I’m sitting with a pen in hand now – and I don’t mean that figuratively, referring to this blog entry. I mean that literally. I am sitting with a pen in hand, trying to work out the most innocent way to say “please don’t make me pay for my parking fines, dear Metro Cop Person or God, whatever you prefer Sir”. I don’t mean to be sexist, I just believe that any Metro Cop should be called ‘sir’ if they are holding a fine book and a nasty smirk.
Let me explain. I have a ridiculous amount of parking fines. And it’s not my fault. Well, it is, but I really think the metro cops are to blame. It’s a conspiracy, you see, a motherf$*#!£ng conspiracy. It seems I can’t do anything right in the Western Province. Driving from Point A to Point B, and what do they call it? SPEEDING! They even have photos of my car. That’s creepy, man, creepy. Squeezing into a hard-to-find parking bay, and wham! another ticket flickers pink on the windshield.
I’m just a poor Pretoria girl, trying to find her way in Cape Town. And now, instead of pleading my innocence in front of a Fine Squasher (not sure what the official title is), I have to fill out a cold, lifeless form.
Annoyingly, all my tickets get mailed directly to my mother, so I can’t even be sneaky about the stupid things. I think I now owe a gazillion Rand to the Western Cape traffic department (rough estimate). This all started last year, when I was studying at Stellenbosch. I went from ONE fine in Pretoria to a ridiculous amount in the Western Cape.
Sigh. Stellenbosch is ridiculously nit-picky about parking. I’ve had my license for a good four years now and I’ve never faced so many problems and as much stress as I did in this small, wine-filled dorpie.
It makes me realise that the real difference between Pretoria and Stellenbosch is problems. As in, Pretoria has real problems, and Stellenbosch doesn’t. Why else would the metro cops be so meticulous? We’re aware, in Jacaranda city, that at the end of about every third month the cops need to fill their quota of parking tickets. They do this, as all of the TUKS students know (I studied there for three years, so, sadly, I also know this) by wandering outside the main entrance of the university, looking for the odd hundred cars that are parked illegally. Since there’s no where else to park, and we have to go to class, the odds are in their favour. We do what we can, which is mainly bitching and moaning when the cops descend upon us like scum in a draining bath. But we accept it as a just casualty of war between the metros and the students – natural-born enemies.
However, compared to Stellenbosch, the quota-filling cops seem reasonable and humane. The Stellenbosch metros are ruthless knights, slaughtering every parking dragon with a vehemence I have never experienced before. For example, I accidently parallel parked the wrong way on a street a while ago. I didn’t even know that was possible until I arrived at this small unsaintly town. My god, talk about attention to detail. I have my excuses (many of them) one being that it was 5.30am at the time of the misdemeanour. Apparently there is no window of time when a car (even if it is the only car on the street) can park with its bum in the ‘wrong direction’.
Since my car is in my mother’s name, and nasty rumours have been circulating about the new ‘demerit’ system, I decided that perhaps I should try pay for my trillion fines. It seemed the only decent thing to do. And if my mother got her license taken away … well, she’s nice, but even psychologists have their limits. I’d rather she was remembered for her good deeds than for murdering me.
Last year I made my way to the Traffic Department (wearing a low-cut top – cops are human too, right?) planning to get my fines unceremoniously squashed. A little pleading, maybe a tear or two and a good hair day had got me out of a fine before! I forgot, however, that that was in Pretoria. Good ol’ Pretoria – there I knew the ropes. The infallible Stellenbosch Traffic Department, however, had realised the vulnerability of men to the thousands of parking-challenged poppies, and had decided to derail personal pleading into one of the many grey zones called Bureaucracy instead.
So, little did I know that Mission Squash Fines was doomed to failure. Firstly, when I arrived at the Department I parked in a ‘tow-away zone’. Secondly, the ‘Fines’ desk was behind two panes of glass, and two women clearly lacking job satisfaction and conversational skills sat behind them. I gulped, and pulled up my top.
“Um…” I started hesitantly in this novel situation, “I have some fines and I wanted to know if there was someone I could talk to …” I trail off. Their eyes seem dull and glassy and I wonder if what I said registered? “Over there,” replies one with a grunt, “you have to fill in that form over there and bring it back.” I sigh. I can’t believe I blow-dried my hair for this. I try again. “You see, I’m still a student and I’m just not sure I can afford…” – she cuts in and interrupts me. “You have to fill in that form,” she repeats. The afore mentioned form states in quite bleak letters: VERTOOG/REPRESENTATION. And there’s a long blank space for me to plead my case. My sweet voice won’t work here.
I don’t think we’re in Pretoria any more, Toto.