For me, one of the most annoying sights in daily life is the bright yellow envelope tucked under a windshield, signaling that I’ve been ticketed for overtime parking at a city-owned meter.
I’ve largely managed to avoid them while teaching at Portland State University in downtown Portland, but I got nailed twice within the same week late last year — and that left me feeling pretty frazzled.
So imagine my delight when two envelopes of a different color (white) recently arrived in my mailbox, each bearing a document with an official seal of the State of Oregon Judicial Department. They were refund checks, and they arrived without a note of explanation.
But I knew what they were: Redemption! Double redemption!
I could have paid the $44 fine for each of the citations and just moved on. But considering that I typically pay $6 each time I park on the street (the hourly rate is $2), it would have cost me a total of $100 just to do my job on those two half-days. That was too hefty a price in my view, so I appealed.
Yes, I’m one of those who makes time to write to the court to ask for leniency, knowing I can’t take more time to appear in person before a judge.
I admitted that I overstayed the time limit — though it wasn’t by very much either time. But I argued that I was doing “meaningful work” that ran longer than I anticipated; I wasn’t just hanging out at a coffee shop socializing.
In the first case, I taught my regular 8 am class on a Monday, then returned in the afternoon – well outside my regular office hours — for two additional one-on-one meetings and a group discussion with four students. The latter ran long and I returned to my car to find I had received a ticket.
In the second case, on a Friday, I came in to the office for a single meeting with a student – on a day that I normally am not even on campus – and again got caught up in a discussion that went longer than planned. Another ticket. Sigh.
I ended the letter with an apology and a pledge to adopt a new strategy to avoid further parking citations. I now set an alarm on my desktop computer and on my mobile phone so that I give myself an audible reminder before my metered time expires. It’s working quite well.
I’m happy the judge considered my appeal.
Each refund check was for $20, which nearly cut each $44 ticket nearly in half. With the combined $40, I took Lori to dinner. Forgiveness never tasted so good.
Postscript: Twice last week I pulled into a parking spot on the PSU campus and twice I was rewarded with “free” time.
On Monday, a woman who was leaving the space ahead of me waited until I settled in and offered me a parking receipt with about 90 minutes on it. Sweet.
On Thursday, I had moved my car from one spot to another one and was approaching the parking station with my debit card when a man called out, “Hey! Can you use 16 minutes?”
“Sure can,” I replied. “Just what I need.”
Maybe the parking gods have a way of evening things out in the long run. Thanks, generous strangers!