Thursday, April 11, 2013

My City Was Dumb

I do all my best confessing online. I figure that's where I have the most privacy. So I'm here with another big bombshell about my criminal behaviors: I have criminal behaviors. I'm sure I have lots of them but THE MAN hasn't given me much chance to put them into action so I still don't know the depths to which I will sink. Lucky for me THE MAN has, recently, put me in a position where some of that latent criminal behavior has been unleashed.

Julie and I went on vacation a few months ago. Right before we left, I got a piece of mail from the township of scenic Teaneck. I assumed it was a jury notice, a tax document or a thank you note for being so swell for lo, these many years. So I put it in a suitcase and figured I would review it from the Sunshine State. When we settled in to our fabulous rooms, I looked at it.

My local government was notifying me that 2 years earlier I had received a parking ticket for leaving my car in front of my house when it snowed, and that I had not paid the ticket. It notified me of an additional fine and a threat that if I didn't pay, well, bad things would happen. I did what any mature, adult vacation goer would do. I panicked. I immediately went on to the website and tried to see an online version of the ticket because, frankly, I had no idea what they were talking about. I am always very quick to move my car off the street when snow is predicted and even quicker to pay tickets. I got no ticket. For typographical reasons, I found no info on my ticket (the ticket prefix was OO and I read it as 00) so I called the clerk. I explained my situation and begged for a week to resolve the issue (after 2 years of having no idea that I had a ticket, and 1 day of having this mail, I was ready to cave like a...I guess a cave) because I was out of state. The nice woman explained that I could pay or I could get a court date to make any other claim. I said "but I never got any ticket -- could it have blown away in whatever snow there was?" She said that could have happened but I wouldn't know if I didn't ask for a court date. So I promised her that I would call when I returned to Jersey. I spoke about it with the wife and she was equally indignant. As we had no record of the ticket and could find nothing online, she recommended that we take them up on the offer for a court date.

We flew back home and the wife called. The person who answered said that she would issue a court date. So we waited. Nothing showed up but, man, did we wait. Then suddenly, in the mail, we got 2 notices on 2 successive days that we had "refused to respond or pay" so an extra fine was being assessed and my license was under threat of suspension. My ire was piqued so I made sure to call back as soon as I could. Of course, because I received the notification on a Thursday I knew I'd have to wait till Monday. Why? you ask (good question) -- Teaneck town government is closed on Friday in observance of Friday.

On Monday, I called. I recounted to the woman on the phone the whole timeline (in, no doubt 4 part harmony) including the recent call and the promise of a court date. I told her that I really didn't want my license to be suspended but I wanted a court date. She promised me that, this time, she would really send out a court date and that I should watch the mail.

So I did. I watched like no one has ever watched the mail before. I knew the schedule of the mail, the scent of a mailman, and the brand of gas the truck used. If that mail sneezed, I knew it. I had eyes and ears watching the mail, on both sides of my nose. And still nothing. Until today.

Today, I got a piece of mail that notified me that I had, again "failed to respond or pay" and my license was suspended. Suspended. License. Me. Did I mention "suspended"? How about "me"? I forget. I'm sort of distracted.

I try to be a moral and civil citizen, following even the laws I don't like. I like to pay bills on the day they arrive if not sooner. I can't stand the idea of either owing money, or breaking rules, especially if I get caught. So of course, I wanted to resolve this with an angry phone call. I mean, I have to drive to work tomorrow and will not enjoy doing so with a suspended license. Heck, I broke out into a cold sweat when I drove after the car inspection expired.

But today is Thursday. THURSDAY! The government is closed on Friday! I tried to call as soon as I got the mail but, I got home after 5:15 PM (when their office closed). So I can't resolve this until Monday (at the earliest) and have to drive all weekend with a suspended license. To work. Back home. Across town to drop a child off. Across to pick up. Out on Sunday morning and back. Suspended license because they didn't give me a ticket initially, they didn't send me the court date when we asked twice and they aren't open on a regular old work day.

I have to call or go into the Municipal Building on Monday instead of work. I'm going to have to set up a court date if only to argue away the extra fines before I pay the principal and forget about the fact that I never received a ticket. Then I'll have to go into the DMV to reinstate my license. This is my time and my energy. All this because the town government screwed up repeatedly. A suspended license because they dropped the ball.



  1. You can't fight City Hall. They're not smart enough to understand the reason for the fight. As far as they're concerned, they're always right and you're wrong. Don't confuse them with facts.

  2. Dan, your frustration, nay fury, is tangible. Sir Oracle, you're as encouraging as a graveyard during pms.


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