All hail! For I am the Her Royal Majesty, the Parking Ticket Queen. This year alone I have wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on parking tickets. Okay, not quite that much. But a lot. Enough to support a medium-sized family in a third world country for about five years, though. Maybe ten, depending on the country.
Everywhere I go in this little hamlet we call Los Angeles, it seems no one wants me to park anywhere. Signs proclaiming “No parking between 6 and 8 a.m., 1:30 and 3:30 p.m., and after 5 p.m. except on Saturdays, Sundays, some Tuesdays, and sporadic Thursdays” abound. I find myself wondering why they don’t simplify the whole process by changing the wording to the effect of “We’d as soon tow ya as look at ya, now git.”
By the way, am I really supposed to believe that street cleaning happens every Friday between 8 and 9 a.m.? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a street cleaning device in Los Angeles.
But I sure have seen meter maids. A clean street is a street with no law-breaking, I suppose. Maybe “street cleaning” is really a vaguely fascist term meaning “the meter maid cometh.”
My problems have, of course, translated themselves from the larger city of L.A. to the microcosm of L.A. that is more or less CSUN. I openly, nay proudly declare that I was so fortunate as to be caught enough times by CSUN’s gracious and ever-vigilant Parking Services Department without a $126 parking permit to get a nice pretty tangerine-orange boot put on my car. Of course, this wasn’t a result of having only one ticket. If you earn six or more parking tickets, you get rewarded with a boot, as I have come to know.
Despite my initial chagrin of having absolutely no ability to go anywhere and enduring the sideways smirks of passing students who, of course, had proven their moral superiority by dutifully purchased their parking permits, it was nice to know that Parking Services noticed me. I felt special.
In my head I began having delusions of grandeur, picturing myself and my little Escort on a “Most Wanted” poster, and some fresh-faced, eager Parking Service cadet getting a big promotion for finally catching me, the notorious and elusive No Permit Bandit.
This is all a result of the folly of my errant and devious ways. I know this now. I had the ill-conceived idea that I could save money by parking illegally in the lots without a permit, or by parking on the streets and neighborhoods around CSUN. I have failed, for these streets all have signs, and the parking services cadre outflanks us all.
Neighborhood parking, I have found, is a tenuous situation, because even if you are allowed to park on the streets at the time you arrive, you may well have a ticket placed decoratively on your windshield or a missing vehicle, abducted by a UTO (Unidentified Towing Object) by the time you return.
So what is a frustrated L.A. resident and consistently broke graduate student such as myself to do? My old method of “park wherever and see what happens” has failed, and you, my young padawans, need not attempt it. Here are some of my parking epiphanies that I have had this year.
First, buying a parking permit where one is required seems to be a generally good idea. Either way, someone is going to get your money, and a lot of it at that. So you might as well avoid the anxiety and the vast sums of money poured into the sinkhole that is the City of Los Angeles and buy the permit.
Second, read the signs. Get out a calculator, pen and paper and make charts if you have to, in order to understand them. Get up close and personal with the sign pole if needed, to see what the small print says, because it most likely says “go away” in one way or another. Obey these signs, for they are your lord and master. Even if it means dropping what you’re doing to jump in your car and drive in circles for two hours.
Finally, take about one-third of you earnings every year and convert it into quarters. This is not an exaggeration, since you can usually expect to find meters that allow 7 minutes for every quarter around L.A. these days.
If you follow these three simple rules you may find yourself becoming one with the universe. Really. Because, you can’t be one with the universe if your car has been towed away. You would be pretty angry, which breaks all the rules for being one with the universe. Or you could try moving out of L.A. It might be easier (and cheaper) than following all its parking rules and regulations.
Bethania Palma can be reached at email@example.com