by Timothy Stephen Pike
And now a word about parking tickets. I hate them. I got one the other day for an expired meter. The biggest problem with all this is that they want you to send in a check, which is difficult because the department you have to pay is the department that takes care of forty-five different things around town. So there I am making a check out to the “City Department of Traffic Control, Parking Tickets, Money Collection, Downhill Skiing, Nose Blowing, Lawn Mowing, and So Many Other Things All Combined Into One Department That If You Can’t Fit Our Name On Your Check Just Attach a Separate Piece of Paper.” Whew! But oh, I fit in on there. Just to spite them.Ever seen a parking ticket with an attitude? You should have seen this one. I know you’re thinking, “How can a piece of paper have an attitude?” Well, it can. And this one was glaring at me. It looked so downright menacing, in fact, that it might as well have been issued by “The Department of You Better Pay Us or We’ll Send Johnny After You and Johnny’s a Big Guy.” So I promptly mailed my payment, and a week later, I got a very nice letter from the Department that said something like, “Dear Mr. Pike: Congratulations, you are the first person ever to pay a parking ticket! We are so grateful, we are refunding your money, and we feel so bad for ever giving you the ticket in the first place that we are throwing you a party. Just come on up to our office, we’re in the City Department of Traffic Control, Parking Tickets…” Six pages later, it went on: “Our sincerest gratitude, signed, Grace Smith, director of the City Department of…” You guessed it. Six more.
So maybe I should move to Paris. It’s a great city—there are no ‘NO PARKING’ signs, no parking tickets, and no cars bigger than the left rear wheel of one of our obnoxious American SUVs. What I’m getting at is that it’s awfully easy to find a parking spot in Paris, because the entire city is a parking spot. Two cars already parked close together along the curb? No problem. Just slip yours in perpendicularly between them. Won’t fit? That’s okay, just go ahead and shut off your car and leave it in the middle of the street—you’re good. One time I was watching a guy trying to park his car in the Latin Quarter, and although I couldn’t be sure, it looked like he was using a forklift to stack his car onto another. Perfectly acceptable in the City of Light.
That’s another thing that bugs me. Being from Denver, I think my hometown needs a better nickname than “Mile High City.” That’s like saying, “Come to Denver! You’ll pass out in our thin air and your nose will bleed for a week, but it’s not a bad place.” The problem is that Denver is not the “City of” anything. You’ve got Las Vegas, “City of Sin,” Los Angeles, “City of Angels,” Philadelphia, “City of Brotherly Love,” and of course Omaha, “City of…Omaha.” So I’m going to lobby for Denver to be the city of “Fun Times.” Yes, a name like that would be very descriptive and certainly lock in Denver’s reputation as a place to go to have fun times. But now that I think about it, it’s not always fun times in Denver. Like in the morning, when everyone in town feels the need to drive to work at exactly the same time. I guess our pamphlets could say “Denver: City of Fun Times Mostly But Not Always*” (*Like when you’re driving to work.)
But back to the main topic of this article and the whole reason you started reading it in the first place: our discussion of Paris. I can’t say enough good things about it. In addition to being the parking capital of the world, they have really good cheese, and a very romantic language. Cheese and language are always a deadly combination in my mind. Also, as I mentioned earlier, they have extremely small cars. And when I say small, I mean you could fit one of these suckers in your trunk. In fact, for the most part, they are trunks. Just trunks with wheels and a seat that people drive around, mainly because they get close to 450,000 miles to the gallon.* (*well, you know, kilometers to the liter, but still.) These cars are also handy for when you’re stuck behind a truck that’s going too slow—you can just drive underneath it and be on your way. On your way across the Atlantic to the City of Fun Times. You’re always welcome here. But just a warning: when you get here, don’t park.
Timothy Pike is an antediluvian essayist who kills time for sport.
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