waiting, I called their main office. The woman who answered spoke in a cold and sterile monotone. The only aspect that made it human was a slight hint of exasperation due to overwork. She asked me for my citation number and then she went mute. All I could hear was a jumble of keyboard clicking.
“Sir, you don’t owe anything. That citation has been closed,” she said.
A few weeks later, I received a letter in the mail confirming my victory. It read:
“Thank you for your inquiry concerning the citation(s) listed below. We have received your claim and found it to be valid. Therefore, your citation(s) is/are being permanently dismissed. No further action on your part is required.”
I framed it. It was probably one of my proudest moments. I hate to admit that I get a little teary-eyed every time I look at it. It restored my faith in my city.
Los Angeles, thank you for owning up to your mistake and being the bigger person.