Mar 5, 2010


Fort Lee, NJ is historically significant for several reasons. In 1776, somewhere around the area we now call Main Street, George Washington began his retreat. Yes, the retreat from the British Army that inspired Thomas Paine to pen “The American Crisis” –  the famous pamphlet that begins “These are the times that try men's souls.”

Fort Lee is also known as the birthplace of the film industry (the term “cliffhanger” originated on our palisades), and subliminal advertising.

But during the snowy winter months, my beloved borough’s claim to fame becomes its impossible parking conditions.

I pay $50 a month to park underneath my building. Year-round, I consider that money well spent given the fact that I can’t parallel park. In the winter, that becomes money even better spent so I – oh, who am I kidding – so John doesn’t have to dig my car out from under a heap of snow, rock the little monster back and forth like Rosemary’s baby and  hurdle the beast over the plow pile onto the road.

So with a building-covered covered parking spot, I’ve got it made, right? Not really. Winter 2010 has been a pain in the ass in terms of snowfall. It has been even more of a pain in the ass since I now have two cars and one spot. For those of you following along, I just bought a sweet car. She is the favorite; she gets the spot under the building. That leaves the Hyundai (which, ironically I’ve been driving everyday because of the snow situation) on the street to get plowed in. And ticketed.

On February 14th, just following the first of our Blizzard(s) of 2010TM, I got a fucking parking ticket as the Hyundai was in violation of the 48 hour parking rule. At first, we thought this must be some mistake...perhaps the meter maid did not see the Fort Lee resident permit because the car was plowed in over the window?


It didn’t matter anyway – the rule is 48 hours, even with permit. Still, if a car is that plowed in, they should extend the limit a day or two, right? It was the BLIZZARD OF 2010TM FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!!

But, I was technically in violation of the ordinance as much as the borough was in violation of common sense, so I went online to pay the ticket.

I did not believe that online ticket payment would be a problem. I mean, police stuff is high tech now. Anyone can see how advanced our system is by simply turning on the TV. Every hour of the day there is some kind of Law & Order, CSI, NCIS, etc., where they scan a piece of belly button lint into some 3-D contraption and – Mekka Lekka Hi Mekka Hiney Ho – the crime is solved.

Imagine my surprise (yes, imagine it!) when after typing in everything correctly, I got a message saying it could not “find” my ticket information.

Where was my ticket information? Had it flown south for the winter to escape the Blizzard(s) of 2010TM? Someone call Lieutenant Van Buren.

Scratch that – phone the FL municipal court. After confirming the fine was $40, she said I could not pay online because the ticket book had not yet been turned in, so the tickets had not been put into the computer.

Say, what?

I find it completely unbelievable that I can’t pay my parking ticket online because the upload of ticket information is manual. Granted, my exposure to crime and justice is mainly through the TV, so maybe my expectations are unrealistic.

I wrote the damn check. Consider it my retreat. I guess 234 years later, these are still the times that try men’s souls.


I had pretty much finished this essay in my head a week ago, but I’m glad I left it to ferment. Last evening a friend of mine told me she once racked up over $3K of Fort Lee parking tickets while she was hospitalized. What is the point of that? If the location of her car actually constituted such a gross violation, shouldn’t they have just towed the damn thing? Do they really think that someone who would “allow” approximately 100 tickets to accumulate on their windshield would not have a legitimate excuse for not moving the car? You would think they’d run her plates, get her address, and check and see if she was OK.

To protect and serve...ummm, OK.

She went to court. The tickets were tossed.

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