Chicagoans are really good at complaining about three things: the weather, sports and parking. Currently, I have no gripes about the first two, but the third, that one is a doozy.
To make up for the rats in my kitchen and the crime rate, my new neighborhood has the luxury of free street parking, that is, if you can find a spot. By the end of my year living in Rogers Park I’m sure I will have spent several days worth of my life driving around searching for parking. There are a few secrets (the lot at the end of my street that is free overnight, as long as you remember to move your car by 9 a.m. the next morning) and a few pitfalls which I learned the hard way my first few weeks of living in Chicago.
Sheridan road is a wonderful street that practically connects my apartment to my parent’s home in the suburbs. It winds along the lake with views of some of the most expensive real estate on the North Shore. It is a popular speed trap, but if you are smart, it is just a pleasant drive. One night after returning to the suburbs for my kickboxing class, I did the usual dance around the neighborhood in my car looking for that heavenly gift known as a parking space. As usual, it was not going well and every time my heart skipped after catching a glace of room between two cars, my dreams were quickly crushed by a fire hydrant of handicapped signs. Then a miracle! A perfect space on Sheridan just steps away from my apartment. I parked my car and left it there for days, afraid of having to go through the pain of finding a new space.
When the time had come to return to my car what was I welcomed with? Not one, not two, but three parking tickets. Seriously, Chicago?! The rookie mistake I made was not knowing for two hours every morning Sheridan road turns into a no parking zone during rush hour. My bad. So there I was, with zero money in my bank account and $180 worth of parking tickets in my hand. What is a broke girl to do? Fight!
My court date was scheduled for a month later at the administrative hearing office. I arrived on the Friday of my appeal, feeling quite hangover and a little nervous. I was sent to courtroom number one to wait my turn to speak to the judge. Before me were two women fighting their cars getting booted and on man (hilariously named James Earl Jones) fighting a red light camera ticket.
By this time my part time job had left me with enough funds to easily pay the tickets and go one with my day. I was fighting on principal. The two women though were fighting to save their cars, their careers and their families. One explained that she was going through a divorce and the car was towed while in her soon-to-be ex husband’s possession. She tried to contain herself in front of the judge and her children. The other pleaded with the judge not to confiscate her car that she needed to commute from Indiana for her postal service job in Chicago.
Neither woman left with good news.
So don’t I feel terrible when I got up there, explain my position, and get one of the tickets dropped (the other I agreed to pay and the third somehow disappeared during the time I requested the hearing). Maybe I should use the money I saved by not having to pay the ticket to help one of the less fortunate offenders? Nope, I bought new boots – and the ones for your feet not your car wheels.