Written by Danno for the Something Awful
Compiled and formatted in HTML by Technogeek, to whom I give my sincerest gratitude
I - II - III - IV - V - VI - VII - VIII - IX - X
I: Drunk + Parking Ticket = Fun
I've held a number of different jobs while in the process of getting through college. The current position I hold is that of Grade 3 Student Assistant, Parking Services, Enforcement--i.e., I issue parking citations. It pays better than just about any student assistant job on campus (nude models make more than anyone else, but because of my undying love for the American people I refrain from this line of work), the hours are flexible, it's fairly independent and I get to drive a big-ass truck.
So yes, I am one of those cockknockers who gave you a ticket the time you drove 300 miles to bang your long-distance girlfriend in a last-ditch attempt to salvage your relationship. But if you've ever had a parking permit anyplace, saw some jerkoff in one of your spaces you paid for, and wanted to smash his windshield with your Louisville Slugger, just remember: I'm doing the next best thing.
Anyway, once a week, I'm required to go around and ticket anyone parked in a commuter or staff lot. They have to be cleared out so we can get them plowed in those situations that it snows, and this is about the time of year in Wisconsin when that sort of thing becomes a problem. This week was no exception, and last night I trundled out into the bitter cold at 3 a.m. The great thing about living here is that it can go from 54 degrees Tuesday afternoon to 7 degrees Thursday night, with a windchill of 14 below.
Having to get up in the middle of the night is never something to put me in a good mood, and freezing my balls doesn't help either. I was therefore in little mood to put up with any shit from anyone.
I got started on my usual route, which begins in a commuter lot between the student union, the dining commons and the second-biggest dorm on campus. Suffice to say it is a popular place for lazy sophomores to deposit their vehicles, and last night was no exception, with about 12 cars in the lot. I got started on a little white Cavalier (I swear to God, I fucking hate Cavaliers; they're the cockroach of the college parking lot) parked in a meter. Not only wasit a Cav, but it had a number of "grrl" stickers on it, and a Jesus fish. Those are the tickets I really enjoy giving.
A few meters down the row, there was a Volkswagen Scirocco, at least 15 years old, green with enough rust to make any VW-phile shitstain tear up. I snickered to myself as I finished up the ticket on the Cav, because I'd seen this Emmy Award winner around before; he already had about $300 worth of unpaid tickets.
I finished ticketing the Cav, hopped back in my truck, and pulled up behing the Volkswagen. Just as I'm getting out, a drunken lout staggered out of the dorm.
"GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM MY CAR!" he shouted. I looked at him, and went back to entering his license plate in my little ticket computer. This did not please my young friend, and he started jogging over. Well, not so much jogging as staggering over; he'd seemingly had a fencing match with Captain Morgan and lost. The dude was so drunk, I had time to finish the ticket and put it under his wiper before he made it over.
"Allrightallrightallright, I'll move th'car," he slurred. "But you hafta not gimme a ticket. My dad ain't payin' f'ranymore."
"First of all," I replied, "I've already issued your citation, and I can't void it myself; my manager has to do that. Second, who pays your tickets is none of my business. But most important, you're obviously very drunk, and I can't let you drive this car anywhere."
This did not make him happy. He got this look on his face, sort of hurt, angry and drunk, all at the same time. He bellowed out a "WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU!" and cocked back to take a swing at me, but as he was quite drunk and standing on a patch of ice, he slipped, knocked his shoulder on his fender and fell down. This wasn't at all good for him, as he promptly puked up a stinking pile of what appeared to be several pieces of pizza and smelled like rum. He tried to get back up, but he moved too fast and just ended up passing out in his own puddle. I rolled him onto his side, up against the car, and did my best to make sure he wasn't choking on his own vomit. I then got back into the truck and radioed the university police.
While I was rummaging around for a blanket to try and keep him from dying of hypothermia, I bumped into the horn. I don't know if any of you have heard the horn they put on this year's Chevy trucks, but I'm pretty sure I woke up half the dorm. I woke up my drunk, too, and he managed to get up, slowly.
He took the ticket off the windshield, tossed it into the now-steaming puddle, and with his cheek covered in vomit told me to fuck off. He then got into his car and locked the door.
Things got very quiet and calm for about a minute. I started to think that this would end without any serious incident, when the sound of a siren caused me to jerk my head around. The genius cop, being the ultra-clever guy he is, drove all the way from the station to the parking lot without any lights or siren, and then suddenly decided he had to announce his presence just as he pulled up, in as annoying a fashion as possible.
The drunk started getting visibly agitated, and decided he had to do something. With a roar and a huge cloud of smoke, his car came to life. Before I really had time to come up with an intelligent reaction, he put his car into gear and backed up. Into my driver's side door. Then, realizing his rear escape route was blocked, he shifted into drive, spun his tires on the ice a little, and peeled out--right into a parking meter.
Before I had a chance to move the truck, I heard a voice shout "GET OUT OF THE VEHICLE!" I looked over my shoulder at the cop, who had his pistol drawn and pointed at the Volkswagen. The car was shut off, and the drunk emerged in a daze. The cop cuffed him without a struggle, got him into the back of the squad car, and asked if I could drive to the station. I told him I could, and he said to follow him to the station.
I had to give the police a statement, and they had to call my boss and bring him in. When my boss came down, obviously annoyed, I had to tell him the whole story. I then had to write out another statement, for the university, and see our general counsel, who told me I might end up testifying in court. I didn't come home until after 1 this afternoon, and I was so beat I slept until about an hour ago.
Anyway, that was my day. It's not really that funny, but I hope it's at least mildly entertaining.
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II: Here There Be Lesbians
Last semester, I worked every Wednesday and Thursday evening from four to eight. Through most of the semester, I worked with Ted, a feisty black man with a chip on his shoulder and a need to unload. Unfortunately for Ted, that chip got him fired just before Thanksgiving...but that's another tale for another time.
During those couple of weeks after Thanksgiving, I worked my evening shifts alone. I had no problem with this situation; in fact, I preferred working by myself. Without Ted, I was covering more ground and writing more tickets than with him. The Thursday evening shift was really laid-back; there were never many events scheduled on Thursdays, and all I had to do was burn gasoline and check for permits. Easy enough.
Being forty-four degrees north of the Equator, it gets dark fairly early once that bastard child of Benjamin Franklin, daylight saving time, is consigned to oblivion for yet another winter. Thus I spent my evenings driving around in the dark. I don't know if any of you have tried to spot a twelve-square-inch piece of plastic stuck to a window from a moving vehicle in the dark. It is no easy task. Luckily, I had my secret weapon: the million-candlepower handheld portable lantern by Illuma-light™. When not scaring children in the dorms from halfway across campus, the million-candlepower lantern is highly useful for spotting parking permits at night, especially through tinted windows. The darkest tints on the most souped-up Honda Civics with stickers of Calvin urinating on the Subaru logo are no match for this beacon!
Duly equipped, I set out exactly one week after Thanskgiving on my usual rounds.
Before getting into the heart of our story, I have to step back a little and establish the setting. One of the chronic problems facing our university is that of student parking--at least, as far as the students are concerned. Freshmen believe it is an absolute necessity to have their car available during their first year of college, and if anyone tells them otherwise it is SO FUCKING UNFAIR and A LOAD OF SHIT because I NEED SOMEPLACE TO PARK THIS FORD EXPLORER MY MOMMY AND DADDY BOUGHT FOR ME! In response, we have taken the time and trouble to lease space for a parking lot from the axle factory adjacent to campus. Of course, this lot, Lot 35, is the Fort Bridger of our university, the Tatooine of our college, the last outpost before the oblivion of the Fox River. It is a seven-minute walk from Lot 35 to the closest dorm, and another four minutes to the dorm most distant. This is a serious imposition on our precious freshmen, but as there is nowhere else for them to park, about eighty of them have permits that allow them to park there.
Lot 35 has three parts to it. The front part, facing the street, is a commuter and staff lot. I usually ticketed at least three residents a night in here. The middle part, going back to the river, is the part of the resident lot that was purchased last year. This is where everyone parks, and parts of it have gravel five or six inches deep, perfect for tire-spinning. The back part, to the left and behind the factory along the river, was just added in September, and is perpetually vacant. Nobody parks in the back.
Now, we didn't patrol Lot 35 every day, mainly because we just didn't care. But we had to make a show of things from time to time, and so checking the lot became part of my Thursday routine, right before quitting time. This particular Thursday was no different, and I pulled into the lot at about half past seven.
I went through my normal routine, starting with the front and moving into the middle, one row at a time. It's really quite dull; I drive down, and back, and down, and back, and down, and back. Toward the entrance to the back part of the lot, there was a particularly offensive Plymouth Voyager with enough Confederate bumper stickers to make J.E.B. Stuart proud parked the wrong way around, sans permit. I stepped out and proceeded to issue a citation, and as I looked up from the handheld computer I spotted a car parked in the back, along the fence, under some trees. This was the first time I'd ever seen a vehicle parked back there (at least, a vehicle that wasn't me in the truck taking a nap). My surprise evolved into curiosity, and when I finished ticketing the rebel minivan I pulled around and headed for the back.
The vehicle in question was a maroon Chevy Caprice station wagon, about an '88 or an '89. The custom license plate (custom plates are dirt-cheap in Wisconsin, and are about twenty times more prevalent than in adjacent states) and window sticker belied the fact that the owner was a member of the women's rugby team. But the most interesting thing about this car was the tint job on the rear windows. It was obviously some kind of kit, darker than anything I'd ever seen, with enough bubbles in the plastic to betray the amateurishness of the person who applied the tint.
As it is my job, I pulled around and oriented the truck in such a way that I could roll down the driver's side window, point the lantern off to the side, and check the rear driver's side window for a permit. With a flick of the switch, the lantern came to life...and I was greeted by the sight of an arched back, an unbuttoned work shirt and a rather nice pair of tits. I specifically recall saying "holy shit."
The light obviously startled the tits' owner, and she lost her balance and fell backwards. I saw the back of a head pop up, and I wasn't quite sure what to make of things until the head turned around and I saw her face.
It was Christie. The girl I dated for a month two years prior. The girl who broke up with me because, like George Costanza, I drove her to lesbianism (at least, that's how I like to tell the story; in truth, as I later learned, it had been a long time in coming). And now, here she was, caught like a doe in my spotlight.
I should have turned the light off the second I saw some skin, yet the shock of catching my ex-girlfriend mid-cunnilingus, and the fact that she had the nicest rack of any girl I'd dated, kept me drawn to the window. Christie, though, had more sense than me, and she threw on a coat and jumped out the back of the wagon.
I finally turned off the light as she started charging toward the truck with a livid look on her face. As she was just about to open her mouth, I turned on the dome light.
I will forever cherish my memory of the rapid succession of looks that came over her face at that moment. From anger came puzzlement, then came recognition, then surprise. "Uh, hi," she stammered.
"Um, yeah, hi, Christie," I replied, less sure than her of how to address the situation. "I didn't realize it was you...well, I didn't, and then I did--"
Her face turned bright red, which was quite spooky, half-lit by my headlights. "Yeah, well, me and my girl...I mean, we thought nobody...what are you doing here?"
"Patrolling the lots," I said.
"I write parking tickets. It's my new job."
"Oh." An awkward silence followed. She regained enough composure to start to grap the situation, and asked, "does this mean you're giving us a ticket?"
"What for?" I asked, hoping to end the conversation and get out of there.
"We don't have a permit."
"Ah, yeah. Well, um, I guess we'll call this one 'don't ask, don't tell.'"
She chuckled nervously. "Oh. OK. Thanks."
I put the truck in gear. "Um, I guess I'll get back to work. Good seeing you."
She gave me her Dr. Evil look. "Right..."
"OK. Bye, then." I put the truck in gear and hit the accelerator. Unfortunately, I hit it a little too hard, and my tires started spinning and churning up gravel. This startled Christie; she squealed, and dashed back into the Caprice. I eased off the gas a little, drove out of the lot as quickly as possible, and headed straight back to the office. I was done working for the night.
I got in trouble the next day for leaving our digital camera in the truck. When brought in and asked why I hadn't brought it in, all I could say was that I'd forgotten. My boss stared at me for a little while, and all I could think was, 'he knows, he knows, fuck, I'm fired, he knows.' After what seemed like several minutes, but was probably more like thirty seconds, he told me not to let it happen again and dismissed me.
I promptly got up and headed for the men's room. I hadn't had to piss so badly in quite a long time.
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III: A Battle of Wits
One of the more interesting aspects of writing parking tickets for a living is that you get to know a certain crowd of regulars. It's not unlike bartending, really. Except that in bartending, the regulars are people, whereas in our line of work, the regulars are cars. They stand out for different reasons. Some have an eye-catching appearance, like the brown Bronco II with the twin 8-foot antennae mounted to the rear bumper. Some are mobile art galleries, like the Geo covered with twelve different colors of acrylic paint. And some are notable for their rebelliousness, their machismo, their utter lack of respect for the rules.
Among this last group is a little Volkswagen Jetta. She was gold--a bright, shimmering gold--during her youth, those heady days of the early Nineties when a saxophone-playing hillbilly from Arkansas made us all believe again while his robotic sidekick set about inventing the Internet. Alas, the sunshine of her youth had long since faded, and this particular Jetta had been misused, treated as a five-dollar whore instead of the shining princess of German engineering she once was. Ten years had transformed her glossy gold coat into a faded tannish-yellow color, with patches of rust and wear scarring her body like a particularly malignant case of melanoma.
No doubt this Jetta had spent a year or two in a used car lot on the outskirts of town, alone and uncared for, yearning for someone who would treat her with love and respect. Alas, 'twas not to be. Instead of her knight in shining Armor-All, she was bought by a young ruffian, a junior in high school, a cad who went by the name of Rick.
Rick was one of those fellows who absolutely had to prove just how cool he was to his peers. In Wisconsin, the best way so to do is to obtain a customized license plate. Surely, Rick agonized for several days and nights, wondering what would be the best representation of his total and complete entry into manhood.
His choice? "SLIKRIC." And a cunning choice it was! Now one and all would know just how cool a guy Rick was, because his rusty old Jetta proclaimed his "SLIK"-ness!
Two years later, Rick found himself at college, a freshman. He had to prove to his new peers just how cool, how "SLIK" he still was. He needed to rebel. But how?
Slowly his thoughts drifted toward the parking lot adjacent to his dorm. Every morning, he would watch from his window as it filled, as the people would come and go, gawking at the handicapped girl in the specially-converted Grand Am. And every night, he would watch the lot empty until the stroke of midnight, when the "No Parking - Midnight to 6 a.m." signs would silently stand watch and ensure that no one would violate the sanctity of the lot until the next morning.
He watched, and he watched, and he hatched a plan. A plan so devious, so convoluted, so outrageous, that it would defy all attempts at explanation. He would thumb his nose at everyone: his fellow students, his professors, and more importantly, at The Man.
He would park in the commuter lot. Without a permit. All day. Every day. He wouldn't just break the rules. He would break them with extreme prejudice.
So, a couple of weeks into the school year, his car started showing up in Lot 15. (Readers will note this as the setting of the first of my Tales.) Not in the same spot every day, mind you. No, his razor-sharp intellect was too clever for that. Every day, and sometimes twice a day, he moved his car from one side of the lot to the other. One day, it's here--the next, over there!
Dutifully, my colleagues and I would ticket the poor Jetta. As days turned into weeks, the sight of "SLIKRIC" became commonplace. Every day he would receive a ticket. Occasionally, when he would park in a meter, we would give him two or three tickets over the course of a day.
The tickets piled up, from our hand to his windshield, from his windshield to his back seat. None of them were paid. The citations and late fees added and added, until toward the end of October Rick had about $900 worth of outstanding parking tickets. It became apparent that our tactics were ineffective with this criminal mastermind. We had to escalate, and quickly. If word got out, our parking lots would soon be clogged with disrespectful freshmen. There was only one option: We started writing "Tow Away" on Rick's tickets.
Sadly, this heightened level of pressure did nothing to discourage Rick. He continued to park in the lot, no matter how many times we scrawled "Tow Away" all over his tickets. He thought we were bluffing, and why not? After so many weeks of parking there, why was he to think we would suddenly tow his vehicle?
The time for action had come. No more would we be pushed around. Jerry, my boss, had a decision to make, and it was made. If Rick did not move his Jetta by eight o'clock the next morning, it would be towed. The notice was written and placed on his windshield.
The next morning, Jerry, Pete (the other student assistant) and I sat in our truck. It was a cold morning, the first genuinely cold morning of the season. Winter was threatening, although it would not make its presence known for another two months. We busied ourselves blocking off the spaces across from "SLIKRIC," in order to make room for the tow truck.
We looked at the clock in the truck. 7:53. Rick had seven minutes to move his car. We had found out a little about him, including where he lived, and as far as we could tell there was no sign of life or movement in his window.
7:56. Jerry called for the tow truck.
7:58. Pete and I flipped for the honor of giving Rick his forty-seventh citation. Pete won.
7:59. The tow truck arrived.
As the digits on the clock reconfigured themselves to announce eight o'clock, Jerry nodded at Pete. Pete got out and wrote Rick a ticket for being parked in a commuter lot without a permit displayed. With the ticket placed on the windshield, Jerry waved to the men in the tow truck. The truck backed up, the men jumped out, and proceeded to incarcerate the poor Jetta as the three of us stood and watched.
When the men were just about finished getting the car secured to their truck, a figure dashed out of the door. He waved his arms and shouted, "WAIT!"
Jerry turned to me. "This ought to be good," he said
The figure ran up to our truck. "Hold on, hold on, that's my roommate's car...he's getting dressed...he told me to tell you not to tow it...he's gonna move it," he said, breathlessly.
Jerry just smiled. "He's had plenty of chances to move it. It's a little late for that." He turned to the tow truck. "All right, boys," he said to the men, quite loudly, "take 'er to the impound!" He always did have a little flair for theatrics.
Rick's roommate watched as the Jetta was towed away. "Thanks a lot," he said as he left, as if Rick's car was somehow his own problem.
Jerry, Pete and I got into our truck and went over to the impound lot. We watched as the men unloaded the car, and when they were finished, we went up and examined the car. Soon after we got up close to it, Jerry let out a long, low whistle. Pete and I went over to where Jerry was standing, to see what he was seeing.
In the back seat of the car was a handgun and two rifles, along with a scope and a couple of boxes of ammunition. Although many students and staff are avid sportsmen--Jerry and Pete included--the sight of that many weapons in the back of a car still made us a little nervous.
"We'd better call the U.P.," Jerry said.
As we stood there, waiting to find out what the university police had on Rick, Jerry and Pete couldn't help but admire the weaponry on display. Apparently, the rifles looked quite expensive, and the pistol seemed fairly respectable, if not overly intimidating. I just stood there as they discussed what was there, as well as their numerous hunting trips, lost in a sea of bolt-action and twelve-pointers and pheasants galore. I was relieved when the call came through.
"Parking 3 [Jerry's radio call-sign], U.P. dispatch. Be advised that student Richard H----- has an expired driver's license. We're sending an officer over to you."
Jerry picked up his radio. "10-4, dispatch. Thanks for the heads-up." He turned to us. "I'm gonna have to have the U.P. handle this one. I sure as hell ain't gonna be the one to deal with this kid when he comes to get his car." He called the office and told them to leave a message with Rick telling him that he would have to contact the university police regarding getting his car back.
He didn't even try to collect his car until about four o'clock that afternoon. I'm told he was not happy when he went to the police station, he paid his tickets, and they told him that he couldn't have his car becuase of his expired license. He nearly got arrested for assaulting a police officer. After they got him calmed down, and he left without further incident, he was supposed to call his father, who would come up and retrieve his car from the impound lot.
That was over two months ago. "SLIKRIC" still sits behind the fence inside the impound lot. The guns have been removed to the police station; it was decided that it would be better for all concerned not to have firearms and ammunition sitting out in a car for all the world to see. Other than that, the Jetta sits as it has sat for several weeks now, safe from abuse and torment. In another few weeks, it will have been ninety days, and the car will be considered legally abandoned. Perhaps we will keep her, or try to sell her again, but in all likelihood we will take her to the junkyard.
She deserves a decent burial.
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IV: Sex, Humiliation and State Business
(A note to the reader: Thank you very much for the terrific response to my little stories. I have been amusing my friends with them all semester long, and I figure it makes sense to post them here for your amusement. I won’t be writing a new one every day anymore, but I will put something up every now and again.)
(A further note: Although I do take some artistic license in penning these events, almost all of what you read actually happened. My exaggerations and suppositions are limited to those areas for which my memory is hazy, or where they assist in creating setting or character, such as the backstory of Rick and his car in Part III.)
Although I’ve only worked as a parking officer for a semester, my involvement with on-campus vehicular shenanigans goes farther back, to my time last year serving on the university’s parking appeals committee. The committee, made up of students, staff and faculty, considers appeals from those who receive tickets, and decides just how worthy their excuses are. It can be a long process, especially if someone exercises his right to a second or third appeal. But I had a lot of fun. Each of us got a little placard for voting on appeals, with ‘approve’ on one side and ‘deny’ on the other. I personalized mine with a little cartoon of Colonel Klink saying, “request denied!”
Since the committee deals in the business of excuses, it goes without saying that many of the appeals received provided some much-needed entertainment. To be sure, items like “my friend told me I could park in the lots overnight” or “I forgot to put my permit in my window” were as common as Wangs in the Hong Kong white pages. But the creativity, verbosity and outright stupidity of students, staff, parents and passersby often lent themselves to true comedic gems.
The most memorable appeal during my time on the committee came to us last February from a young woman enduring her first year of college. She lived on the ninth floor of South Scott, one of our four ten-story dormitories, a marvel of Soviet architecture and a living testament to the 1970s.
Immediately adjacent to South Scott was a small resident parking lot holding about seventy cars, with two handicapped spaces and two spaces designated as a fifteen-minute loading zone. Being so close to such a large dorm, the temptation to park in the aisle, the fire lane or the loading zone for hours at a time was often irresistible, and the lot served as one of our most reliable sources of revenue.
This girl was no exception, and on a cold winter’s night she decided that she would rather park in the fifteen-minute space and risk a ticket than bother with the overflow lot and the seven-minute trudge back to the dorm. She rolled the dice, and as happens so often at the Mirage, she came up snake eyes. Waiting on her windshield the next morning was a ticket for violation #20, Parking Over the Allotted Time, an offense that carries a nine-dollar fine. Nine dollars being an egregious sum to pay for the convenience of not having to be out in the cold for all of seven minutes, she decided to appeal the ticket.
Consider her situation for a minute, if you will. The night was cold. It was dark. Walking alone on a cold, dark night is not always the most attractive of situations for a young woman fresh out of high school. What sort of excuse would you come up with?
Inside the parking office she faced that question. With her ticket in one hand and an appeal form staring up at her from the counter, she had to think of something. The result was, I think, the single greatest moment in the history of the parking appeals committee.
The first line of her appeal was so memorable I can remember it now exactly as I heard it in a conference room almost a year ago. Paula, then the manager of the parking office, whose job it was to read the appeals at the committee meetings, barely got it out of her before she, along with the rest of us, burst out laughing.
It read, “I’m sorry I parked in the loading space, but I was just too tired from getting on my boyfriend.”
This wasn’t just honesty. It was the brutal, naked truth. It was singular in its ballsiness. It was, in short, classic.
As the rest of us were in hysterics, I turned to look at Mike, the other student member of the committee. Mike had enough credits to graduate with at least two bachelor’s degrees, and was well on his way to a third. He also had a reputation for being a bit of a cradle-robber. I looked at Mike, and I saw that he wasn’t really laughing very much. His expression was more bemusement than anything else.
As the laughing died down, Paula proceeded to read the rest of the appeal. Compared to the beginning, it was bland, full of the usual “I know I shouldn’t have parked there and I won’t do it again, please have mercy on me” tripe. When she finished reading, the floor opened up to all manner of wisecracks and inappropriate humor. Normally, Mike and I purveyed the wisecracks, but this time he was silent, and the math professor and the secretary to the chair of the economics department had to pick up the slack.
Just as Paula was ready to call for a vote, Mike raised his hand. “This girl, her name wouldn’t be Sarah M-----, would it?”
Paula looked annoyed. We weren’t supposed to know the names of the people who were appealing. “How do you know that?” she asked.
“Because,” he replied, “I’m her boyfriend.”
We didn’t get any more work done that day, and the meeting adjourned shortly thereafter. Her appeal was approved the following week, on the grounds that far more punishment had been exacted that a mere nine-dollar fine. The math professor wrote “LADIES MAN” on the top of Mike’s placard, to which I added a little cartoon of Tim Meadows as Leon Phelps.
I have yet to allow him to live it down.
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V: Revenge of the Handicapped
In my line of work, particularly being on a college campus, it is normal to get a certain amount of heckling from spectators and passersby. More often than not the heckler is, to one degree or another, a passive-aggressive pussy. Sometimes it is one of a gaggle of girls heading to lunch, saying “don’t they have anything better to do?” as if posing the question to one of the other members of the brood. Sometimes it is a guy, demonstrating his coolness—nay, his “SLIK”-ness—to his boozed-up floor-mates, shouting “get the fuck out of here, Ticket Boy™!” out his dorm window. Other times it is a full-grown, gainfully employed adult, often one of our distinguished faculty, walking by and commenting “better move my car before I get a ticket,” usually adding a strained guffaw, impressing himself with his comic genius.
Rarely, though, I will get a direct comment. These, at least, I can respect, because the person making the comment at least has the cajones to back up his or her tough talk. As long as it’s just a remark made in passing, I have no problem with it. But if it gets out of hand, if it’s getting in my face, I have no qualms with laying the smack down…with extreme prejudice.
Among the latter group is a guy, maybe twenty-three years old, from Michigan. How do I know he is from Michigan? Because he has Michigan plates (the new, pink and blue ones) on his blue Dodge Stealth with two white racing stripes over the top, not to mention the big white “DODGE” sticker on his windshield, just in case the ram’s-head insignia and the four nameplates weren’t enough to indicate the make of the car for you. Not only that, but he is a proud member of Theta Chi Fraternity, Inc., as demonstrated by his back window and his license plate frame.
Michigan J. Dodge, as I’ve come to call him, has a long history with us. Last year his staunch refusal to obtain a parking permit earned him several citations for parking without a permit, parking over time in a meter, parking in a fire lane, and so on. Every time he would fight it tooth-and-nail, pointing out this and that, and a few times he even got off on a technicality.
This year started out as no exception. His Stealth showed up in a few places around campus, but more often than not he would park in a little space between the library and the student union. Well, not quite a space. It’s more of a little extension of a driveway set up to allow vans and small trucks to pull into the side loading dock and the union, and it has a sidewalk going across it, but there is just enough room for a small car to pull all the way in without blocking the sidewalk.
He’d gotten ticketed there the previous year, but since there wasn’t a “No Parking” sign posted, his appeal was upheld. You’d think that a sign would have been put up last year, but Jerry, my boss, isn’t one to go around putting up signs all the time. Mr. Sportscar-Driving-Frat-Boy learned his lesson, and this became his favorite spot on campus.
We’d often patrol this little area, checking the parking meter next to the driveway, making sure the handicapped space was being used by a handicapped person, and so on. And Michigan J. was often there, in his reserved space. So long as he wasn’t blocking anyone, we couldn’t touch him.
Around mid-October, I was out patrolling while Ted, the other officer on duty, was having his dinner. I pulled into the loading area-slash-parking lot, and saw my friend’s Dodge in it’s usual space. As I pulled in, I noticed that he had done a sloppy job pulling in, and the back end of his car was blocking half the sidewalk. I considered giving him a ticket, but there was enough room for people to walk around the car, and I knew it would probably be more trouble than it was worth. I debated for a little while, and eventually decided to leave.
Just as I was opening the door of the truck, the means to my vengeance rolled up the sidewalk in the form of Steve. Steve lived in the dorm right across from mine. He had cerebral palsy, and was confined to a wheelchair. He was something of a local celebrity, always wheeling about campus dressed in a hideous blue poncho, and he got an article in the paper when he graduated in December.
“Hi, Dan,” Steve said as he came up the sidewalk. He stopped close to where I was parked.
“Hi, Steve,” I replied. One had to be careful around Steve; getting a conversation started with him could cost you fifteen or twenty minutes.
“Are you working tonight?” he asked me in his usual labored fashion.
“Yeah, I am. I was actually just about finished in here.”
“Don’t let me keep you. I have to go to the library anyway.” With that, Steve pushed his joystick forward and I turned to get into the truck. Barely a second later, though, I heard a familiar “uh-oh.” I turned back around.
Steve had tried to steer his wheelchair around the Dodge, but he only ended up getting stuck in the mud between the sidewalk and the curb. “Need any help?” I asked.
Annoyed, he answered with a semi-distinct “yeah.” I went over and pulled his chair backwards out of the mud.
He thanked me. “This guy shouldn’t be in the way of the sidewalk here,” he added.
My brain had a thought and my eyes sparkled. “Steve,” I asked, getting into official-quasi-law-enforcement mode, “would you say that this car is blocking your handicapped access to the library.”
“Sure I would,” he answered back. “Why?”
“Because I can do something about that.” I grabbed my radio and switched to the university police frequency. “Parking 5D to U.P. dispatch.”
A crackly voice came through. “Go ahead, Parking.”
“I need a tow truck in 28. I have a vehicle blocking the handicapped access to the library, and there’s been a complaint.” I smiled, and Steve laughed his cerebral palsy laugh.
“Ten-four,” said the dispatcher. “I’ll have one sent over.”
“Thanks.” I switched the radio back to the other frequency and told Ted to sit tight and enjoy his dinner, which he had absolutely no problem with. I issued a citation for parking on a sidewalk, placed the ticket on his windshield, grabbed my digital camera and took four or five pictures. I even had Steve pose to show that he could not, in fact, get by the car.
By this time, a university police officer had showed up. They like to make sure we aren’t calling for spurious tows. She and I manhandled Steve and his chair around the car; he thanked us, and wheeled off. After a few minutes, the tow truck showed up. It wasn’t an easy task getting the Stealth moved, because the place where it was parked was at a ninety-degree angle to the main driveway, but after a little while the chains were hooked, the wheels were locked, and the Dodge was off to the impound lot.
Not being in the mood to wait around for this guy, I picked up Ted and we finished our shift.
The next morning, I had to report to Jerry and fill out the paperwork that comes with ordering a tow on a vehicle. As I sat down and filled it out, Jerry went over to the parking manager’s office and came back with a tape recorder. “I thought you might like to listen to this,” he said to me with a smile. He pushed play and sat down.
It was the tape of Michigan J.’s phone call to the university police.
He started off all agitated. “I have to report a stolen car. Fuck!” There were a lot of f-bombs on the tape.
“Can you describe the vehicle, sir?” asked the officer taking the call.
“It’s a blue Dodge Stealth, ’99 I think, license number HFQ933*. Oh, fuck, you gotta find it, it’s worth like forty thousand dollars!”
* Not the actual license plate. Like I remember the fucking tag three months after the fact.
“Hold on, sir.” There was a pause while the officer consulted with her colleagues. “Sir, you vehicle hasn’t been stolen, it’s been impounded.”
“Impounded? What the fuck is that?”
“Your car was towed, sir.”
“WHY THE FUCK DID YOU TOW MY CAR?!?” He shouted loud enough to create a very annoying buzz on the tape.
“According to the report, you were issued a citation for blocking a sidewalk, and a handicapped gentleman was unable to get around your vehicle.”
“SO THAT MEANS YOU CAN TOW MY CAR? WHAT THE FUCK?!?”
“Sir, if you are obstructing a handicapped access, we are required by law to tow your vehicle.”
At this point, he issued a ten-second string of obscenities, while the officer continually told him that he had to calm down. He did, and asked how he could get his car back.
“You’ll have to go to Parking Services tomorrow morning and pay your citation, as well as any outstanding citations, plus a towing fee of forty-three dollars.”
This was not at all what he’d wanted to hear. Not only was he unable to get his car back at this exact moment, but he’d also have to pay his outstanding tickets, of which he had about a hundred dollars worth. He cursed some more, realized his situation, and with a “thanks a lot, you fucking bitch,” hung up.
I pushed the stop button. I laughed a little, before realizing that this guy might very well find out who gave him the ticket. Jerry sensed this, and told me not to worry; only a number on the ticket identified us, and they didn’t give out our names to anyone. I asked if he’d picked up his car yet, and Jerry said he hadn’t. I then promptly excused myself and left.
I found out later that he came in about twenty minutes later. I won’t go into detail about what happened, except to say that he is no longer a student.
What's the moral of the story? When you're parking your car, don't fuck with the handicapped. It's not like you couldn't use the walk anyway.
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VI: Emo's World
One day last fall I was ticketing at some expired parking meters when I came upon one of the most God-awful displays of sticker arrangement I have had the misfortune of seeing. Plastered all over the rear end of a dingy white Ford Escort (circa 1991) were an assortment of stickers proclaiming the driver’s affection for such bands as The Getupkids, Sunny Day Real Estate and Jimmy Eat World, as well as some random Asian symbols and other assorted minutiae.
Yes, it was an Emo-mobile. One of my three favorite cars to ticket (the other two being Jesus-mobiles and Chevy Cavaliers). And, saints be praised, he hadn’t any time on his meter! With my usual gusto I entered the license and vehicle information into my computer, selected violation #1, Over Time Meter, and in the comments punched in “ANGST,” my personal notation for Emo-mobiles (I also use “IXOYE” for Jesus-mobiles, much to the amusement of the hot Satanist chick who works at the parking desk). I placed the ticket in its envelope, placed the envelope under the windshield wiper, and moved on down the row.
As I reached the end and turned around to head back to the truck, I saw a young man approach the Escort and remove the ticket from the windshield. I could instantly tell he was the owner, as he looked like a cross between Jimmy Fallon and Jack Osbourne, with raven-black hair and a surplus Bundeswehr jacket.
He looked around, and noticed me, my ticketing computer, the ticket envelopes in my pocket and the radio on my belt. He noticed me and proceeded to walk toward me. ‘Shit,’ I thought. I continued to walk toward the truck, pretending not to notice him noticing me, but a shout of “hey!” stopped me and turned me around.
My duties as a parking officer overcame my undying hatred of Emo children, and I went over to him. “Yes?” I asked him, trying my best to sound brusque and impatient.
He looked at me and asked, “Did you give me a ticket?”
‘Holy sweet Jesus at Six Flags, he’s retarded to boot,’ I didn’t say. Instead, I replied with, “Yes, I gave you a ticket; your vehicle is parked in an expired meter.”
“But I only went in to drop off a paper. My professor can tell you.”
Retarded and uncreative. I nearly rolled my eyes. “Everyone says that,” I told him. “That’s why it’s a thirty-minute meter. You put a nickel in, you get six minutes, you run in, you run out.”
“Why should I have to pay a nickel just to drop off my paper?”
I wanted to implore him to join the debate team, tell him how proud Lincoln and Douglas would have been with his skill at rhetoric, and then kick him in the nuts. It was at the point where I’d been working long enough that I was tired of certain clichés but not long enough to just ignore them. Instead, I repressed my desires, as one does in polite society. “Those are the rules. You can appeal your ticket if you like.”
“It’s a stupid rule, and you’re stupid for enforcing it.”
Retarded, uncreative, and with a first-grader’s repertoire of insults. In bygone days I would have slapped him with my glove and demanded satisfaction. However, I am a poor shot, so I was forced to do the next best thing.
“Think about it this way,” I said to him. “Now you have something really good to put into your LiveJournal. Maybe somebody’ll PayPal you the six bucks. Have a nice day.”
I turned, went back to the truck, and continued on my way.
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VII: High Noon at the Office
For most of last semester, we had a fourth member of our little parking enforcement squad. He was a regular university employee, not a student, who had transferred over to our division from custodial. His name was Ted.
Ted was—-well, is—-black. I mention this not because I’m in the habit of describing a person by race or ethnicity, but because Ted made the simple circumstance of the color of his skin into the all-consuming nexus of his life. To be sure, I think a little paranoia on his part was justifiable; for example, he hated looking for permits on vehicles with tinted windows, and I could understand how a black man would be nervous about having to walk around a vehicle and peer into the windows. With him, though, it went way beyond common sense.
Ted lived with his wife, two of his own children and two of her brother’s kids. His relationship with his wife was strained; they were in marriage counseling, and were both often abusive toward each other. He did not like our boss, Jerry. He would take a few innocent comments or professional criticisms of his work performance and spin them into an elaborate conspiracy designed to get him fired. He did not like his new job, and only intended to stay until his probationary period was up in March.
How do I know all of this? Because Ted told me. Ad nauseam.
The work relationship between Ted and myself started off all right. We got along fine, and I didn’t mind having to spend every Wednesday and Thursday evening with him. He’d tell me how much he liked working with me, and with Pete, the other student assistant. I’d tell him a joke, and he’d laugh, and say it was the funniest thing he ever heard.
As September rolled into October, our conversations began to take on a new direction. We still talked about football, or the girls walking by, but Ted also started bringing up his own personal problems. I didn’t really notice the change at first, the tone that he began to take. Around mid-October, though, I realized that our shifts had basically become Ted’s personal bitch sessions.
I won’t go into detail on the dreary slide that followed, the ever-lengthening breaks, the drop in job performance, or how I came to view my shifts with Ted as the worst part of my week. Suffice to say that the only things that kept me from quitting were the fact that the semester was over halfway finished and that Ted was going to leave on the first of March.
The week before Thanksgiving, things came to a head. I began my Wednesday evening shift just as I always had, showing up ten minutes late, taking my time in grabbing my gear, and so on. Ted had already started on our most-violated lot, fifteen, the convenient commuter lot I’ve described so many times before, and I went out to meet him.
We had a particular strategy for this lot. Ted would walk along the outside rows, where all the parking meters are, and ticket the cars parked in expired meters, while I would take the truck and check the inside row for cars that didn’t have permits. It killed about forty-five minutes, and the best part was that I didn’t have to listen to him.
I got in the truck and started driving up the row. I issued a few tickets, and got a little bit ahead of Ted, mainly because it took him twice as long to write out a ticket as the rest of us. Halfway down the row I came up to a silver car that had light brown plates with a big black star on them. In Wisconsin, light brown plates with a star mean law enforcement.
Our university has a training program run by the Department of Corrections. They have their own little section of the dorms for putting people up, they use an old dining commons for classes, and they have their own parking area with their own special permits. Those spaces are reserved for them, and they aren’t supposed to park anywhere else.
As I was unaware of the university police owning any unmarked squad cars, I assumed that the silver car belong to someone in the corrections program who wanted some coffee from the Union and decided to be lazy about it. Since the vehicle did not have a commuter permit, I proceeded to issue the ticket.
Ted saw what I was doing, saw the license plate on the car, and came over to me. “Are you giving that car a ticket?” he asked me.
“Yeah, I am,” I answered back. “He doesn’t have a permit.”
He got a little nervous look. “I don’t know if you want to do that, it might be a cop.”
“I don’t see anything that would make me think he’s a cop, and even if he is, he can just come down and get the ticket voided.”
“I still don’t know if that’s such a good idea.”
“Ted, are you telling me not to give this car a ticket?” I asked him, starting to get exasperated. “Because I won’t do it if you tell me not to.” Ted, you see, was technically my supervisor, and although he’d taken pains in the past to point out that he didn’t want to act like my supervisor, I was certainly willing to let it go and move on if that’s what he wanted to do.
“I don’t know. You do what you want to.” With that, he turned and went back to work on the meters.
The discussion over, I issued the ticket and moved on down the row.
At about ten to six, we got a call from the university police dispatch asking us to go back to the office and call them. Both Ted and I knew what it was about, and we didn’t say anything as we drove back to our office. I was driving, and as I parked the truck, Ted hopped out and dashed inside the building. A little confused, I secured our equipment, locked the truck, and followed him.
When I got into the office I found Ted on the telephone.
“…no, I understand, Lieutenant.” He noticed me and glared. “It’s my student assistant, I told him not to issue the ticket, but he went ahead and did it anyway.” Another pause. “Yeah, I know, they don’t listen. This one thinks he’s my boss.” He got a Post-It note and wrote something down. “OK, I’ll be right down. No, don’t worry, I’ll make sure the ticket gets voided. Yes, I’ll speak to him about it. Thanks, Lieutenant.” Ted hung up the phone, and gave me another nasty look. “You go have your dinner,” he told me, before heading back out to the truck.
Dumbfounded, I went upstairs to the dining commons and got some food. I really wasn’t hungry, but I sat down and played with my food for a while. All I could think was how angry I was with Ted, how dumb I was for putting up with his shit for so long, how much slack I’d given him, and how he’d stabbed me in the back the first chance he got.
After a while, maybe half an hour, the radio on my belt crackled. Ted called me back down to the office. I returned my tray of half-eaten roast and went downstairs.
Ted was sitting on one side of the office. I sat down on the couch opposite. Neither of us spoke right away; I didn’t want to say something I would later regret and Ted was trying to compose his thoughts. After an awkward silence, Ted began.
“Do you know how much trouble you’ve caused me?” he asked.
“No, Ted, I don’t,” I replied, trying to remain calm. “In fact, I don’t think I’ve caused you any trouble at all. I could have gone down there and taken care of the ticket.”
This so angered Ted that he proceeded to launch into a tirade about my constant insubordination, about the lack of respect everyone had for him, about how he just knew the rest of us were trying to get him fired, about how much he had to put up with because he was black, and so on. After ten minutes or so, I got tired of it and stood up.
“Where do you think you’re going?” This was more of a demand than a question.
“I’m going home. I’m done putting up with this shit, and if you want to bring it up with Jerry in the morning, be my guest.” I opened the door and left Ted fuming.
The next morning, when I got back from class, the light on my answering machine was blinking. I didn’t bother playing the message. I poured myself a gin and tonic, sat down on my couch, and thought about what I’d say when Jerry fired me. Eventually, I worked up some nerve, and headed out the door.
When I sat down in Jerry’s office, he closed the door and turned to me. “I take it you know why I called you in here?”
With a sigh, I said, “Yes, Jerry, I do.”
“Why don’t you tell me what happened yesterday?”
This surprised me a little. It occurred to me that there was a chance that I might not, in fact, be getting fired, so I began to tell him about the events of the previous afternoon. When I got to the part about Ted coming over just before I wrote the ticket, Jerry stopped me. “Ted says he told you not to write the ticket. Did he tell you flat out, or was he all wishy-washy about it?”
“He was wishy-washy. That’s usually the way he is.”
“I figured about as much. Tell me, how do you like working with Ted?”
I couldn’t believe it. I saw the opportunity, and I took it. I told Jerry about the rest of the night, about how things had gotten with Ted, about the kinds of stuff he’d been saying about Jerry and the rest of the staff, about how shitty our shifts had become, and about everything else that Ted did to piss me off.
When I had finished, Jerry stood up. “That’s pretty much what Pete told me.” He waved across the hall, and over came Joe, Jerry’s boss and the head of the entire parking services division.
Joe came in and said, “Well?”
“Dan’s told me just about what I was expecting. He’s been having the same problems as Pete.”
“OK.” Joe turned to me. “Dan, I’ve sent Ted home for the rest of today, and after what you’ve told Jerry, I’m going to have to fire him. He’s just too disruptive to keep on.” He reached over and hit the speakerphone button on Jerry’s phone. “I hope you don’t mind that I was listening in on your conversation.”
I was dumbfounded. I had thought that maybe, just maybe, I’d get to keep my job and work a different shift, but this? “No, no, I don’t mind,” I stammered.
Jerry knew what I’d been thinking and smiled. “Think you can work your shift this afternoon?”
“Um, sure, no problem.”
“Good.” He handed me a radio. “You can get started now, make up for that hour you missed last night.”
“OK.” I wasn’t really sure of what to say, and just stood up to leave.
Joe pulled a card out of his wallet and handed it to me. “Dan, Ted was very agitated when I sent him home,” he told me. “I don’t think he’s going to do anything, but if you see him, radio the U.P. and give me a call. My cell number is on the card.”
“OK,” I said once more. “I’ll watch out.”
“Good,” said Jerry. “Now go get to work.”
“Right.” I headed out the door.
I later found out through the grapevine that Ted’s wife, who works as a secretary over in the College of Education, reacted to his termination by throwing him out of the house and filing for divorce. Neither I nor anyone else at the university has seen him since.
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VIII: The Ewok Adventure
Part the First: Being an account of an extremely scruffy hippie and his minivan.
There is a certain class of person who, when exposed to the environment of a college campus, develops a well-honed rappore with the life force inherent in all living things. Their respect for all God's creatures compels them to shun the exploitation of cattle and Guatemalans that drives the American economy today, to reject the notions of what is "normal" or "socially acceptable" or "how one should smell upon leaving one's house in the morning."
Most of us know these people as damn dirty hippies. They crusade for animal rights, workers' rights, animal workers' rights, workers' rights as animals, and Ralph Nader's right to be President. They make a point of confronting authority and of being as self-righteous and irritating as is humanly possible.
Among this group is a young man whose own rage against the machine seems to consist of violating the University of Wisconsin parking regulations. Unlike most of our regulars, though, I have met and had conversations with this fellow.
I call him Wicket.
Early on, I got to know his beat-up old Dodge Caravan pretty well. It showed up in the same place, at least two nights a week, in the loading zone underneath the high-rise dorms. However, I only had the chance to ticket him during my weekly 3 a.m. overnight patrols, so the opportunity to make acquaintance with his person never arose.
Then, one day in October, circumstances changed. I was out on my early afternoon route when I saw a familiar minivan parked in a familiar place. Up to that point, I had never seen it in the full light of day; the main thing I recognized was the multiplicity of Phish stickers on the rear liftgate. At one o'clock on a Monday afternoon, the full splendor of this vehicle became apparent.
The van was brown in color. Although for most vehicles brown is an awful color, for the Caravan it was a blessing, because it helped to conceal the rust that years of neglect and road salt had produced. It also had one of those irritating pseudo-sporty pinstripe jobs that Chrysler loved to sell back during the late 80's and early 90's. Still, the pinstripes and paint color were of secondary importance, as the main purpose of the body of the minivan was to show just how much the owner liked to smoke up and support the Green Party.
As I ticketed the van for being parked in a loading zone, two students emerged from the dormitory. Instantly I knew that one of them was the owner of the Caravan. One of them, the taller, had a hemp book-bag--really, more of a handbag--and one of the shabbiest wardrobes in the entire history of Goodwill.
The other, though, had an infinitely more entertaining appearance. He was quite short, and pudgy, with what my ex-girlfriend would call a "Buddha belly." The hair on his head and face were of a type that would, in my opinion, win several prizes at performance art competitions. His hair was brown and shoulder-length, not that I could really tell that it was shoulder-length, since it was more of a frizzy mess of tangles and grease and unidentified particulate plant matter. His beard was not so much a beard as it was an extension of the rest of his hair. He had done nothing to it: it was not trimmed in any way, nor was it shaped around the cheeks or under the chin. It just grew. Surrounded by this morass of hair was a pair of brown eyes with extraordinarily large irises.
In short, he looked like an Ewok.
The pair approached me, and the hairy one was the first to speak.
"Are you giving me a ticket?"
Of all the annoyingly stupid questions I get from people when I give them a ticket, this is by far the most common. Although I want to say "no, you dumb shit, this is a gift certificate to Best Buy," my professionalism inevitably triumphs, and I answer in the affirmative, describing the parking violation they have committed.
Upon receiving the news that his parking choice was just as illegal in broad daylight as it was in the dark hour of 3 a.m., the hairy one proceeded to lecture me on how Parking Services took it upon itself to victimize the student body, how crippling the cost of education was to persons like himself, and so on, addressing nearly everything his righteous indignation could conjure except the reason why he could park wherever the hell he pleased. But it was not the lecture itself that has stuck in my mind; no, it was the way in which it was delivered that has ingrained itself into my memory.
This guy gave me the most incoherent and inarticulate bunch of jibba-jabba I have ever heard, and that includes the psychotic homeless bitch I listened to for twenty minutes in Baltimore. Not only did it not make any sense, it was mumbled in a sort of high-pitched, squirrel-type voice.
In short, he sounded like an Ewok.
To my mind, if someone looks like an Ewok, and that someone sounds like an Ewok, then that person must, in fact, be an Ewok. I therefore decided on the spot that I would forever know him as Wicket.
The incident ended with me telling Wicket to shut the fuck up, albeit in a professional and courteous manner, and him and his friend getting along their way. But it was not to be the last time I saw them...
Part the Second: Being an account of sheer hypocrisy.
A couple of weeks after my initial encounter with Wicket, he escalated his vehicular civil disobedience. The weather, after a few weeks of beautiful Indian summer, had turned shitty, and the ten-minute walk that people were willing to make on a sixty-degree evening suddenly became unreasonable. As such, the loading zones were full of students who prized convenience above cost in the fulfillment of their parking needs.
Since there were all these lazy Mighty Duck fucks taking up the regular loading zones, Wicket and his Caravan were presented with a conundrum. There really wasn’t anywhere to park. The only open areas into which his vehicle could be wedged were the driveway and the handicapped parking.
I can only guess as to the train of thought that went through Wicket’s mind. Parking in the driveway would have been problematic at best; a number of people would have been parked in, and the probability of being towed significantly approached one hundred percent. Parking in the handicapped space—well, that was parking in a handicapped space. Only an inconsiderate sociopathic asshole parks in a handicapped space.
But, it was raining, and since umbrellas are undoubtedly manufactured by toddlers in a sweatshop in Zanzibar, Wicket faced the unpleasant prospect of having to park in a regular lot like anyone else and walk back to his dorm in the rain. Perhaps it occurred to him that getting that much dirty hair that wet would cause him to smell like a wet cat, a smell that not even a damn dirty hippie can stand.
Thus did the sensitive, eco-friendly Ewok find himself taking the inconsiderate sociopathic asshole route.
When I came upon the Caravan in the course of my usual overnight patrol, I couldn’t help but smile. Not because of some artificial inflated sense of self-importance. Contrary to what you may have been led to believe by these stories, I do not get off on giving people tickets. The only tickets I like giving are to assholes and consistently inconsiderate jerks that cause trouble for others and make more work for me. To be fair, I do take a certain amount of private glee in confronting certain kinds of vehicles, but I keep that to myself. It helps me put up with the vast amount of shit I have to put up with in this line of work.
But I digress. What made me smile that night was the realization that, when push came to shove, Wicket was just as much of a lazy jerk-off as the Abercrombie-wearing, meat-eating cadre he took such pains to criticize. Even more so, because none of the others was taking up a handicapped person’s parking space.
Unlawful handicapped parking is the prince of parking fines. Simply parking in a handicapped space will cost the offender one hundred dollars plus, if we feel it is appropriate, the cost of towing. The only violation more serious is the fraudulent use of a handicapped permit, which costs two hundred dollars and carries a guarantee of impoundment.
Wicket earned himself a hundred-dollar ticket. After writing it, I had to decide whether or not to tow his van. The general guideline for towing in these situations is that a tow is justified if the offender is parked in the only open handicapped space in the lot and that parking in another lot would make for an unreasonably long trip for a handicapped driver. I determined that this was, in fact, the case, and I called the university police to request a tow.
Satisfied in the notion that I had, once again, defended the honor of the handicapped, I ticketed the remaining cars in the lot. As I was finishing, the tow truck came, and the brown minivan soon found itself imprisoned for a crime to which it was nothing more than an accessory.
Part the Third: Being an account of how Wicket tried to revenge himself upon me.
One other thing I’ve noticed about damn dirty hippies is that they have a Christ-complex that approaches the psychotic. They truly believe that their message of peace and harmony through hallucinogens is the one way to eternal happiness, and would rather be crucified by a two-bit Pilate like myself than submit to authority in any form.
Wicket was, of course, no exception, and the next morning he went down to the parking office wearing his thorny crown of tangled hair, grease and sticky bits of bud. Forced to choose between ponying up a hundred and forty dollars for the fine and towing fee, and the prospect of not having his sweet-ass ride for a time, Wicket assented to the former, although not without giving the poor girl working the parking desk an earful of his woes. I’m told he paid in cash, which I suspect comprised the proceeds of the sale of the better part of his stash. I have no proof of that, though. None whatsoever.
His fine paid and his Mystery Machine back in service, Wicket set about plotting his revenge. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Danno, hippies might be damned and dirty, but two things they are most definitely not are violent and vengeful.” And, under most circumstances, I would agree with you. However, this was not most circumstances. This was a holy crusade against Authority on behalf of the proletariat. Wicket had no qualms with unleashing the fucking fury, and if forced so to do, unleash it he would.
The following week, I got my first taste of said fury.
Using his hyper-advanced Ewok intelligence network, Wicket ascertained the location, make and model of my personal automobile. As I discovered on my way to going down to the stores for some Pepsi and a copy of Caddyshack on VHS, upon the bumper of my vehicle were affixed no less than twelve stickers encouraging me to support Jim Young, the Communist—uh, Green Party candidate for governor. As an extra courtesy, the surfaces of these stickers had been incised with a razor blade several times.
After an hour spent on my knees removing the stickers, a position to which I was not accustomed, I went back to my dorm room only to find that the outer portion of the door had been covered with duct tape run from one side of the door frame to the other. With my trusty pocketknife, I cut a small observation port in the silvery surface, and—surprise, surprise!—found that the space between the duct tape and the door had been filled with dead leaves.
Fortunately, the dorm’s Shop-Vac™ made quick work of the leaves, and the rest of the evening proceeded without interruption.
Over the next few days, a series of aggravations followed me around campus. The parking truck was egged, twice; I was followed for an hour or two by someone who would remove a ticket just after I’d written it; I received a larger amount of verbal abuse than I’d become accustomed to; and so on. It became clear to me that something had to be done.
I had a choice of my own. As I had no direct evidence, my legal options ranged from jack to shit. I could confront Wicket, directly, but that would involve talking to him and exposing myself to his weapons-grade B.O. No, retribution most childish was the order of the day.
Part the Fourth: Being an account of Wicket’s comeuppance.
After a time, Wicket and his compatriots got bored, or the munchies, and stopped harassing me. Perhaps I could have left things at that. They hadn’t done any permanent, physical harm to my friends, my possessions, or me. Perhaps that would have been the mature thing to do.
But my own personal sense of justice prevented me from doing so. Secret acts of petty vandalism could not simply be ignored. Wicket had gone beyond the reasonable and made things personal. Besides, doing nothing would have made it seem that I had been defeated and cowed by a hippie. A hippie! I might as well have been mugged by a midget in a dress.
Inquiries were made, and I learned that Wicket had a girlfriend, a militant hippie vegan, who worked at the front desk of his dorm on Thursday afternoons. She was a very important muckity-muck among the local hippie community, and had on one occasion verbally abused me as I exited a McDonald’s. It quickly became clear that destroying his hippie credentials before her would discredit him among all his friends and acquaintances and provide me with the sweet, sweet justice I craved.
Over a few beers, a buddy of mine informed me that one of his fraternity brothers worked for UPS and made campus deliveries on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He also told me that he knew a guy at Omaha Steaks who made it possible to obtain their fine merchandise at a significantly reduced price. I gave him ten dollars and Wicket’s address.
Thusly I found myself a couple of Thursdays later in the combination pizza place and billiards lounge located in Wicket’s dorm with a prime view of the front desk. I had been growing out my beard for nearly a week, and between my scruffiness, my old-school “TC” Twins cap and my pullover, I was quite incognito.
By and by Wicket returned from class and planted himself at the desk. He and his girlfriend broke out some SoBe and organic pretzels and commenced a lively discussion involving some sort of Communist plot. I really couldn’t tell what they were talking about. Shortly thereafter, the UPS truck pulled up. The driver hopped out with a Styrofoam cooler emblazoned with “Omaha Steaks” in one hand and his clipboard in the other.
The simultaneous outrages of the Styrofoam container and its contents had a visible effect on the unwashed couple. As she signed for the package, Wicket’s girlfriend gave the driver some shit about it, and I felt a little bad for him. This was my fight, after all, not his. Annoyed, the driver snatched back the clipboard and went back to his rounds.
She rummaged about for a package slip, found one, and picked up the cooler off of the desk as if it contained Ebola samples bound for the CDC. She looked down at the address, paused, and looked up at her boyfriend. The look she gave him was the sort of look you’d get requesting anal sex from your fundamentalist Christian girlfriend.
A few words were exchanged, he got up off the desk stool, and a few more, louder words followed. I decided it was time to let him know that this was the doing of the awesome sword of justice. I stepped out of the lounge, into the lobby, and headed for the door. Giving the appearance of someone lost, I bumped into Wicket. Hard. Enough to disrupt the fight. I looked at him, and he looked at me.
“Excuse me,” I said, and I gave him a wink and a smile. I turned and walked out the door.
I’ve seen neither hide nor hair of Wicket—or his van—since. I suppose it may have been a little cruel, but it taught him not to mess with me. And, hey, he’s not parking in the loading zone anymore, so he doesn’t have to pay for any more parking tickets. It’s win-win!
The moral of the story is, sometimes you have to be cruel in order to be kind. Oh, and don't fuck around with Parking Services. I guess that's two morals. And then there's the whole bit about damn dirty hippies being hypocrites...
Forget about the whole moral thing. I wrote you a goddamn story! You should be grateful! Don't try to read so much into it next time!
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IX: Turnabout Intruder
For three weeks every January, freshmen and those of us with General Education requirements left to complete take a class that meets three hours a day, every day, except Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This is called "Winter Interim." I availed myself of the program this year and took Music Theory for the General Student, in fulfillment of one of my Humanities requirements.
That's enough capitalization for one paragraph, I think.
Anyway, over interim, the parking regulations are somewhat relaxed. As a result, freshmen who aren't normally able to park in the swanky right-next-to-the-dorms resident lots are given the privilege for a limited time only. One would think that the magnaniminity we show to these children would be repaid by obedience and respect, but it usually turns out that the opposite is true. The average freshman fucktard sees "wow, I can get a special resident permit over interim" and thinks "hey, this means I can park wherever I damn well please!"
Most of my work over interim thus involved ticketing freshman with temporary permits parked in the fire lanes of the resident lots. And it wasn't simply the case of people just wanting to stop long enough to drop things off; no, these were kids parking for several hours, endangering their own vehicles and the safety of others.
Usually I would make one, maybe two, passes through the resident lots in a four-hour shift. One day, though, I had a rather enjoyable game of cat-and-mouse with a white Oldsmobile, license plate of "TAR MAN."
I'd given Tar Man a couple of fire lane tickets before, so when I saw him parked over by his dorm I wasn't the least bit surprised. But there was also a Daewoo--a car so shitty, it isn't even listed in our database--double-parked and blocking in three cars. Priority dictated that I ticket the Daewoo first, which I promptly began.
As I manually entered "D-A-E-W-O-O" into the handheld computer, I saw a kid bolt out of the dorm. He looked nineteen, going on twelve, with highlighted hair and a hemp necklace. Before I could react, he unlocked the door of the Oldsmobile, hopped in, and sped off.
'Ah ha,' I thought, 'so this is Tar Man.'
Outsmarted by the awesome powers of Tar Man, I hopped back into my truck and drove out of the lot. As I got a little ways down the street, I noticed some movement in the rear-view mirror. It was Tar Man, and he was going back into the lot!
Insulted at Tar Man's assessment of my intelligence, I turned around and went right back to the lot. I pulled in just as he was getting out of his car. As soon as he noticed me, he got right back in and left.
The gauntlet had been thrown, and I had no choice but to pick it up.
This time, he went in the opposite direction. I surmised that he was heading either for the loading zone under the towers (scene of The Ewok Adventure) or Lot Fifteen (the setting of parts One and Three). A quick scan of Fifteen showed nothing, but as I came up to the loading zone I saw the familiar white Olds in the fire lane. The driver was nowhere to be found.
I pulled up, photographed the car, hopped out of the truck, and started writing the ticket. Halfway through, over the top of my glasses, I saw someone explode out the door of the towers. I looked up. It was Tar Man.
Tar Man was running towards me. I had, at most, fifteen seconds. There wasn't a moment to lose.
My pen flew over the screen as I breezed through the ticket-writing process. Violation number? 20. Location? 18N. Comments? Hell, no. As the printer started spitting out the ticket, my newly-free hand reached into my pocket and with one fluid motion readied the ticket envelope. My other hand ripped out the ticket and placed into the envelope just as Tar Man ran up, breathless.
I handed him the ticket. "Here you go," I said. "You might want to try parking over in Thirty. We can't have people clogging up the fire lanes."
"But I just went in to pick up some pizza for me and my girlfriend!" he whined.
I looked at his hands. They were empty. "What pizza?"
"Well, um, I didn't have time to get them, I saw you drive up and I ran right out here."
"Might as well finish getting your pizza, then, since you've already got the ticket."
"You mean you're not going to take it back?"
"Nope." I hopped back into the truck. "Have a nice day," I said in my most polite tone, before leaving him, dumbfounded, with the ticket in his hands.
About an hour later, as I was on my final patrol of the day, I saw Tar Man's Oldsmobile right back where it was at the start of the afternoon. Apparently, our exchange had not taught him anything. But as I got out to write up his second ticket of the day, I hesitated. I wasn't really in the mood to be a dick.
Instead, I drew a smiley face surrounded by 'HAVE A NICE DAY' in the sketch program, printed it onto a ticket blank, put my objet d'art into an envelope and stuck it under his windshield wiper.
I figure even Tar Man deserves a break, once in a while.
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Holmes had his Moriarty. Bond had his Blofeld. Peter Gibbons had his Lumbergh.
Me? I have Nathan Falcone.
Falcone has those two qualities requisite of all arch-nemeses. Firstly, his skill in evasion matches my own in pursuit. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, he has the name for it.
His automobile betrays his status as my own personal Hedley Lamarr. He drives a brand-new, bright-cherry-red-with-chrome-accentuation Ford Focus with tinted windows and a customized license plate that reads “FALCONE.” Truly he is a worthy foe.
Falcone was my first heckler. It was only my second week on the job, and I was still a little unsure of my abilities. I was patrolling the resident lots with Ted when first I spied Falcone's car. It was parked on the end of the row in the lot by the Scott towers, past the pole indicating the end of the row and the beginning of the aisle. I snapped a photo and had just started writing out the ticket when from out of a second-floor window came a shout:
“GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM MY CAR!”
Instantly I knew this was directed in my general vicinity. I continued with my work, outwardly oblivious to the epithet delivered from above.
“WHAT DID I JUST SAY? GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM MY CAR!”
I made it appear that the second shout had no more effect than the first, but the truth was that it was the first time that I felt nervous in my job.
“ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT, I'LL MOVE IT!”
Not looking forward to the concept of directly confronting this hooligan, I finished the ticket as quickly as I could. Ted drove up in the truck just as I placed the ticket on the windshield, and we high-tailed it out of there just as Falcone came storming out of the building.
From that day forward we were on each other's shit lists. Falcone developed the uncanny ability to notice when I drove into the lot, and would promptly remove his car from the illegal parking space du jour before I could ever get the chance to ticket it. He'd show up in other lots, too, but would almost always move before I got to him. Rarely would I successfully issue him a ticket, and on the few occasions I did, it was for something piddling like being parked in an expired meter. Even on the rare occasion when he would receive a ticket, his skill at manipulating the Appeals Committee was second to none, and he frequently got out of tickets lesser men would have had to pay.
Success bred audacity, and the red Focus started appearing on city streets. There I was powerless to act, for my jurisdiction ended at the public sidewalks along the streets cris-crossing our campus. Never in all the times I saw him parked on the street did I see a ticket tucked under his wiper.
I knew this was a man of skill. I knew conventional tactics would not
suffice. Falcone was a different breed. He was ninja, and it would take
ninjitsu to overcome him.
Our university has a sizable fleet of vehicles for various uses and departments, coded by color. White vehicles are General Operations, and are by far the most common. The parking truck is white, but as it is an extended-cab General Motors behemoth, it sticks out among all the white trucks. Gold and tan vehicles are Buildings and Grounds. Yellow is reserved for the two Inter-Departmental Mail vans. Red is restricted to the university's snowplow trucks. There are three of these, Ford Rangers with V8 engines and plows mounted on the front.
One day in December, something went wrong on the parking truck and it had to go back to the dealership. We needed another vehicle, and as Jerry absolutely, positively has to have a pickup truck, none of the minivans or cars from the General Ops fleet would suffice. Lucky for him, he is people that knows people, and he managed to finagle a red truck.
When I came on for my solo evening shift (you'll recall Ted had been fired previously) I took possession of the truck. ‘Aha,’ I thought, ‘a disguise! Tonight I am a ninja.’ The previous day had seen our first snowfall, and although it was rapidly melting, there were enough piles laying around that I could busy myself if need be. I spent a few minutes familiarizing myself with the operation of the plow and got to work.
I began my patrol in the usual manner. About half an hour into the shift, I went into the Scott lot and checked the fifteen-minute loading zone. ‘There she is!’ I thought as my inner monologue did its best impression of Ricardo Montalban as Khan. I took note of the time, and then I pushed some snow around lackadaisically in an attempt to look less like a student parking enforcement officer and more like a lazy unionized maintenance worker. In this I was successful, as Falcone did not come down and move his car.
Finished making piles of sand-encrusted snow-ice, I continued on my rounds.
Half an hour later, I re-entered the lot. Falcone had not moved, but I knew he would become suspicious. If I parked the truck on the other side of the lot and walked over, I would be as plain as day. Yet if I pulled up behind his car in the truck, it would appear no less suspicious. I decided to go with the latter plan in order to take advantage of the cover the truck provided.
I pulled up behind the Focus and started writing the ticket. On my first encounter with Falcone, it had taken me two and a half minutes to write the ticket. A few months of practice had cut this time down to forty-five seconds, a third of which was taken up by the printer and the ticket envelope. Unfortunately, the fact that he was in a fifteen-minute space added a few seconds, as I had to note the time I had originally recorded him in that spot, what we in the business refer to as “chalking.”
I opened the door of the truck. At the same time, the door of the dorm opened. It was Falcone.
There was no avoiding him this time. He would walk over by the time I got the ticket on his windshield. I walked to the front of the car. He met me there.
He looked at me, then to the ticket in my hand, and back to me. “I guess you got me this time,” he said.
I was expecting worse, so the innocuousness of his remark surprised me. “Yeah, I did.”
“Well, go ahead, give it to me.”
I cocked my head a little. “Tell you what. Can you park normally from now on?” I asked.
“Yeah, I guess so” he replied.
“All right.” I tore the ticket in half. “This one’s on me.”
“Uh, thanks.” Falcone got into his car.
I turned, walked a little, and turned back to him. “Domo,” I said, as I gave him a fakey little bow. I got in the truck and moved out of his way.
He hasn’t given us any trouble since.
Here endeth the Decalogue.
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