Whenever I get a parking ticket, I feel injustice has been accomplished. Oh, I agree a city with limited space needs parking regulations. I have never parked too close to an intersection or a fire hydrant (unless, I didn’t see it). I have always put enough money in the meter (unless I forgot). I try to be a conscientious law-abiding citizen.
Tickets should be for those who refuse to put money in the meter, park in no-parking zones on purpose, or block traffic by double parking. Why do I get ticketed? One slip of memory and I’m caught.
For example when I went downtown to buy music theory papers for nine-year-old Angela’s piano lessons, I neglected the meter for mere minutes....
That particular afternoon I had no more than three children in my charge and a car at my disposal. The yellow pages told me there were several sheet music stores right in my neighbourhood. When we arrived at the nearest music shop, Brenda (the chunky two-year-old I was babysitting) was fast asleep. I untangled her from her car seat and lugged her out. There was still time on the parking meter from the previous parker.
My own children, Paul (5) and Michelle (3) questioned: "Where we going, Mommy? Why? Is it here?" I attempted to answer them as we approached the music shop door which was locked.
I could see Angela’s theory papers on a display rack, but a sign in the window told me to come back at 4 p.m. At 4 p.m. I would have three more children and fourteen other things to do.
I buckled us back into the car, all the while explaining to Paul and Michelle where and why. We headed for the other address on my list. Brenda was still sleeping. I parked in a side street where there weren’t any parking meters. I untangled sleeping Brenda and lugged her out once more. Paul and Michelle continued to appreciate up-to-the-minute reports on what we were doing. This time we couldn’t find the door to the music outlet. I asked in a radio and TV place where a man sent us upstairs, but said there was probably no one there. He was right.
On the way to the car, I found a phone booth. With sleeping Brenda propped up on the ledge inside the booth, I searched the yellow pages. I noted a promising ad, but the address was downtown. Oh well, why not?
In the car I looked up the address on my trusty map, carefully studying the direction arrows (downtown was a maze of one-way streets), and planned my route.
I drove right to the store and only had to circle the block twice before I spotted an ideal parking place on a side street. There was a meter; "I’ll feed it a quarter," I thought as I wheeled into place. That would be better than paying two dollars at a parking lot.
I was feeling rather pleased with myself as I untangled sleeping Brenda for the third time and headed for the shop. Paul and Michelle continued to demand minute-by-minute reports. We found the store; we found the theory papers; we headed back to the car. Brenda woke up. She wanted to walk. We ambled along.
We were at the corner of the street where I had parked, when it dawned on me that I hadn’t actually put my quarter in the meter. At that same moment the kids discovered a bench that had to be climbed. I looked up the street–-sure enough, there was an officer with a clipboard standing by my car, writing.
I glanced at the kids who were enthralled with the bench, left them, and ran toward the officer. He was an old fellow who looked at me helpfully as I breathlessly explained I had just remembered the meter and had run back to give it its due.
"Which car is it?" he asked as he looked at the two cars he was concerned with.
"The station wagon."
"Sorry, it’s already written up." He showed me the ticket. "I can’t do anything about it. But, you’ll be okay here for the rest of day, now," he offered.
I felt like one of the five foolish virgins. I wanted to kick the man, or scream or at least kick the car.
Instead I remembered my abandoned children and ran back, hoping they hadn’t been kidnapped. They hadn’t and were ready to leave the bench.
When we got to the car, the officer was gone but the ticket was there on my windshield. In my mind I swore. I strapped the kids into their seats and looked at the dumb thing; six dollars; that’s more than I gave the Cancer Society; it’s more than I paid for the theory papers. I hated paying for nothing. It wasn’t good stewardship. I was sorry I swore.
I asked myself, "How should a Christian deal with a parking ticket?" I could consider it a lesson learned, but I already had that lesson the last time I forgot to feed a meter.
What would Christ do? He would find a coin in the nearest fish and move on.
Pay it, Marian, and take care of your kids.
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