complete randomness / life / non-work-related uses of time / school

My life of (parking) crime


I’ve always loved that word.  I think I learned it on an episode of Seinfeld.  Now, I can say it applies to me.  I chose to run afoul of campus Parking Services in November.  And I took pleasure in my casual disregard for university policy until sometime in mid-March, when things got somewhat less whimsical.

While I’ve been a known (and often ticketed*) offender since shortly after Spring Break, I am unrepentant about my crimes.  In fact, if there’d only been one ticket issued, I’d still be on my spree.  Even though there have been a number of pop songs indicating that fighting the law and authority are losing games, fighting the (parking) man is how I took my stand.

Let’s make one thing clear, though: at no point in this story am I the hero, the wronged party, intelligent, or even slightly in the right.  I threw my hat into a game I couldn’t win.  And I paid for it.  Oh, how I paid for it**.

You see, I have a thing about parking.  Like most rational people, I like to park my car when I go places rather than letting it simply roll down the middle of the street in neutral.  But I don’t like to pay to park my car.  This makes me slightly irrational.  I understand why there are parking meters and permits and restrictions.  But I don’t think they should apply to me.  Because I think they are annoying.  That’s all.  I don’t like to pay for parking because the whole process of paying for it or arranging for it is a mental chore that I find taxing***.  And that’s what you need to know in order to understand how I got myself in trouble.

Now, to the trouble and its resolution.  But not my reform.

One of the few perks of being a graduate student in my particular situation is that I’m entitled to Faculty/Staff parking on campus.  This is pretty sweet, except on Move-In Day and during big admissions pushes when the parking scenario turns into the Wild West and I spend hours circling campus, avoiding careless undergrad pedestrians, yelling out my window, and smacking my steering wheel in frustration.  All I have to do to take advantage of this privilege is march over to the Parking Services Office (which is conveniently located in the building less than 100 yards away from my own) when my permit expires, fill out a form (the one printed on Goldenrod), and write a check.  Simple, right?

The last time I did this it was 2009.

Technically, my parking permit expired June 30, 2010.  But last summer, Parking Services issued an email saying that current grad student passes were good until November 30, 2010.  Sweet.  More parking, less paperwork.

November came and went.  And for the rest of the Fall 2010 semester and the first half of Spring 2011, my expired pass and I parked with impunity.  My bad behavior was only encouraged by way I escaped detection and the fact that they didn’t change the color of the 2009-2010 pass for the 2010-2011 school year.  But the first Monday after Spring Break, whoever does the rounds that evening got hip to my game.  And, so, with a regularity that I appreciate in the abstract, I got a series of tickets between the hours of 4:30 and 6pm that Monday and every Monday after.  And once, on a Tuesday.  And another time, Thursday.

And those suckers were expensive.

But did I pay them? Did I change my ways and get myself a parking permit?  Did I think I was made of money?

No.  No.  And, apparently, yes.

I knew I would have to pay the tickets come registration, but I was holding out the faint hope that no one had fired up their computer and cross-referenced my old parking pass with my license plate.  I knew the jig was up when I checked the holds on my records — the only way to know if they’ve got you against the wall — and found that the university had known about me for some time.  And that they’d like their check, please.

So, this morning, I headed off to the Bursar’s office, a place I only like to say I’m visiting because it sounds so darn nautical, and informed the woman behind the counter that I was here to settle up.  After handing over my expired student ID*^, I was informed that I owed $400.  I informed the woman behind the desk that the room was spinning.  Did she mind if I vomited into my school bag?

Like I said before, I am NEVER in the right in this story, so I tried my best to find out how, exactly, the amount I expected to owe — a still obscene $200 — had managed to double itself.  Did it have babies?  Did it get bigger in the computer?  Were there suddenly deadlines on these sorts of things?  But, because of the inherent nature of the question, the woman took my ‘WHAT?!” as a sign of protest, and asked me how many tickets I thought I had received.

I said four.  She said six.

I told her I didn’t doubt I had been cited six times, but I had only received physical tickets on four of those occasions.  I also inappropriately bragged that I had been collecting them in my car.  She didn’t really find all this interesting, since she was busy noticing that the math didn’t work out.  After all, six $50 tickets^ should only equal $300.  So, after adjusting for the fact that I really shouldn’t have to pay for my health insurance twice (it gets taken out of my paycheck, but in university records, it’s listed in the deadbeat column), we were down to $300.

I was still feeling pretty sick.  And now I had to get a parking permit.  Oh, yeah, and admit defeat.

Did you know there’s only one week left in the semester?  Did you also know that having stupid principles about parking makes me stupid?

Permit-wise, things went swimmingly.  One reason I’ve never liked to go to Parking Services is because it tends to be an immense pain in the ass with more red tape than the process deserves.  Like, once, I got into an argument with a woman who wanted more proof that I was enrolled at the University.  I pointed out that she currently had my academic transcript open on her computer.  She told me she’d need to see my department-issued contract.  One rant and a photocopy later, she allowed me to write her a check.

But today, no sweat.  Rather than having to pay the full price of a parking permit ($90), I got mine pro-rated for the low, low price of $50.  And, the very nice woman who was looking at my records excused my most recent offense (guess who’s getting a sweet $50 credit?).

And while she was looking at my records and adhering bar codes to my permit, the woman at Parking Services offered a suggestion.  “You know,” she said, “if you wanted more of these excused, you could petition them.  They’re all for the same thing — expired permit — so you would only have to fill out of the form once.”

“I know,” I said, “But I was wrong.  The whole time.”


* Stay tuned.  This gets good.

** I had to use my credit card.  Thankfully, they take Discover.

*** Like seriously, if I had known I needed an entire roll or quarters just to go have a beer with my friends, I would have brought one.  But I never — and I mean, never — have change/enough change/Canadian pennies when I need them.  And that drives me insane.

*^ I know, I know.  This indicates a pattern.  I swear I’m really conscientious about most things.  It’s just that I have a problem maintaining the tiny bits of university administrative crap.  Also, the darn thing still works and the picture is awkward enough to last a lifetime, so I’m letting that one lie.

^ Personal feelings about it aside, that is an outrageous amount for a parking fine.

One thought on “My life of (parking) crime

  1. Oh my goodness, this is giving me PTSD from my own parking mishaps! I say never take the blame, Lehigh parking peeps are always in the wrong… always, I say!

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