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Friday, February 1, 2008

New Nonfiction!: Our Efficient Government

A bunch of months back I got a ticket for not yielding for pedestrians during a sting operation one of the most dangerous streets in LA (in my defense, there were no lights, no signs and the position of the crosswalk wasn't standard; also, I did stop--twice--but the cop didn't care, he was a dick). So I get the ticket and, being homeless and living in my van at the time, it was the least of my concerns so I forgot about it.

Later, I forget to pay the fine on time. Or I didn't pay it because I couldn't afford it. Either way, never paid.

Even laterer, after I get an apartment in Hollywood that has roaches and asshole landlords and a stink that never goes away, I get a notice warning me of my license being revoked if I don't take care of the ticket by such and such date.

Such and such date arrives, so I get up early (like 5:30 ish) and make my way to the courthouse. I park down the street at a meter and drop in a couple quarters. It's crowded with Mexicans and Black folk who aren't dressed like they're about to talk to a judge. They all look mean. I'm in line, outside this very bulky nine story building that has extravagantly used these neat little rocks to cover the entire outside, all the way around and up and waiting in line for so many hours I wondered just how many mountains were killed for this building to be dressed in a nice coat like that. Then I thought that there should be an environmental organization that works like PETA, but I realized that could never work because they couldn't get Pamela Anderson to show up on billboards wearing only rocks.

So I finally get inside and I talk to a clerk at a window and that woman asks me if I'm here to pay and I says to her, No, I'm pleading not guilty. So she sets up a date for me to arrive in court--8/30 at 8:30--easy enough to remember. So then I leave and discover the meter was up and I'm given a $45 ticket.

Skip ahead two months. I wake up early (this time, 5:45) and I go to court. I get lost because this time I don't have the address. Also, I don't have my paperwork. Turns out, I didn't need the paperwork nearly as much as the address. I arrive at the building around 7:20 and decide to pay the $7 to park in the underground parking facility. The line is nowhere near as long as it was before, which gives me hope that people are finally learning their lesson about driving like assholes. I doubt this is true, but for the sake of argument, let's just pretend. Unfortunately, as I later discover, less people means stiffer fines for those who're still there. So I stand in line again, and around 8:30 they let us into the building. I go to the 4th floor, to room #63 as per instructions. I stand in line at the sign that says, "Line Starts Here." I'm thinking, yey, I'm first in line. Smiling to myself and thinking that my day is going well so far, I hear this woman bark from across the hallway where she sits on a bench--obviously not where the sign is marking--and she says, "I'm first." She's black and I'm white, so obviously I'm either going to be a racist or she's going to shoot me, so I says to her, fine. Then, about three or so more people arrive and stand in line. She warns them all that she's first in line. I step out of the line to go down the hall to use the restroom (#1), and when I get back, there's like 40 people all materialized out of nowhere to take my place in line. I say fuck it, I don't want to argue. Turns out, I don't need to. We get inside the room, finally, and we take a seat, then after another bout of sitting around doing nothing, they call names. I'm like #4, well ahead of the girl who was first in line. So I win. Ha.

So we wait and wait and wait. Finally, a temporary judge (not the real thing, apparently, because the real thing was on vacation) comes out and we give our pleas. I tell him not guilty. The ticket was supposed to be $140, plus the fine for not showing up to court, which was another $200, but that should be waived if I win my trial. This wasn't trial, this was arraignment, so he says go talk to the clerk about bail. I'm thinking, wow, bail--I must really be a criminal now!

So another line (I thought I was the fourth person, now I'm back in a long line again, somehow) and finally the clerk, and the clerk tells me bail is $340. I'm like, that's sure a steep fine for a $100 ticket. They tell me that if I can't pay it (I can't, I'm as broke as I've ever been) then I have to come back in exactly seven days to tell the judge that I can't pay it. I ask why they can't just make a note to tell the judge later that I can't pay it so I don't have to go through all this trouble. She looks at me like her brain is about to esplode, so I decide to leave. I go home and think about taking a nap, but I probably just jerked off and ate a pizza. I don't remember, but that sounds pretty much like my everyday existance, so it's probably what I did. I do remember though that I certainly did not take a nap.

Skip ahead another week. My van is falling apart. I wake up around 6:15, shower and eat a cup of boysenberry yogurt. It wasn't the best yogurt I've had recently, but it wasn't bad--not like the raspberry/cranberry juice that I bought the same trip, which I had to return because it was fermented; they asked, with attitude, why I was bringing it back and I told them I came to buy juice, not wine. So I ate the yogurt, brushed the teeth and headed out the door. I found the courthouse without as much hassle as the first time, although I did drive around for about 10 minutes trying to locate the street (Hill street--I didn't know that last time, which is why it took me so long. I thought it was on Figueroa) and I find a great parking spot at a meter across the street--only 2 hours, though, so I'm pretty sure I'm going to get a ticket again.

I wait in line but it seems to go faster this time. Also, I feel like I recognize a lot of the people in line, and all the sudden I'm feeling like I'm in the Truman Show. I'm not, of course, but I had that weird feeling. So I get inside and remembering the last two times, I decided to buy a newspaper. I thought it might pass the time by reading about the hurricane and the ineptitude of the BushCo, but they don't have the USA today, which I like. I don't like the LA times, which they had. So I bought an iced tea in a can and went up to the fourth floor.

Again, I was pretty far up in line. No one bitched about their spots. We went in and sat down. I sat and sat and sat, then sat some more. People's names we called, they were lined up; more people came in and they were lined up. I was the fourth person in line and I was goddamn moved to the back of the goddamn bus. Pissed me off. Then the judge--a real one!--came out. He was a dick. One woman, the second person in line, gave him lip and instead of being hit with a $120 ticket, she was given over $4,000 in bail! I was like, holy shitfuck.

The line progresses quickly because the judge was efficient, but he was also a dick. I knew I was there just to tell the judge that I couldn't afford $340 bail on a $120 ticket I didn't deserve, so I figured I was going to be okay. When he asked what I'm going to plead--guilty, not guilty or no contest--I told him I plead not guilty last week. He says, "Okay, $600 bail and come back in a week." I'm like, "Huh? I came back to tell you today that I can't pay the $300 bail." He's like, "I'm not giving you any leniency--you didn't show up to court when you were supposed to." I said, "I'm not looking for leniency, I'm here to tell you I can't afford this three hundred bucks and I'm going to argue not guilty." He's looking at me like why the fuck am I still in his line. I said, "I'm following the orders, I was told to come back today. So why am I getting my fine doubled?" He tells me to get out of his line and start listening. I yell back, "I am listening, that's why I'm here today instead of at home, sleeping." He waits, unrelenting. I'm confused and furious. Finally, I'm told to leave the podium. I tell him I want to change my plea then. He says good, notates the paperwork and tells me to move on.

I leave to the clerk's place and stand in line again. It's a huge line and takes an hour to get to the window. The woman says I owe $269. I ask her to break it down for me. She does. I tell her I can't pay it. She says I've got three months. I leave and find out that, although my meter had expired at hour ago, they didn't give me a ticket. I drive home. An hour later, my boss calls and asks if I can come into work. I say sure--I'm fucking broke, I've got bills due and I don't have any money for gas or food. Although I was tired, I think I definitely needed to be here.

So that's one ticket that should've been really easy to take care of, but for whatever fucking reason it just wasn't. Here's the other ticket. I got this while coming home from work. My taillight was out and apparently I ran a stop sign that I never saw. Still don't think it was there, but they didn't ticket me for the stop sign, so I don't care. What they ticketed me for was no registration and a busted taillight.

So I ignore the ticket and go back to filming my movie. In one scene, the main character taps the window with a gun. I ask my actor to do this. He does, and it splinters my windshield. Over the next several weeks, this splinter grows until my window is divided in half and is nearly impossible to drive (although I tough it out and do it anyway).

So I take the van to the DMV to get it registered. I pay them $217 in back fees and whatnot, and they tell me that they can't register it until the window gets fixed. Then I go to the Beverly Hills court house to show them the temporary registration and they tell me they can't take temporary registration, and they tell me that as soon as I get my taillight fixed, I have to get it inspected by the sheriffs department downstairs. They give me two months to get everything worked out.

Then, the next week, several weeks ago, both my jobs end and I wait six weeks with no money, waiting for unemployment to unfuck themselves long enough to send me my checks. They finally come, the same week both my jobs start again.

Skip ahead several weeks. To yesterday, actually. Columbus Day. What the fuck kind of holiday is Columbus day? There should be three holidays and three holidays only--St. Patrick's Day, Halloween, New Years/New Years Eve. That's it, everything else is bullshit.

So I stay up late Sunday night schooling some friends in poker. I've been on a losing streak ever since the cult meet-up, but I finally get back in a grove. I only won $50, but at least it's something. So I get home and go to bed around 3 or so. The next morning at 8, I get a call from the guys who're supposed to come by around noon to fix my van's window. They're early. I roll off the couch and head outside. They say it'll be an hour to fix it. I say to call me when they're done and I'm going to take a nap. 30 minutes later, they wake me up again. It's done and it'll cost me $275.00. So cool, they're efficient, but fuck I'm tired. They say don't drive for at least an hour, so around 10:30 I take it up the street to these Armenian auto shop guys who say they can fix the light. I've already done what I can (check the fuse, change the bulb, etc) but it's still not working. They say it'll be a couple hours, so I walk home and go to bed. They call a couple hours later, saying it's done and it'll be $60. Not a big deal.

So I drive to the DMV to get the window inspected and get my registration, but they're fucking closed because of goddamn Columbus day. So that means I've got to go to work and not get home until 3 in the morning and then have to get up early in order to take care of all this at the very last minute (seriously legitimately not my fault, since I had no money because of the Unemployment Department). So I get up this morning and go to the DMV. I get there at 10:15. I wait in line until 10:40. The lady gives me a number and tells me to take a seat after I explain that I'm only there to get inspected, that I've already paid for everything. So I sit, and I sit and I sit, and finally at 11:35 I get called to window 17. The woman is about to leave for lunch, but she explains that I should've taken my van to the inspection station out back. I tell her that the other woman should've told me this, it would've saved me an hour. She says she agrees and tells me it's time for her to leave for lunch. I tell her I didn't see a parking area and she says it's really small and hard to spot because it doesn't have any markers. I leave and move my van around and finally find where she's talking about.

I wait another 30 minutes until I can park my van in one of the two inspection spots. The inspector checks everything out and okays it and gives me a piece of paper. I go inside, skipping all the people in line who're frowning at me and tell the clerk that she should've told me to go there first. She gives me a number and I sit down. I wait about 15 minutes until I'm called to window 12. I get my plates and I'm out of there.

The drive to Beverly Hills sucks. Traffic sucks. Most of Southern California sucks, but Santa Monica blvd. sucks the hardest. So I get there and I park as close to the courthouse/sheriffs department as I can. I go inside and go through the metal detector. One of the guys compliments my shirt.

I walk to the sheriffs department and tell her I'm here to have my taillight inspected. She tells me to move my car out back. So I leave and walk half a mile to my car and move it to where I need it, then walk back inside. Another of the security guards sees me, and jokes about my passing through the metal detectors a second time. I go to the sheriffs department and hand her my paperwork again. Once more she looks it over, then tells me she needs mt to go upstairs and get a copy of my ticket. I wonder why she didn't tell me that earlier.

I go upstairs to the DMV and wait and wait and wait in line for a clerk to put down her fucking donut and newspaper and start paying attention to the line. It's also hot because they don't pay for AC. So tell her I need my ticket. She complies. I go downstairs and give it to the sheriff's clerk. She tells me I need to go back upstairs and pay it. I tell her that I need to get the taillight ok'd before I can pay it. She says there's no mention of a taillight on the ticket. I show her on the ticket where it says something like "B/O rear - to fix" or something and I says, I'm pretty sure that's what they're talking about. She says oh, yeah, that's right, but they don't inspect taillights here. I tell her that 2 months ago I was told to come here today to have it inspected. She says she doesn't know why. I say why is there an inspection station out back if they don't inspect things. She says they just don't inspect taillights. I say how hard would it be for you to look at my taillight to prove it works. She says I need to go to some place where they do smog checks, they might also inspect taillights. I ask if she can be more specific. She says no. I tell her it's 3:30 and they close at 4:30 and I have to get this done today because yesterday I couldn't because it was Columbus fucking day and it's the last day I have on this extension. She says too damn bad. I leave the building, the decide to go talk to the DMV clerk one more time.

I pass the security guard who jokes that I just must love this stuff. I growl.

I go upstairs and tell the clerk who sent me downstairs that I just want to pay the ticket. She says I can't without getting it inspected. I tell her to look out the window and she can see my van and I'll run down stairs and tap the break lights. She says no. So I ask her if I can get an extension until tomorrow. She says no. She says I need to come back on November 8th to talk with a judge. I tell her I'm just doing what I've been told to do--go to the sheriffs department--and it's causing all this fucking headache. She says she doesn't give a flying shit. I reach over the counter and break her nose. Then I leave a comment on a card in the comment box telling them their inefficiency and incompetence is costing me money and having me run around in circles. So there.

I should point out that this fix it ticket is for THIRTY FUCKING DOLLARS.

And now I'm at work and I just ate a really bad sammich.



They do street cleanings on Wednesdays and Fridays, depending on the side of the street. I was parked on the Friday side and at 10:15 I went out to move my van. We're not allowed to park from 10 - noon, and when I got out there, the parking meter whore was on her way down the street, so I just barely escaped.

I move my van down the block after driving to a gas station to put some air in the rear right tire, which has a slow leak in it. Really slow. Then, I walk over and check my email a block away at this cafe that's really neat, and I walk back another couple blocks to my bank to transfer some funds. Then, I walk back over to my van as the street sweeper truck makes it's way down my road. By now, it's after 11, and since I've already witnessed them cleaning the street, I'm thinking it's safe to park. I get in my van and drive around the block and go inside and jerk off, then take a nap. I wake up, shower, get ready for my day and then head outside and there's a goddamn ticket on my window that's marked at 11:58--the bitch fucking watched me drive off earlier and came back to give me a ticket just before time expired, after the fucking truck already cleaned the street. What the fuck? And the number they have listed to contest the ticket doesn't have a number to press for "assfucked by the fascist street sweepers", nor do they actually have a real live person to complain to, just monotone computers.

So there goes another $45.


(Originally posted 10/11/2005 at; reposted here for posterity.)

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