“Dear [Alternate Side Parker]:
“We received your request for a hearing by mail on the summons shown below.
“Based on the violation described, we are offering you the opportunity to pay a reduced fine in the amount shown. If you accept this reduction offer, RETURN THE COUPON with your payment by the due date above. If you pay the fine, a judge will not review your case.
“Alternatively, if you do not wish to accept this reduction offer and want an Administrative Law Judge to review your case, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO ANYTHING. You will either be found guilty and you will have to pay the full balance or the summons will be dismissed and you will not have to pay anything. The Administrative Law Judge will not be able to offer you a reduction. A decision will be mailed to you after a judge decides your case.”
This really happens: Whenever you contest a summons, the Parking Violations Bureau automatically offers to settle for a lower rate. I contested this summons, on the ground that I had never seen it, and later discovered that it was issued while my car was at the mechanic’s (see below, November 30th, Parker's Digest). I am in a bit of a quandary over it. I have still not seen a copy of the summons, and unless there is something wrong with it, in which case it will ultimately be dismissed, the Parking Violations Bureau will hold me responsible for the actions of my mechanic. The reduced fee is $90, down $125, for parking in a No Standing zone. As long as I hold out, clinging to the theory of irrational numbers, I enjoy the illusion of having made $35.
There is also the question of how to deal with the mechanic. I like my mechanic, and though apparently I shouldn't trust him, I don’t want to lose him. Am I stuck in a dysfunctional relationship? Or is it possible to say, in an unheated moment, “Mr. Bulloch, sir, I paid a parking ticket that I think—no, I know—the car got while it was in your care,” and have him give me a free oil change? Or might he fall back on the many times he has let me leave my car in his lot, without charge, for a week at a time, plus ten more minutes while I run across the street to the deli for mortadella on a hard roll with a trace of mustard? And there was also that time that I took the liberty of stealing my car out of his lot when he was closed (though I did come back to pay at the first opportunity).
I’m thinking of calling Car Talk. Once I wrote to Dear Abby to ask for advice when my landlord in Astoria blamed me for a flood in the basement after I left a skylight window open in the bathroom during a storm; after that, whenever it rained he would stand in the street and look up at my second-floor windows to make sure they were closed, even if the rain was coming from the opposite direction. As I composed the letter, in the sweltering heat of my apartment in summer, with the windows closed against rain that wasn’t coming in (have I ever mentioned that I have a touch of claustrophobia?), it occurred to me that Dear Abby didn’t even have to answer, because the mere act of writing the letter had told me what to do: Move.
In this case, simply contemplating a call to Click & Clack clarifies my course of action. I have a feeling they would say: Pay. Don't drag this into the New Year. By never mentioning it to the mechanic, you will bind him to you forever, the louse.