Justice tempered with Mercy: a parking-ticket story

This is a letter that was on Peter’s computer’s hard drive. I assume that he actually mailed it; it would not have been out of character.

I’ve tried to reproduce the formatting of the original, which was mostly ordinary, with a couple of exceptions.

January 12, 2004

To Whom It May Concern:

Today at 10:51, 10 minutes after I parked, parking ticket #29774 was issued on my 1975 Thunderbird sedan. I had cruised up and down the upper employee parking lots and found absolutely no spaces. I then parked in the tiny space just inside the entrance. I parked next to a very long pickup truck which stuck out 2 or 3 feet farther than my car did, but neither vehicle was over the line or obstructing traffic in any way.

The citation states that I parked in a “striped zone at the north entrance”. When I read the ticket, I inspected the pavement, and there were no stripes to be seen! If people are to be ticketed for parking in a “striped zone”, then it seems to me that there ought to be visible stripes painted on the ground….

Also, half a dozen parallel parking spaces alongside the entrance road have been eliminated, and there is a serious shortage of parking spaces. I needed to get to the Tutorial Center by 10:50, and that was the only space I could find. I was only parked there from 10:45 a.m. to 12:55 p.m., having tutored for an hour and taught a math class for an hour.

For these reasons, I appeal for clemency. Please let this be a warning ticket: now that I am aware that that space is off-limits, I will not park there again. It has been said that

“Justice must be tempered with Mercy!”

As Lt. Colombo says, “Just one more thing…” I have worked as an editor at two publishing houses, and I offer the following suggestion for the citation form.

At the top of the ticket, it says, “This vehicle is illegally parked for one or more of the following reasons…” However, the first five boxes to be checked (speeding, etc.) are not parking offenses but moving violations. When this form is re-ordered, perhaps it could be changed to say, “You have been cited for one or more of the following parking offenses or moving violations, and may be subject to towing at your expense.” Also, on the back side, I.3) “BACK IN PARKING” should be “BACK – IN PARKING” ….

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Best regards,

[blank space for signature]

Peter Hartman, instructor

History does not record whether his request for clemency was granted, nor whether his edits were incorporated into a future version of the ticket form.

5 Responses to “Justice tempered with Mercy: a parking-ticket story”

  1. LJ

    I’ve been reading through your posts after being directed here from the LiveJournal feed of your blog. I’ve gotten through about half of them at this point, and I’m still reading. (Figured I’d comment on the topmost post.)

    I must say, Peter sounds like somebody I would have liked a lot. What an interesting collection of stories! And thank you for posting them. Your dedication says a lot about just how remarkable he must have been (and, in fact, how remarkable you are, for your dedication).

    (This is Linda Daly, by the way. I don’t think I managed to log in correctly.)

  2. Kendra

    This letter, like many stories about your father, raises the question: was he born a character, or did he cultivate character-hood on purpose?

  3. Jed

    Linda: Thanks for the comments, and thanks for reading!

    Kendra: Interesting question. I think he was always completely sincere; I don’t think it occurred to him that it might be seen as strange to, say, make corrections to a parking ticket. Most of this kind of thing was done in private; for example, he would never have told a story at a party about how funny it was that he had sent this letter.

    He was a man of many enthusiasms, and strong feelings about a lot of things, and I think he was pretty much always entirely in earnest.

  4. Jed

    …I should add that I inherited some of those characteristics from him. I have written letters like this in outraged protest against parking tickets I didn’t think I should’ve gotten, and I’ve written notes to various publications in outraged protest of tiny errors of spelling, grammar, and/or punctuation that in no way merited the amount of time and energy I put into them. So part of my amusement at this note was tempered by recognition; I wouldn’t have written quite this letter, but I’ve done some similar things, with much the same sense of self-justification that I suspect he had in writing it.

  5. Peter requests an exemption – All About Peter

    […] On the other hand, I recognize myself in this letter. I have written this sort of thing on multiple occasions (including both in college (trying to get around an academic requirement) and earlier this year (when I was upset about something at work)), and so I wince at the overlong self-righteous complaint format while at the same time smiling ruefully and sympathetically at it. (See also Justice tempered with Mercy: a parking-ticket story.) […]


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