The Internet rules against me

June 9th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized

Let me say from the outset that I know I should just pay the fricking ticket. But it was so much money–$115 for having my car at the hydrant in front of our house while I ran my kids inside. That I got such an extravagant ticket on the return from a Frugal Traveler getaway made me only feel like more of an idiot/asshole.

So I exercised what is apparently my right as a motorist in Manhattan: I appealed to an online judge. And I did something I really try not to do much at all: I used my kid as an excuse.

See, the baby was napping. I wanted to try to get him into bed without waking him, so I didn’t want to look for parking, then carry him several blocks home. I parked in front of the hydrant in front of my apartment. The baby, of course, woke up anyway. And when I went back outside, some cop I never even saw had left that delightful orange bill on the windshield.

I was notified today that some digital judge had ruled on my online appeal. The ruling in full:

The respondent has been charged with violating Traffic Rule 4-08(e)(2) prohibiting stopping, standing or parking a vehicle within fifteen feet of a fire hydrant. Although respondent presents a credible statement their claim is rejected because parking within 15′ of a hydrant and leaving the vehicle to bring a sleeping child into the house, with hazards on, is not a valid defense. Vehicle is parked in violation upon the driver’s exiting the car, as vehicle is rendered parked within 15′ of a hydrant, with no operator at wheel.

The good news: they found my claim “credible”. The bad news: they could care less. And I now have to actually pay that $115.

The thing is, New Yorkers–particularly parents, with all their attendant kinderkram–have to double-park and park at hydrants. We don’t have driveways. We can’t find parking on our street. There’s no other way to load a car.

I also understand the point of denying my claim. To erase my ticket would be to invite a form of moral hazard. Anyone who heard about the online leniency (however justified it might have been) might drive and park in all sorts of debased ways, if they felt they could wriggle of the hook later.

The flipside, though, is that this wonderful new tool of the citizenry, this automated online appeal, now feels totally fake to me. It feels like I just put a quarter into some mechanized boardwalk genie and it spat a random answer out at me. There is no further recourse for me, except, as the email said, to call 311, which can be helpful if you’ve got a question about lead abatement, but in this context is essentially the same as calling 1-800-EAT-SHIT.

Everyone loves technology, but in the automated case of Thornburgh v. the People of New York, I lost. That I lost online makes it no better.

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