Parallel parking and perpendicular thinking
by David Weinshilboum
This was supposed to be a silly little column about a minor injustice. I was going to vent about a bullshit parking ticket and, perhaps, cause a few of you to giggle a knowing Schadenfreude giggle. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think my crappy little parking ticket is more than just a cheap laugh.
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Several weeks ago, I parked in downtown Davis. Apparently, my van’s front tire was “on the white line.” I wasn’t dangerously or excessively parked. In fact, if I had parked farther back — inside the white lines — I would have made it difficult for the car behind me to escape its spot. I actually recall getting out of my familymobile, noticing that my tire was on the line and thinking, “Nah, even the dickiest of dick cops wouldn’t ticket me for that.”
Of course, I got a ticket.
I had violated code 22.08.190. The description? “PARKING SPACE MARKINGS.” The remark: “VEHICLE TAKING TWO SPACES.” I looked from the ticket to my tire to the ticket. TWO SPACES? More like 1.05 spaces!
Incredibly, the guy who gave me the ticket was less than a block away. He drove a meter maid car dubbed — and I am so not making this up — the Davis Interceptor, a Yugo-like vehicle capable of maneuvering between parked cars and traffic.
I bounded across an intersection to catch up to The Interceptor.
“Dude, you made a mistake,” I told him. “You gave me a ticket for parking outside the lines.”
“Yeah, if you park wrong. You get a ticket,” he said dismissively. My face reddened, my ire roared to the surface.
“I didn’t park wrong; I was on the line because the car behind me was over the line,” I said.
“Then you shouldn’t have parked there,” he said.
At this juncture, a real police officer had pulled up. Apparently, he was just hanging around the area and saw me glide across the street toward his colleague. The officer sent his coworker away and began to tell me that I had violated law by — and again, I reiterate that I am in NO WAY making this up — jaywalking.
I told him that citing me for jaywalking or parking on a line was not what the city of Davis should pay cops to do.
“You don’t decide what our job is,” he said.
I informed him that the community should dictate what his job should be.
He then emphasized his corporal status and asked if I wanted to receive a jaywalking citation. I informed him that he seemed to WANT to give me one.
“I’m going to go against my better judgment and not cite you for jaywalking,” he finally said.
I informed Corporal Cockbot that his better judgment was a joke. (Though angry, I used my good judgment and never uttered my newly minted nickname aloud.)
What bothered me was how mindlessly these guys dealt with their jobs. It’s as if they wanted to perform their work anonymously, invisibly. To interact with a citizen — to have to communicate and explain one’s decisions — was not part of the deal.
The responses the cops gave me — when boiled down to their essence — sounded like bad dialogue from a B movie: The law was the law; respect the uniform. There was, in their minds, no potential for a dialogue. In all honesty, I would have preferred that they just told me that the city’s coffers were low and they needed to raise dough by hook, crook or meter maid schnook.
I wanted a modicum of sincerity, an attempt at reflection. I wanted a fucking conversation.
I’ll be honest, immediately after the incident, I wanted to obliterate the Davis Police union and fire all meter maid “cops.” I wanted to embarrass these officers by recounting this story, their names included, at a city council meeting for everyone to hear.
Then I calmed down and realized that I had questions. I wanted to know how Davis approached parking policy — was it truly “community friendly” as the city’s web site claims or a mere money grab to fill the dwindling city coffers? Are Davis meter maids genuine police officers, complete with pay and pensions given to their more at-risk brethren?
I imagine a lot of Americans feel how I felt when I got the ticket: they want to lash out at government because, at some point in their lives, government has failed them. I get why so many people are pissed off in our country. But I have to say, that anger hasn’t appeared to evolve into pragmatism yet.
David Weinshilboum, who has patented the name “Corporal Cockbot,” can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.