Humor by Mark Bazer

I obey the law. I don't shoplift, extort, litter, launder, freebase, assault, bribe, stab, deal or smuggle. I never illegally download music, unless I think the musician would spend the royalties unwisely. I'm not bragging; obeying the law is obviously the right thing to do, and if you ever disagree with a law, you can always pay off a lawmaker to have it changed.

This is a long way of saying: Parking illegally wasn't my intent, wasn't part of some pattern of criminal misconduct. I was taking my kids to the modern-art museum, for goodness' sake. We had no intention of stealing the paintings. I just wanted to teach my sons to appreciate art or, failing that, the gift shop. Daddy, these paintings are boring! Will you buy me a reproduction of one of them on a mouse pad for $29.99?

And that brings me to the spot. A spot that, yes, first seemed too good to be true -- so close to the museum that I may have scraped against an outdoor sculpture pulling in. (Hey, if you're going to own a sculpture in the city, you have to expect it to get dinged up a little.)

But there were cars parked in front of and behind the spot. There was no driveway, no hydrant. Right next to the spot were both a "Pay to park" sign and the pay box. The pay box wouldn't park illegally, would it?

In the 90 minutes it took to get the kids, stroller and assorted gear out of the car, my wife and I must have complimented ourselves a half-dozen times on our parking prowess, as if we had surveyed the area and calculated open parking-spot probabilities in the months leading up to our museum visit.

Needless to say, when we returned to the car two hours later, we were greeted by a bright orange envelope. We looked around and, sure enough, there past the "Pay to park" sign and pay box was a "no parking" sign with arrows pointing our way.

"Sixty bucks," I said to my wife after opening the envelope. "You get the kids in the car and I'll go return the mouse pad."

Fast-forward two months later, to last week. I waited in a windowless hearing room as another man stood behind a small podium and unsuccessfully begged the judge sitting behind an elevated desk to excuse $6,000 in parking tickets and release his booted car.

"What am I doing here?" I asked myself. And then answered: "You're here to effect lasting change in your city. You're here to get that pay box moved."

The $6,000 Man left. And then I had my turn. I spoke with passion. It wasn't about the money, I said, it was about making things right for all citizens. How can we call ourselves a world-class city with such contradictory signage?

I brought photographic evidence up to the desk. I had multiple photos of the same sign: "And see, your honor, this photo shows exactly what the last photo showed." The judge grumbled that they were insufficient -- but that the cops' photos were even worse. He told me to return to the podium. And then he began to read:

"It is the finding of the Administrative Law Judge that the information submitted supports a determination that the required signs were missing or obscured on the date of the violation. Consequently, you are not responsible for the fine."

I am slightly ashamed to say that I hadn't felt this good in a long time. I had forgotten how good unambiguous victory felt. I thanked the judge and skipped out of the room.

But then I turned around, opened the door -- and walked right back up to the judge. "Your honor," I said, "how can the two of us work together to ensure that the city fixes these signs so what happened to me doesn't happen to others?"

Oh, wait, I didn't do that. I wanted to -- but there was a CD shop down the street and I had $60 burning a hole in my pocket.

Humor & Satire

Humor & Funny Stories - The Fine Art of Parking

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