By Jordan W. Charness
It can happen to the best of us: no matter how hard we try to avoid getting a ticket, somehow a ticket always finds us when we least expect it. I’ve recently heard some interesting stories of people who were sure that everything they had done was absolutely correct, yet nonetheless, they had received traffic tickets. Sometimes, even when you try your best you are still wrong and must pay for your actions.
Someone told me about their recent exploits in the city of Montréal. In the past few years, Montréal has instituted a system of reserved bus lanes. During certain hours of certain days old buses and taxis are permitted to drive in these lanes. The idea, of course, is to promote public transit so that commuters sitting all by themselves in their cars, stuck in traffic, can watch public transportation zip along beside them.
Of course, the rules being applied in these special bus lanes are far from uniform. Sometimes the law is in effect in the morning and other times in the afternoon. Some bus lanes are in effect for two hours at a time while others may last three or four hours. Nonetheless, there are special large-size signs erected above the lanes which clearly mark the days and times when they are in effect. Some of them even mention the $200 fine for those ignoring the law.
It’s a pretty clear law with fairly clear signs and if you get a ticket you might as well pay it because you deserve it. The person who told me the story got a ticket for parking in the bus lane. He thought that his actions were perfectly legal: he had carefully read and double checked the sign to see when the bus lane was in effect. On that day and that place, the bus lane restriction only came into effect at 2 pm. He parked his car at 1:15 in the afternoon.
But he still got a ticket for illegal parking. He had spent so much time analyzing the bus lanes that he forgot to look around to see if there were any other signs that applied to that spot. There was: it was a No Parking sign that was in effect all day. He said he never saw it – in reality he never looked for it.
Although he was indeed guilty of parking illegally I can certainly empathize with his feelings.
I can clearly remember what happened to me a few years ago. I had to park my car in an unfamiliar neighbourhood. I carefully checked to make sure that it was permissible for me to park in that spot. There was a sign pole erected with several signs attached to it. I spent about five minutes deciphering the signs.
I noted that it was forbidden to park on Tuesdays and Thursdays; it was a Wednesday so I was fine. You also were not allowed to park in the mornings or between three and four o’clock in the afternoon from November to March; since it was April at three o’clock in the afternoon everything seemed to be all right. Lastly, parking was only permitted for permit holders in the evenings; once again, at three in the afternoon, that parking space should have been perfect.
Imagine the look on my face when I came back to my car to find a parking ticket on the windshield. I snatched up the ticket to see whether or not it was mine and what I could possibly have done wrong.
It was a ticket for parking in front of a fire hydrant.
For the first time, I looked around and there indeed was a bright red fire hydrant about half a meter from my car. I had spent so much time and energy deciphering the signs that I had failed to notice the hydrant. I paid the ticket, and I’ve never told anybody how stupid I’d been. Not until now. Please don’t tell anyone.