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Dear Friends,

Okay, the title is an absolute lie. I despise parking tickets, even more than the average city dweller. Those of you who live outside Los Angeles may not know the pain of permit parking and the army of dim-witted parking enforcement officials that set out, every day, to take a little cash from people in order to pay their own bloated salaries and benefits packages.

Three years ago, I was issued four unfair parking tickets in a stretch of 48 hours. I'm not lying about this. I've received fair tickets, and paid them quickly. Usually with something in the "Memo" section of the check that says "For sexual favors," or "Parking Enforcement Twinkie Fund."

But these tickets were patently unfair. So I decided I was going to fight them. Despite the fact that they totaled only $120, and I knew fighting them would instantly cost me more money (in terms of time) than just paying them. It's the principle, right? Plus, I figured I might just be able to write a magazine article on my experience in getting the tickets overturned. Something a lot like this particular column, but without the profanity and baseless assertions. For now, let's just continue with the profanity angle.

To start the appeals process, I followed directions, filling out a form down at the parking office explaining why each of the tickets was unfair. This is the office where they actually have to have a real cop standing around, in case "customers" become too irate at the employees, which happens about every five minutes. So actually, it's kind of a fun place to be, especially if you like wasting about three hours listening to the village-idiot employees straining their sub-grammar-school educations in trying to explain points of parking law to pissed-off people.

I had been to this parking office many times before, but I was particularly smug this time. Because I knew I was right. They were wrong. They screwed up, big time, and I could prove it. Of course, the glorious City of Los Angeles Parking Fascists made me pay the fines BEFORE my appeal was heard. Yes, lovely. Guilty until proven innocent. Luckily, they don't usually do the death penalty that way. But in any case, I'm sure Thomas Jefferson would be proud.

Anyway, I paid. About a month later I received word. Great news - one of the tickets was thrown out. ONE! But the others were all determined to be valid. At this point, I was sure that the person who determined the "validity" of these tickets was probably a Brazilian Nazi who had somehow slipped through the Nuremberg net. My other thought was that, since most of the mental midgets I've run across down at the parking office can barely pick their own nose without a book of procedures, it was probably some clock-punching cretin who barely took the time to read my appeal - assuming, that is, that this defect could actually (a) read, and (b) decipher all of the complex, two-syllable words I used in my letter. I figured I probably should have just drawn some crayon pictures. But I digress.

Wait, while we're digressing, let me take you on a flashback to when I actually caught the first person issuing me a parking ticket. I had just parked at a park, where there were no posted signs, and not even the posted sign you sometimes see that says "parking in assigned spaces only." Anyway, I had just walked away from my car when I turned and saw this two-toothed oaf writing up a ticket. I ran back and asked her what was wrong. Red-faced, she mumbled something about it being a "passenger loading zone." I asked her how I could divine that fact, given there were no signs for miles around. She couldn't quite answer me and put the ticket on my car, saying - get this - that I could "just fight the ticket." And then she hurried away, knowing that she had just damned me to a bureaucracy that makes Terry Gilliam's vision in BRAZIL seem positively Utopian.

In any case, before I drone on too long about this, I just want to say that there's a reason I'm getting into all of this. Had I been so inclined, I could have turned this parking ticket fiasco into any number of projects - a short film, a comedy, a documentary, a magazine article - and whatever it was would have benefited greatly from the fact that I actually lived it. I know in the modern world that it's not always easy to have these great visions quests or adventures, but there's always something in your life from which to draw. Even if all you're doing is parking your car. One of my favorite shows - CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM - does this all the time, and masterfully.

So instead of drawing references from movies, television, and the internet, pull everything you can from your reality. Even mundane, annoying experiences can become something fun. Plus, you can sometimes get a little revenge, even if only on paper. I'll finish the story of my parking ticket odyssey next week. It gets better - and I get angrier - as it unfolds.




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