Monday, December 6, 2010

Dear Officer C. Mathieu

Hey Officer!

I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to say hello this morning. As you no doubt know, I was in bed at 7:30 this morning, although, to be fair, I was hitting the snooze button, and I did stay up until 1:00 processing work requests, catching up on e-mail and randomly tackling any of the thousand projects necessary to keep an operation like this going. But you know I would have sprung from bed to come out and see you if I'd known you were sticking another ticket under my work truck's wiper blade. After all, I feel a certain level of familiarity with you after all the other tickets.

You know, maybe I should address that before it sours our relationship. Do I know that I'm not supposed to park a commercial vehicle on the street outside my home? Yeah, you got me. Guilty as charged. I suppose I'm further guilty of presuming upon our relationship. After all, I park the truck there quite a bit seeing how it's 30 feet from my bedroom, and you haven't ticketed me every day. And I thought you'd looked the other way when my employees have left their cars and trucks there for days on end. If I've tested our relationship with that, I sincerely apologize.

But, if I may, please let me explain some extenuating circumstances. Again, I know -- you got me. But indulge me for a moment? I'm a big confused about some things, and it would make me feel a little less guilty if you know why I presumed to test your legitimate authority.

One point of confusion: the ticket seems to have a new offense on it: namely, that my commercial vehicle is over eight feet tall. You're right -- it is, but it's merely 10' 6" tall. In my work, this has been a constant source of trouble. See, people frequently have more stuff than indicated, or that "bookshelf" is actually from the private library of Zeus himself high atop his palatial estate on Mt. Olympus. I've long since ceased thinking of this as a "tall" truck. In fact, my guys regularly bemoan its diminutive height.

But more to the point, why is an 11' high truck a problem? I've asked all my neighbors, and to a person, none of them have a problem with the truck parked outside my house. It's clean, white, has all its lights and they all work... I imagine that it has something to do with the nearby flight pattern into Reagan National? I certainly hope my truck hasn't been an obstacle to arriving flights. If so, I sincerely apologize. I suppose I've made yet another assumption because all of the trees and power lines overshadow my truck by at least twenty feet.

I'll have to visit the ticket archive in the public storage unit I had to rent to warehouse them all, but I'm just confused as to why the height is a problem NOW. It never has been a problem before. I thought it was the mere presence of a blue-collar type vehicle that offended the public eye. And speaking of which, why the additional ticket for the "improperly" placed front license plate? Yeah, I know, it's been on the dash since the day we got it. We've had some trouble affixing it to the front for various reasons, but the new ticket makes me wonder if this was just a punitive act for my latest parking offense. Again, why is that all of a sudden a problem?

Now, please allow me to plead my case, if only to obtain just a little bit of lenience. God knows I'm just a little peon to the state, but I believe I have perhaps a legitimate point or two.

First, I would love to have a parking lot for my meager fleet. In fact, the business has grown to the point that one, single central location is more or less a necessity. The daily logistical headache of coordinating trucks, men and equipment is balding me prematurely, and what hair I have left is going white on the sides. I would LOVE to have a single, Metro-accessible location where we could all show up, coordinate the day, have meetings, and just perhaps, a beer or two. Alas, that is not yet possible. The state, in its infinite care and benevolence, has decreed that I must have more insurance coverage than I will ever need for the type of work I do. It doesn't matter that we focus on smaller jobs, or that we serve a client base that can't normally afford giant moving companies. Rather, in the interest of fairness, we have to carry multiple millions of dollars of insurance to cover the Ikea furniture we most frequently move.

Then there's taxes -- we've seen phenomenal growth in the last three years, which the state has not ignored. Our tax bills have grown phenomenally, too. And because we're approaching that magical $250,000 number that some seem to regard as "rich," (this I do not understand), I fear that further growth will be retarded as we struggle to find wheelbarrows big enough to carry all the cash to three different jurisdictions. (We'd use the trucks, but driving them costs a lot of money, and I don't think they pay you to deliver your tax haul.)

And, of course, ironically, it's tough to afford adequate, convenient office and parking space when your monthly parking ticket bill is around $500 or higher.

Why not just park the truck in my driveway? Good question, and I often DO. (I imagine you pass my little home on your morning rounds, nodding approvingly on those days). However, I get home late most nights, either from some remote park or public library when I'm doing admin work, or after the third move of the day. I'm usually drenched with sweat, or stupid with mental fatigue, and -- this is going to seem silly to you, no doubt -- sometimes the effort of figuring out the "car/truck-shuffle" in my driveway is simply too much. My wife parks her car in the driveway, you see, and in order to get my work truck in there, I have to move her car. I don't want it blocking our path if there's an emergency with one of our two young children. Naturally, we wouldn't want to risk a ticket, fine, or even jail time by packing a sick or injured child into whatever vehicle is most convenient. I know, I know. I grew up in a "cowboy" era in which we rode in the back of pickup trucks, seatbelts were optional, and expensive car seats were just for rich yuppies. It's a wonder that we survived the 70s, 80s or 90s at all!

Anyway, back to the parking situation...

There's another reason why I don't often park in the driveway. You see, my oldest son, Joseph, needs his daddy very much. And he has quite an imagination. So, when I get home, he's often sitting in the big bay window waiting for me. "Daddy's home!" he yells, and rushes outside. The road, to him, looks like a "river" in "Go Diego Go," his favorite cartoon. Daddy's truck is like a big ship, more often than not, just like a big truck. (In his world, it doesn't matter that big trucks drive on rivers.) Since he can now open the door by himself, he does so, and bolts outside. My wife can't always catch him -- particularly when she's nursing our youngest, Kolbe (who is showing signs of being even more athletic than Joseph). So, while I'd love to comply with the no-doubt brilliant law telling me where I can park outside of my own home, there's a very good chance that in doing the "truck shuffle" to arrange all the vehicles just right and compliant, I could run over my child.

Silly? Perhaps. But it's a funny thing -- perhaps you have young children and can understand -- when you have children, just beyond the periphery of every waking thought is a vivid image of some horrible fate befalling your children. At night, there are no buffers against these thoughts, and such nightmares keep my wife up every night.

One final point. (I apologize for the length of this letter because I'm sure you have a lot of tickets to write.) I hope I'm not being too melodramatic here, but it IS a point to consider: might it be worth looking the other way, at least for a little while, for the sake of the economy? You see, I started this business when I was laid off two years ago. (December 8th will be the two year anniversary of my sudden and unexpected "career change.") I had two paychecks left, and then I was on my own. Out of some desire to stay off the public dole, and a little bit of pride (and the lack of time to fill out the reams of paperwork), I didn't take any unemployment money. I built this little company from nothing, sweating (quite literally, most of the time) for every dime I've made. This is the kind of thing that makes the economy work, and what makes America great. Now, in a desperate dark time for the country, we need to remove the shackles from small business and let it thrive. I'm not asking for special favors or hand-outs, but it would be nice to have a few moments of financial relief once a month. We deal with miles and miles of red tape. The state tells us we can't do this or that, and we must do this or that, and so the parking ticket situation is, well, kind of an insult. After working extremely hard 15 hours per day, finding a little fine on my windshield is more than just a little fine -- it's the state telling me I'm a bad person for even trying.

Seems silly, I know. But that's the way I see it.

I have to run now. We're having a little going-away party for a couple of the guys who've had enough of D.C. and it's myriad tiny laws that make life just a little bit worse. I'm going to have to find some extra cash between the seats of the truck because money's tight this month (Christmas, new layers of insurance, and of course, $700 in parking tickets, among other things.) If I I don't see you tomorrow, just know that I wish you a merry Christmas!

Best,
Chris

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