Traffic Ticket Stories


I marched on City Hall to contest my third traffic violation in as many months.


The hearing officer looked at me crooked-like and grumbled, “You again Slaven?!”


“Yes ma’am,” I replied jovially.


The case was over a ticket I received for parallel parking in a metered spot that unbeknownst to me, preposterously doubled as a bike lane.


I don’t know how many Good Will Huntings Cambridge hired to come up with the trap of inviting unsuspecting commuters to park in clearly designated metered spots only to cite them for obstructing bike lanes, but it was admittedly genius.


After I presented my ironclad case, the hearing officer mumbled something about sharing the road with bikers, and then furiously typed away in search for the relevant ordinance that could put me away for life.


After an apparently fruitless search, she excused herself and disappeared into a different office, never to return.


When she returned ten minutes later, she declared that I should have parked fifteen feet away from the curb in the inadequately designated parking space.


I objected that there was no sign directing me to break the universal law of parallel parking, which states that you park within one foot of the curb, not in the middle of the street like a derelict.


She again unpersuasively mumbled something about sharing the road, clearly not confident in the correctness of the penalty levied against me, but reluctant to absolve me of my crime against the municipality.


She stared at her screen for a little while longer, presumably once again in search of the elusive ordinance.


Finally, she told me that she could not make a decision at this time, as this was an inordinately difficult case with too many variables for her to process on her own. She told me she’d call me once Cambridge’s brightest minds resolved what will likely be referred to in high school social studies textbooks as the case of the century.


Three weeks later, I received a letter finding me guilty on all charges and ordering me to pay the $40 fine.


__



Today started just like any other day: I woke up, cleaned up cat vomit, and marched to City Hall to rectify a grievous injustice.


This time, I was demanding the city dismiss a parking ticket I received for not feeding the meter on a Saturday.

I had parked near a sign that read, 2 hour limit Mon-Fri, 8am-6pm except resident sticker, which is universal parking language for "you can park for free on Saturday and Sunday."


As it turns out, it’s also Boston's language for go ahead and park in this ticket trap, you gullible idiot.


When I arrived, a city official, no older than twenty five, escorted me to the hearing room, where he made me raise my right hand and swear to tell the truth. Then he informed me I was being recorded.


If the matter at hand wasn't over a crippling $25 fine, I would have been struck by the gratuitously official nature of the proceeding.


I presented my case, intermittently jabbing my index finger at Exhibit A—a photo I had taken of the sign—for emphasis.


The officer scratched his head. "Well, if I see a sign like that, I would think that maybe it means you can only park on Saturday if you're a resident."


He didn't sound too sure of himself, so I couldn't tell if he was just playing devil's advocate to shatter my confidence and enrich the city's coffers at my expense, or if he was a bumbling fool.


"The resident part means residents can park on weekdays without feeding the meter," I replied.


"Excuse me for one second, let me clarify a few things," he said.


After he stepped out, I could hear him deliberating my case with two or possibly three other officers. It was reminiscent of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer demanded that the bank honor its offer to give him $100 for not saying "hello", compelling the bank manager to huddle with his team to work out a compromise.


When the hearing officer returned, he informed me that he understood my argument, but advised me to just go ahead and pay the meter next time.


He gave me a warning, and dismissed the fine.

__



The only article of faith instilled in me by my guardians at an early age is that if you go to court to dispute a speeding ticket and the citing officer doesn't show up, the ticket automatically gets tossed.


I accepted this commandment as an absolute truth, and every night before bed I would sway back and forth repeating this axiom like an orthodox Rabbi reciting a prayer.


Today, my world came crashing down when I learned I had placed my faith in a false God.


I showed up to the East Boston courthouse and waited with seventy or so people for the magistrate to call our names and publicly adjudicate each case.


After the first criminal's testimony, I realized that the police officer not being there didn't affect the outcome of the case.


I started to weep softly. Then I wept loudly.


I was the second person called. The bailiff announced my crime, and then the magistrate asked me what happened that day.


Fortunately, I had prepared for my trial by printing out volumes of Massachusetts statutes and case law.


I testified how on the day of my alleged heinous crime—going 30 mph through the 15 mph EZ pass lane—I had woken up to the sound of a Baltimore oriole singing a lovely song, albeit with subtle anti Red Sox jabs. Next thing I remember, an apparently demented police officer was sprinting towards me, flailing his arms, and yelling at me to pull over. Yes, he actually chased me on foot, crossing three toll booth lanes to catch up to me.


“So you weren’t speeding?” asked the magistrate with a hint of incredulity.


“No,” I asserted.


The magistrate had heard enough, and acquitted me.


I bowed politely and exited walking backwards in deference to the Court.