I work downtown, right next to that big stair-case shaped GP building.
I usually get to work between 9 and 10, usually closer to 9:30, but today, I decided to go in early to prep for a meeting. I gave myself extra time to stop and get donuts for the participants of the meeting I am leading.
I parked behind the Equitable building, put 20 cents in the meter (which only buys you about 6 minutes) and walked to Dunkin Donuts. It took about 1 minute to get the donuts and a chocolate milk and when I paid and walked out, there was a meter maid standing behind my car.
Okay, so my first thought was that I was over the line, because I damn well knew that I still had time on the meter. It took about 1 minute to cross the street because there was some traffic, so by the time I got to the guy, he was about 50% done writing the ticket.
"Are you writing ME a ticket?"
"Just wait a minute, sir."
"Just hold on and read that sign for me."
"That sign over there." (man points to sign on a post obscured by an overgrown tree and behind a large luxury bus parked 30 feet in front of me)
"I can't even read it. Is that for THIS space?"
"That's for this whole block. I tell people, especially if they are going to Dunkin Donuts to come over here and park around the corner on Luckie Street."
"Well, can you tell someone to come out here and prune that tree so someone can see the sign?"
"Yes, I'll go tell them about it right now." (man points to the office for the Atlanta Ambassadors and hands me a ticket.)
So I got in my car, put my shit down and flipped the ticket over to see how much 25 donut holes, a chocolate milk, and 3 minutes worth of parking in a paid-for metered space cost me. FORTY FUCKING DOLLARS! Of course, the ticket is printed with $25, but that was lovingly crossed out and replaced with FORTY FUCKING DOLLARS. ("Fucking" my emphasis)
So the moral of the story is: if you try to get up early, do something nice for your co-workers, park in a metered, public space, and dump some money into the local economy, the city of Atlanta will pull FORTY DOLLARS out of your fucking ass because it has nothing better to do.
I'm all about the law. I respect the law when I agree with it or understand its reason for being there, but how in the name of fuck is it reasonable to fine someone forty dollars for parking for 3 minutes in a marked, metered space, with a meter that's been paid?
This is the kind of shit that could spawn a Larvae harsh noise side project.
So I called the court help desk line to get information about disputing the ticket and to find out why the price was FORTY FUCKING DOLLARS instead of the 25 that was printed on the ticket.
"I don't know why that is."
"Can they just put whatever price they want on the ticket?"
"You'd have to talk to the judge about that." (she says, getting defensive.)
"I'm not sure I want to dispute it, I'm just trying to understand why it is what it is."
"When did you get the ticket, sir?"
"Well it takes a couple of days to enter those into the system."
"Okay, so I should talk to the judge?"
"And I have to come down to the courthouse to make an appointment?"
"Yes, you can get your court date."
So I took my lunch break to go to the courthouse and try and get some answers. I parked at another metered spot, deposited about 60 cents which bought me about half an hour, and walked down to the courthouse.
"Where do I talk to someone about a dispute?"
To Window 5 "I'd like to find out about the dispute process."
"You want to dispute your ticket?"
"I'm not sure. What's the dispute process?"
"What do you mean 'what's the dispute process'?" (getting defensive)
"It's a pretty simple ques-- I mean, what does the dispute process entail. I've never had to do this before, I'm just trying to figure out my options."
"You have to sign up for a court date and talk to the judge."
"And can you get the date any time or is it a specific time?"
"It's at 10 and 1"
"Okay, thanks. I think I'm just going to pay it."
At this point, the 40 dollar ticket has cost me $.60 in parking meter to go to the courthouse, my lunch break, and if I dispute the ticket, which I'm still not clear about, it'll cost me some time off from work either at 10 am or 1 pm, probably at least an hour, plus more parking meter time. Frankly, I make enough money to pay this and be done with it, and I would lose more by spending my paid time off at court than I would if I just paid this thing. So I paid it. After I paid it...
"Can I get a copy of that?" (I say, pointing to the ticket)
"No, you don't get a copy, you're done."
"Oh, I can't get a copy?"
"No. What do you need a copy for, it's paid?"
"Yeah, I know, I just wanted to have it for a complaint or something."
"Did you want to dispute it?"
"No, it's not worth the time to dispute it, but I'd still like to talk to someone about it."
At this point, the clerk confers with the clerk from window 5 and all I can hear through the inch thick bullet proof glass is stuff like "does he want to dispute it?" "No, he just paid it." "What's the problem?"
Eventually I am handed a sticky note with a phone number on it and the name of Mr. Andrews. I have no idea who this person is, what he does, or how he is supposed to help, but I now have his number.
The problem is, if at any point today someone had just put DOWN their beuraucratic stone wall and treated me or at least responded to me like a normal person, this wouldn't have escalated to this point. Every time I asked a question, I was greeted answered with another question, or with a defensive rebuttle or a confused look as if I had asked to speak to the President of the United States about a parking ticket. All I needed today was for one person to realize that this situation was fucked up, that it didn't make any sense to me, and that I just wanted an answer or two, or at least an understanding person to listen to me bitch and explain what was going on.
I'm a peaceful person. I will call Mr. Andrews and I will write the City Council and I'll go to a meeting at night if I have to, not to dispute 40 dollars, but to see that my voice about the way these things are handled is heard. But, I can see how this kind of shit would set people off in a bad, bad way. First it's a parking ticket and a nameless (well, we do have Mr. Andrews) beauracracy. Next it's a law about who you can fuck, or what you can put in your body. After that, homeboys are stockpiling AK47s in a shed in Montana and shit! It scares me that there are people out there that would go to that extreme, but it ALSO scares me that our system is so unfriendly and unyielding and uncooperative that it drives people already bent on hurting someone to do the things they do. It's not an excuse for violence ever. But when I get this angry over a couple people treating me like dirt, I can imagine someone who's already angry and hateful and wanting to do something radical using an event like this to tip them over the edge. Luckily, I'm not that guy.