Having ignored every outstanding bill as long as I possibly could I set out to empty my bank account and clear my conscience. I'll need this when I move on to greener pastures. First stop, deposit cheque, second stop, Beano for a quick double-espresso, third stop- the courthouse, I've an outstanding traffic ticket and I'm tired of being on the lam, a fugitive from justice, an outlaw, I need to get it off my chest, I plug the meter for an hour, how long can it take?
Turns out, a helluva lot longer than an hour. $4.50 for an hours parking, paid to the city so I could pay my traffic ticket, which is no deterrent whatsoever to unsafe or reckless driving and merely another form of taxation for the City of Calgary. I'm in the lineup to talk to a Justice of the Peace, and it snakes about 60 people back around the central elevator. It doesn't look good, but it depends on how fast the line is moving, I've fed the meter, now get in line and wait. There's a line as well to pay the cashiers, the "Plead Guilty" option, quicker by far, and no doubt a lot of innocent people choose to plead guilty, it saves them both time and money.
Waiting. Waiting. The line doesn't move, it shuffles, very slowly forward.
This waiting to see a JP, it's a form of Systematic and Premeditated Incompetence. Despite the entire justice system being predicated on the basic presumption that people are "Innocent until Proven Guilty", the entire system is set up to process you as if you are guilty. Wanna see a Cashier? Lineup is about 10 minutes. Or you can pay your ticket, with additional service charges, at any bank, AMA or vehicle registry. Want to challenge your ticket? In that instance you'll be waiting...and waiting...and waiting...
This having underestimated the time I'll be in line, it's also part of the game. The city, I'm pretty sure they know that most of the people fighting traffic tickets drive cars, although this does sound like one of those opportunities for the government to invest millions in research..."How many drivers that got traffic tickets use their car to get around?..." would be the title of that study...
...and, like me, now almost an hour in line and not even 20 people forward, this line, it's easily 2 1/2 hours long and it's growing longer behind me, if I stay I'll get another ticket, parking this time, another trip to the courthouse to argue that this second ticket was a result of their incompetence, even if I fed the meter to the maximum allowance of 2 hours I'd still be getting a ticket, that's how fucking slow they are, and it's all by design...
I'm a little pissed off by now, abandoning my place in line, I head off and pay the ticket at the AMA. I am now "Guilty" due to civic disinterest and incompetence, and a little like 1984 my guilt should set me free, my guilt - and money - pardon me and my offense. Fuckers.
A Few Observations:
- WHAT'S YOUR SLA? The City imposes an involuntary Service Level Agreement on the recipient of traffic tickets - after 4 or 6 weeks if the ticket is not challenged or paid warrants are put out for your arrest and additional illegal (I'll come back to this) late fees are added to the ticket. What SLA binds the city to it's population, I wonder, by which I mean what does the city consider a reasonable time for a citizen to spend in line to defend themselves against a ticket?
- The Late Fees Constitute Usury - "In October of 1998, the Supreme Court of Canada found that the Late Payment Penalties (LPP) charged by Consumers’ Gas may constitute a criminal interest rate contrary to section 347 of the Criminal Code. The decision, in Garland v. Consumers’ Gas, was unexpected insofar as the LPP had been continuously approved by the Ontario Energy Board since its adoption in 1975.". Perhaps the city should review it's late fee strategies, as in every case where they've been challenged (and some in class action suits. Ahem) exorbitant late fees have been determined to be usurious. A few links that might give you some insight into this:
- Continuing the Above - The late fees described above - as applied by gas, electric, cable, internet and cellphone companies, were all "Voluntarily" entered into by the consumers - meaning the consumers entered into a contract with the service provider in which the late fees were no doubt described in extravagant detail in a highly minute font. Regarding your traffic tickets and the solicitation of involuntary taxes to contribute to city coffers via traffic cams, red light cams, traffic policing, etc. at no point did I (or any other consumer that I'm aware of) agree either to the ticket or to the late fee. My signature or approval does not appear on the ticket.
- Guilt is Not The Only Option: I apologize for this, but last time I checked a cornerstone of the justice system was that you were presumed innocent until proven guilty. The manner in which you have made pleading "guilty" easy and "innocent" nigh impossible (with countless small levies and charges - eg: parking, time, etc). Suggests you need to re familiarize yourself with this. If in any way "Justice" - however trifling - is important to you (!! To US) than EVERY AGENT WHO TAKES PAYMENT - be they banker, clerk, whatever - should be a JUSTICE OF THE PEACE and able to adjust/waive/adjudicate any grievances about the ticket. Guilt is not the only option. This is both intuitive and a fundamental cornerstone of our legal system, and the self-serving bureaucracy you have entangled it with substantially undermines this.
- If you are unable to process/adjudicate/adjust tickets in a timely manner - that meets a reasonable SLA as defined by the citizenry, not yourselves, than you need to restrain the issuing of tickets until you can.
The tickets paid, and my chances of recovering the over-payments are slim, but I think I might just write a letter to the city...