I couldn't believe my eyes as Mary and I walked slowly to our car because there, fluttering in the wind above the disabled parking sign, was the droppings of Toronto's parking bandits, the dreaded yellow tag.
I've never got many parking tickets and that dropped to never in the nearly three years since Mary got the sign for the car, technically a "disabled parking permit," because of bad knees. This means you can park without paying at meters, use the special disabled spots and park in No Parking zones. You still can't park near corners, intersections, hydrants and TTC stops.
We had parked on a quiet Etobicoke side street, Birchview, which runs for two blocks west of the Royal York subway station. No Parking from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., which is understandable because of the commuters who would park there all day and take the subway. But there is an added wrinkle I had never noticed before, a second sign banning something from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
There is an icon on that sign that I had never seen before. Turns out, after an Internet search, that it was a No Stopping zone. Now I had never seen a No Stopping sign that doesn't say that in words but in Toronto, you shouldn't be surprised at anything authorized by Toronto council and its bureaucrats.
My $60 ticket was issued at 5.47 p.m. Thirteen unlucky minutes to safety. $4.6153846 a minute. I had parked there without guilt figuring that at that hour, I was really not hurting the residents, and it is legal for me to do so with that sign. Seems a strange No Stopping zone, decreed so by the long vanished suburban council of Etobicoke. But the way the majority of politicians are these days, motorists should consider themselves lucky that they are allowed to even drive down a street.
The secret rules for tearing up tags have just been revealed out of the murky underground of city politics. Since I am a senior citizen and my wife, also a senior, has that disabled permit, I probably after a few days of phoning and waiting in line could have had the ticket cancelled. But it's never that simple.
I also could have fought the tag because the parking control officer (or whatever is the official name for the green hornets) had not signed the tickets, just scrawled cramped initials.
Now I suspect that this petty tax collector really does know how to write, which makes me wonder why the legal system no longer requires a real signature on something that is costing a taxpayer $60.
After all, the system requires us to endlessly write our signatures, so this petty indifference to the law does bug me. Just another reason I was tempted to fight the tag. And there does seem to be a black hole into which your parking appeals go, so that you never actually get your day in court and your tickets go into limbo.
You are considered guilty by the system right from the get go, no matter what they pretend about innocent until proven guilty. The bureaucrats, allowed by the politicians, have made the appeal system as arduous as they can get away with. Even when you win, you've wasted so much time fighting parking tickets or minor speeding fines that the system still has exacted its pound of flesh.
Of course these parking officers are also notorious for ignoring the disabled signs. I recall years ago when I had lunch with David Onley, now the lieutenant-governor. Onley parked right in front of the restaurant in a No Parking zone. Legal because he had the sign. But he said he still worried because there had been cases of the police having a car towed, despite the disabled sign, and the driver, with his wheelchair in his car, had a difficult time in getting to the pound to retrieve his vehicle.
It was just a short time ago in the same Bloor-Royal York area that I saw a parking officer park the wrong way on a street, meaning the driver's side wheels to the curb. When I pointed out to her that she had parked illegally, she said sarcastically that she really must give herself a ticket. I told her to park correctly. She didn't.
So what's my point in all this? I think that with 13 minutes to go before the parking is legal for everyone, a parking control officer has to be a king-sized jerk to put a $60 ticket on a car displaying a disabled sign. I complained to the cops at 22 division and they agreed that it really was a silly thing for the green hornet to do on a side street but such complaints are no longer handled by the police.
So I held my nose and wrote out a cheque because life in TO is so much of a hassle these days, you just try to forget the minor annoyances and concentrate on the major blunders.
Many years ago, the beloved Moaner of the Beaches, the late great Ted Reeve, wrote a bit of doggerel for the old Telegram. Let me paraphrase it.
When I was young and in my prime
I used to fight this crap all the time
Now that I'm old and growing grey
I just insult the jerks once a day.
But next time I see a parking control officer flout the law flagrantly when they park, I will stand beside the car until it is moved or towed.