Ange Hamm > The Man
I had parked on Meadow Street across from the alley behind Tabernacle Baptist, in a space between a driveway and a "No Parking" sign pointing the other way. I had parked there frequently in the time Richmond Shakespeare has been at Tabernacle. It's a nice space. There's a shade tree and everything.
Here's a picture of the space, with a black Camry in the place of my CR-V, which was unavailable to be photographed at the time the photo was taken.
Clearly, this space is perfectly legal at all times.
I called to find out if my car had been towed, and no one had any record of it. Not the police, not the towing company, no one. I was beginning to think the truck had been stolen, but it turned out that the local towing incompetents had misspelled my license plate on their forms: "TRADISH" instead of "TARDIS-H." I was told condescendingly that vanity plates are a problem when you get towed because they are often miswritten. So it's my fault your jackass towtruck driver can't transcribe seven letters in order? Not to mention the fact that the logic of this statement eludes me; you expect me to believe that someone is more likely to incorrectly transcribe "MY VETTE" than "JKR-1372"???
The reason given by Siebert's for the towing was "street cleaning," despite the fact that there were no street cleaning signs of any kind in the space. I checked the rest of the block just in case: no signs. Just for the heck of it, I drove up and down the street in Karen's car just to be sure. There were no signs of any kind, temporary or permanent, indicating street cleaning anywhere on Meadow Street. Anywhere. There were, however, temporary street cleaning signs on other streets in the neighborhood, for other days of the week.
Karen drove me to Siebert's, I paid my $60, and took my truck.
The next day, I called City Hall to find out how to contest the ticket. I was transferred or given another number no fewer than six times before finding a police officer who could (or would) tell me anything. One of the things he told me was that no fewer than 130 cars had been towed for street cleaning that day, and that his backlog of complaint phone calls was days of work long. He gave me the right number to call and suggested that I ask them to fax me the form required to contest the citation, but warned that, depending on whom I talk to over there, they may or may not require me to come in to fill out the paperwork in person. He was right to warn me; a very sour lady insisted that they NEVER do this by fax (despite the fact that a very senior police officer had just told me that they do). I would have to drive downtown to City Hall.
This I did, filling out my paperwork and getting a court date of September 6 at 2:00.
Which brings us to this week. I went to court to contest my ticket, photos in hand. I was the third nearly identical story the judge heard, but I was surprised at how few people were in the courtroom; there couldn't have been a dozen. A little old lady was called a couple names before me. She had come into town to visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and had been towed under identical circumstances to mine; no street cleaning signs in sight. Her case was readily dismissed, but the poor lady was shaking and in tears before the judge, she was so nervous and humiliated to have to come to court. She had even brought three friends with her for moral support.
I spent no more than 30 seconds before the judge before she dismissed my case as well.
She sent me out to the clerk, where I was informed that I would have to drive back to Siebert's to get my refund, since that's where I paid. I drove out Hull Street Road to the craphole that is Siebert's and got my refund.
All this for $60.
This entire process has been infuriating to me. There is no way on earth that Siebert's didn't tow my car without full knowledge that there was no signage to indicate that I would be towed for parking there. Nothing in the world will persuade me that every inconvenient, time-consuming, humiliating step in this process was not specifically designed to encourage citizens to say, "Oh, well, it's just $60. It isn't worth the trouble to contest it." Clearly, the light turnout in the courthouse indicates that many people decided just that.
This is the kind of crap that inspires people to start militias. The government should not seize my property in order to extort money from me to get it back. Rightfully contesting my ridiculously false citation shouldn't take two trips to City Hall and over six hours of work-week time, especially in the internet age. My government should serve and protect me, not scam money from me then place obstacle after obstacle in my path when I wish to correctly seek recompense. And it certainly shouldn't make a nice old lady who'd never seen the inside of a courtroom cry in public.
So I got my $60 back. There's no telling how much I lost in gasoline and productivity to get it, but I got it.
Ange Hamm 1, The Man 0.