My wife Karen had some adult stuff to attend to last Tuesday, so she made an appointment at a downtown bank.
She put on real clothes and drove the 1.5 miles downtown. She parked on the street and fed the meter, but her business took longer than she expected. So she overstayed the hour she'd purchased, and when she came back to her car she found a cute little envelope with a ticket tucked inside it on the windshield. She probably stood there disbelieving for a second before accepting the situation.
"Thanks, Government," I imagine her thinking to herself. "I have violated a societal norm by overstaying in a parking spot on a public street for which my tax monies have cheerfully paid and now I must face the consequences. I will hie myself home and think about my poor choices."
So she marched into the house with the parking ticket in hand, glowing like the red A on Hester's frock. She held it like she wished she had a pair of tongs.
I admit that, had the shoe been on the other foot, I probably would have angrily crammed the parking ticket into the back pocket of my jeans and forgotten all about it before I got home, only to wake up in the middle of the night two weeks later in a cold sweat realizing that if I didn't pay the ticket within the next 15 minutes I might expect hovering helicopters, a SWAT team and an exponential increase in the fine amount.
Even so, I went there.
I said, better pay that $5 before the rates go up. They want you to leave it laying around a few weeks so they can hit you with the late penalties.
"It's $15," she said. "And I guess they don't have those metal boxes where you can drop off your ticket and payment for the fine you got for overstaying your welcome on the public street conveniently located throughout the city anymore?"
I took this to be a rhetorical question, since I knew she had already looked.
I guess not, I said. I guess you have to go down to the court, or maybe the police station.
Or, I suggested, you could stick a stamp on it and put it in our mailbox and lift the little red flag.
I said this even though the mail is scary. Mostly it comes every day, but not this summer. I'd noticed this because I still get things in the mail, and they were arriving days and sometimes weeks after the obligatory email from the sender telling me I should have already received them.
Typical of this, the absentee ballots we requested had been allegedly mailed out on Sept. 15 but didn't arrive until Sept. 25.
I think we're going to hand-deliver them to the Honorable Terri Hollings-worth, Pulaski County Circuit and County Clerk. If we can figure out the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes-style instructions for where to affix what sticker and into which envelope we slide the second chance token.
Still, I figured if Karen put it in the mail that afternoon it would have plenty of time to make it across the river before the 30-day deadline. Probably.
But she didn't want to waste a stamp. The way she figured, she had already needlessly depleted the nest egg by $15. She didn't need to throw another 55 cents behind that. She would get on her bicycle and take the ticket down to either the court or the police station, whichever it was that accepted sinners' indulgences, and pay in person.
Turns out it is the court that takes payments. When the court is open. The court is closed due to the pandemic. So there was only a lonely security guard there, who couldn't accept her envelope, but she could pay online if she was willing to include a convenience fee.
The police station was open, but it is not its job to accept tribute from lawbreakers. Which makes sense, though one time when I got pulled over for speeding in Mississippi the state trooper made me follow him to his mama's house, where I forked over $50 in cash and she winked and told me not to worry about my insurance company finding out.
"It'll just be our little secret, hon," Justice Mama told me.
Which, as shady as it was, wasn't as bad as that time in Arkansas when I got nicked in a speed trap town, sent the payment for my ticket, and six months later discovered that the Head Constable Most High or Her Worship Lord Mayor (or whatever) had directed the revenue department to suspend my license because I'd paid the fine with a check instead of a money order and it said right there on the ticket that they didn't take checks.
Even though they not only took but cashed my check, depositing it in the city coffers on the day it arrived. It took a call to the attorney general to sort that one out.
While I may be a career criminal, my wife has never received a parking ticket before. She has gotten a couple of speeding tickets, which she richly deserved, and once entered a nolo contendere plea to a moving violation that she had planned to contest in court.
Once she got there, with the photographs and diagrams pointing out the officer's position and how his line of sight had to have been obstructed so he couldn't possibly have known for certain whether she actually stopped or merely slowed and may have quite possibly--as certain studies have indicated law enforcement officers sometimes do--harbored an unconscious but nevertheless quite real prejudice against the drivers of tomato-red pocket rockets, the judge sighed, said, "Say this Latin phrase and I'll let you off with a warning," and justice was duly served.
I am thinking that since Karen incurred the ticket while in the act of furthering our financial interest, it's really a business expense, one that I should be able to legitimately claim on our next tax return. That's another $15 offsetting whatever income we get--the city gets an extra $15 worth of revenue while our federal and state liabilities are reduced by some small percentage of that $15.
Good deal for you, Government.
And I guess we might also consider the stamp--do we claim the cost of it when we purchased it or its present worth?--and depreciation on the bicycle, which wouldn't have otherwise been subjected to three miles of furious cycling had the legitimate business expense never been incurred. And physical checks cost something too; every decade or so we need to get more.
And probably counseling and consulting fees. Luckily Audi is a certified therapy dog; she'll give us a good rate.
Anyway, not being a scofflaw, Karen eventually put a stamp on the envelope, shoved a check and the ticket in it, sealed it and put it in our mailbox with the red flag up to eventually be picked up by one of the invariably kind but shell-shocked postpeople who wander randomly through our neighborhood, immune to rhythm or reason.
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