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While it is hard to fault someone for carrying out their chief function, there is a disproportionate amount of police force devoted to procuring money from people whose only crime is turning off their cars and walking away. When you think about it, it’s odd that we can freely drive on public roads anywhere and for any length of time, but must hand over money the second we desist.

There are different classes of parking infractions, but none of them constitute an egregious moral breech. Of course, I am not against paying for parking and punishing those who don’t pay, but it’s a question of how tightly it’s enforced. The ebb and flow of a hockey game requires the invisible presence of a ref who skilfully balances the ratio of infractions to called-penalties. Parking your car in Toronto feels like playing in a hockey game where the ref blows the whistle on every single tiny hook and hold, real or imagined.

I don’t use “imagined” loosely. I’ve heard of enough instances where someone received a ticket after paying to park. Keep in mind the parallel to hockey doesn’t really exist: refs have to make key split-second decisions during an impossibly fast game, while the parking police leisurely observe dormant vehicles. While the incompetence, or perhaps malevolence, involved in ticketing someone who has paid for parking isn’t standard, it is baffling and inexcusable. If brushing off fulminating heckles is an inevitable part of the ref’s job, we owe parking police a backlog of abuse.

That people who pay for parking shouldn’t suffer an additional charge is obvious, but it used to be possible to leave the car for a minute without receiving a guaranteed ticket. This should still be possible…risky, but possible. The equilibrium is currently too far askew.  Parking police are ubiquitous. If we adjust to the current  pressure and everyone always pays for parking, the parking police will actually be out of a job, truly a paradoxical revenge. Unless, of course, they ticket those who have paid! The fault isn’t with the individual ticketers…they’re just following orders. They are required by the city to issue a minimum amount of tickets. Parking tickets must constitute a substantial stream of income and budgets are dependent on these dollars, so parking infractions need to be found, whether they’re really there or not. I hope the parking police’s distant cousin, the police, hunt terrorists, drug dealers and rapists as vigilantly and effectively as parked cars are hunted. 

There’s a lesser-known but pervasive parking evil that is quite simply an open racket perpetrated by the city. For six months of the year my street, like numerous others downtown, requires drivers (who have already paid the city for an overnight parking permit) to alternate every two weeks what side of the road they park on. Before midnight it’s on the left, after midnight it’s on the right. Without fail, the next morning there is a parking police ticketing a procession of cars whose owners were guilty of simply forgetting what day it is.

My roommate’s working life as a bar manager makes him especially vulnerable to succumbing to this trivial law. He can’t move his car before he goes to work in the afternoon because then he’s liable to get a ticket for moving it too early. It’s understandable that when he returns from a ten hour bartending shift at 3-4am he doesn’t always have the presence of mind to recall that it’s precisely the month’s halfway point. Nmens reaHe is a hard worker, not a nefarious parker to be punished. It was a legal park when he parked, but in this surreal Daliesque world where the law is tied to melting clocks, such is justice. It has cost him literally hundreds of dollars. 

What does the city accomplish by demanding drivers play a veritable game of parking hopscotch? This has nothing to do with snow removal, as the law is not in effect during winter. If it’s to do with street cleaning, why is it essential the way is cleared for them to clean first thing in the morning when they have two weeks to clean? Anyone who doubts this is purely a money grab is adorable. If there is a reason it must be this way, I am all ears.

Otherwise, this deplorable bylaw should be removed immediately and the city should retroactively compensate my unfortunate roommate. That would be a nice gesture. Of course, anyone who believes the city will do the honourable thing and consciously change the law so as to make less money is living inside a Dali canvas.