August 2019

The Pursuit of Justice

I’m pleased to announce that I have a new editor, one with seven decades of practice in pointing out my errors.

I sit here in a state of exaltation.

Remember your adolescent fantasies of striking a blow for the common man, bringing a malefactor to justice, and basking in the acclaim of your fellows? Ah shucks, ‘twarn’t nuthin’.

Flash back to last Monday afternoon when I was whirring my Segway off to Safeway to grab an eight-pack of Diet Dr Pepper, to which I switch when I’m already jittery from coffee.

But wait! As I hit the top of the driveway, a disturbing sight presented: My car. With what looked like a parking ticket under the wiper. And yes, it was. The offense? “VC22502A OVER 18 IN FROM CURB”. Whaaaaaaaaaaaat?

Not again! Not too long after I moved here, I got a ticket for this offense when both wheels were under a foot from the curb. And since then about every six months I’ve got one even as I’ve parked closer and closer. I haven’t complained because streets in Bernal Heights are narrow and it thus behooves the residents to park as close as possible to the curb, but mainly because if I took a photo of the car to demonstrate its location, nobody, especially not the SFMTA, would believe that I hadn’t moved the car before taking the photo.

So I gnashed my teeth, stuffed the ticket into my pocket, and continued toward the store until I noticed that another car also had a ticket. Yep, same Parking Control Officer, same offense, time stamped three minutes later. And then, out of curiosity, I rolled north down the block taking inventory and found three more cars with tickets, each time-stamped a few minutes later and all for the same offense and from the same PCO. Also, while one was nearly a foot from the curb, all the others were four or five inches.

I felt an urge to document this, so I pulled out my camera and shot all the ticketed cars, incorporating into each photo the license plate, the ticket under the windshield, and the curb.

And then it struck me that the tickets had been written three hours earlier, so he could have ticketed more cars that had left before I got there.

And then I realized that Wait! now I actually have some evidence since, while I could have moved my own car before photographing it, I don’t even know the owners of the other vehicles, so there’s no way I could tamper with their position.

So yes, I’ll just go down to the SFMTA, find the place where you contest tickets, and set up some kind of interview or something where I can show the folks that one of their PCO’s is a bad apple and get my ticket voided.

I went down to 11 South Van Ness and started presenting my case but was interrupted and told that I needed to go elsewhere to lodge my complaint. Fine, fine, I’ve got all morning, so I rode over to 1390 Market, 7th Floor, where it came as somewhat of a shock to see that I was in the Office of the City Attorney

What! All I’m trying to do is complain about a renegade ticketer. Why was I directed here? I told the clerk at the window that I’d been sent there and gave her a brief sketch of what was going on for me. She asked me to have a seat and said someone would help me.

A couple of minutes later a Senior Investigator named Carol Stuart, briskly competent and genuinely nice, popped into the little lobby, listened to my tale, and asked me if I wanted to be a whistleblower. This took me aback for a moment, but then I realized that, well, yes, I’d wanted to rat the guy out and had tried to do it as a low-key thing in his own department, sort of like plinking at him with a BB gun but then discovering that the only way of getting to him was to call in an air strike.

So following Carol’s instructions, I went online to the Whistleblower site, detailed the outrage, and sent in my photos showing that the cars were all legally parked. They now have the perp’s coordinates and it’s out of my hands. I’ve been given a complicated complaint number and told to watch the Whistleblower website for the next quarterly report, which will describe in general terms the complaints and their resolution. It’s all handled with such anonymity that that’s the only way I’ll know whether the miscreant was brought to justice.

After I’d sent ’em my photos, I noticed that at the bottom of my ticket was the phrase “PHOTO ON FILE”. Went online and yep, I could see the photo he’d taken….and it clearly showed that I was legally parked. Why would he take a photo that demonstrates that the vehicle is innocent? Hmmmm, and then I remembered that a characteristic of the criminal mind is difficulty in imagining getting caught.

The last question is one of motive. Why would a PCO do this? The logical answer is that he has a quota that he’s desperate to meet, but this flies in the face of all reason since no sensible organization would present its workers with such an obvious conflict of interest. More likely he’s just a sociopath. Besides, I have it on good authority that they eat their young.

Meanwhile, here’s a photo of one of the legally parked but ticketed cars.

Ain't no 18 damn inches.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Responses