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January 06, 2009

How all those parking fines finally paid off.

January 6. Day 190.

There are few domains in which I proclaim expertise. Grad school has only stressed how little I know -- and how much I need to stress out. The school of life has brought no greater mastery of any line of thought.

But I do profess to know my Three P's: procrastination, parking tickets, and praspberries.

Let's leave the first and third for later, shall we, and zoom in on number two.

While living in Boston for six years, I amassed a fanciful collection of parking tickets, most of which I saved and put in a file labeled "Fuck you too." These include your routine expired meters, street sweeping, snow emergency, permit only, feeding the meter, and the more exotic specimens: valet parking only, handicapped ramp (only by 2 inches!!), reparking on the same block after a meter expired, and my personal favorite -- parking facing the wrong direction.

Believe me, it was no small task to collect such a variety of offenses.

And so, in hopes of saving you the hundreds or perhaps thousand dollars in fines I paid, I encourage you to apply these methods as needed. Consider them as part of the revolt against a system that forces drivers into coffer-filling obedience.

We will not be jerks and double park or block someone's driveway. But nor will we tolerate this subjugation another day, hour or minute!! Go forth and park in peace, my brothers and sisters!

0. If you'll be parking somewhere frequently, get to know the area's parking vibe. Some streets are doomed, others seem scary (i.e. heavily trafficked) but rarely encounter a meter maid. On some, no one comes by before noon despite the signs. Others, 3 a.m. checks are routine.

1. Begging and/or kissing up: do it. I have gotten out of lots of tickets on the nick of time by running up to the meter maid with a smile. You don't need to flirt or have long hair and stilettos to pull this off. Just... enough desperation.

2. Leave a note. For a while, I had a paper in the back seat that read, in all caps sharpie, "PLEASE HAVE MERCY! BE BACK SOON!!" It was ready to go for quick meter stops if I was out of quarters and in "Private Parking/Tow Zone" areas. I used it unobtrusively -- in an empty residential lot during business hours, or an empty bank lot on a weeknight, and never for too long.

3. If you do get a fine, check the ticket meticulously. If a number is recorded incorrectly or something is unreadable or missing, the court should declare it invalid.

4. Appeal, appeal, appeal. I got to be a familiar face at Boston city hall. Why not? The ticket cost more than what I earn in an hour, and there are plenty of lunch spots nearby to celebrate.

5. If you get more than one ticket at once, you never simply PAY. Bring two at a time and negotiate. I think I saved $100 or $200 bucks that way, in pre-asker askings. BUT: Don't bring more than two tickets, since the clerk can probably only let you off the hook for one without seeming like a softie.

6. And for the record, since records are so important, act deferential and contrite, even if you and the clerk both know it's a bunch of bullshit to be charged $40 for being a minute late. At least, that seems to work for me.

Today I was in downtown San Diego for a meeting with someone, and there was no way I'd be able to come out and feed the meter. So I resorted to Methods 1 and 2, with a note secured behind a windshield wiper.

"Dear Parking Agent,

If possible...
Please have mercy!
My meeting is done at 1 and I will move the car immediately!!

Have a great day,


La Roxy
(civic driver)"

The meter had expired for an hour and 15 minutes, and no ticket! No clue if it was the note or luck, but given my usual misfortune, I want to hope it was the note...

Gained: a $40 reprieve, after paying many multiples of that.
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