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June 03, 2009

Illegal parking 101: Don't ask, don't tell

June 3. Day 338.

Met up with some friends around 9. Destination: a bar on the water, in time for happy hour. The girl who was driving circled around for a few minutes and, finding nothing -- not even an illegal spot tight enough to fit her Mini -- moved on to the next neighborhood. Still nothing.

"How long does it take to find parking in this city?" I inquired.

"Depends if you care about getting a ticket or not," came the answer. "If you don't, 5 minutes."

We approached downtown, where there's a cool rooftop bar, a rarity in this city. The driver found an illegal spot and swooped in.

Just as we were getting out of the car, four young policemen, in uniform but acting relaxed, like they were off the clock, pulled up to the spot next to hers -- which was also illegal. They got out, then milled around for a moment.

"Damn!! If I leave the car here, I'm definitely getting fined," the driver lamented.

"Don't worry! They'll never fine you! Let's just pretend we're waiting for someone and once they're gone, we rush to the bar," another retorted.

"But they're coming back eventually. And then what?"

I had it! The solution! I would ask for clemency.

"Guys, what if I talked to them?"

They both looked at me, mortified.

"I will ask them if you can leave your car here. Explain we all know everyone breaks the rules anyway, and we've been circling around for half an hour, so could they be nice and promise no ticket?"

"No!! La Roxy, no no no no way!!"

"Don't worry! If anyone gets in trouble, it's me."

"NO. More like if you ask, they're going to say it's illegal and we'll have to move again. The system here is 'Don't ask, don't tell,' got it?"

We waited for the cops to disperse and headed to the bar (whose empty lowball glass, which formerly held my strawberry caiprinha, is here; above, its neon terrace).

Gained: Instructed to hold back. I don't know the lay of the land, so I just took their cue. Fortunately, she got no ticket. The cops were still gone when we got back. Looks like they partied harder than we did.

I hadn't proposed to ask because I needed to fulfill my daily dose. I just thought it was a "nothing to lose" situation that could help them out. An enterprising American diplomat to the rescue! Guess not.

A few hours earlier, I asked to borrow someone's office equipment.

I was getting a tour and learning what kind of work an acquaintance does -- a mix of marketing and branding, with lots of cool clients and cool technologies -- and I came across a magazine in the lobby with an interesting article.

"Do you have a photocopy machine I could possibly use to copy these three pages?"

"Sure, why?"

"There's a story here that I'd love to read later."

"Of course! Here's the machine. Press the black button. Make yourself at home!"

Gained: Saved money and time of tracking down/buying the magazine. Simplified my life. Got my own copy of a cool article. Here's another picture of the bar.
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