The Judge, Letter of Reference From Mom, and My Parking Ticket


If you have tried to park on the streets of New York City, you know that it is a competitive sport.  Kind of like “Musical Chairs,” it always seems like way too many cars for the available spots.  Broadly speaking, I think there are two main approaches to parking here– keep cruising until you find a spot or double-park yourself and your car and wait for something to open up.  My gut is that the latter is the better approach, but I am too impatient to sit around and wait.

Given the challenge, It almost goes without saying (if I thought it went without saying I wouldn’t say it) that folks will park in any spot that they think is legal, even if there is some question.

This was the case for me at my previous position, where I found a regular parking spot that was often available because there seemed to be some question as to its legality.  I really did think it was legal although as time went on I became somewhat less sure.

After successfully parking there for some time, I got a parking ticket, a $115 one at that.  Not only was $115 at stake, but so was my parking spot.

Like the guy with the photos in Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” song, down to court I marched with photos of my car, photos of the street signs, and my impassioned and well thought out legal arguments.  I would get justice.

Unfortunately, the more I looked at the photos on the way to the courthouse, the more I realized that the facts were not as favorable as I thought.  I began to understand perhaps why the spot was always available.

The moment I checked in, the clerk said if I elected to plead guilty, the fine would be reduced from $115 to $85.  Notwithstanding how I now perceived the facts, I rejected the deal immediately.  I didn’t even pause to call and confer with counsel.  Like a 6-year old, I wanted my parking spot, I had traveled all the way down to court, and I wanted to see the judge.

And I had an ace in the hole, a character letter of reference from my Mother that you can see above.  Surely, the judge would laugh when seeing the letter, and his enjoying a Milkshake Moment would lead to the dismissal with prejudice of all charges.

Now I should point out that “court” was actually a small windowless room with a desk and two chairs in it.  The judge was a nice, affable guy who indeed chuckled at the letter.  He also found me guilty in roughly 120 seconds…including his denial of my follow-up request to give me another chance to accept the $85 offer…and including the before and after chit-chat.

As much as I treasure Milkshake Moments, I should have taken the clerk’s $85 offer and gotten out of Dodge.