Monday, February 14, 2011

Latest run in with New York City Beuracracy

Life with a car in NYC... you get tickets... it happens. OK, probably not to EVERYBODY, but it happens to me. I'm not making excuses, I take responsibility for my actions. I was putting off dealing with three tickets for far too long, and I finally decided to take the trip down to John Street to take care of them.

Clearly I put of the first one too long, as it was already "in judgment". Now there's a phrase you don't get to use very often... "in judgment"... but more on that later.

So by this point, I've been down this road once or twice before. I know the procedure, I know the terminology, I speak English, I'm a fairly well educated person... I should be able to usher this process along at maximum efficiency, right? Riiiight !!!

Here's the basic flow chart...
step 1) go to main information desk, get form to fill out and get number
step 2) sit in seats and watch board until your number assigns you to a bulletproof glass window
step 3) go to bulletproof glass window, hand them your form, and they print out your rap sheet.
(forget what it's really called, but it used to be listed out on ultra-thin fan-fold tractor-feed dot-matrix printout... now there's an image of each ticket, on heavy stock paper, one per 8.5x11 sheet)
step 4) take said rap sheet and head over to adjudicator area, have a seat, wait for your number
step 5) show rap sheet to adjudicator and see what they offer you... likely each offense will get steep reduction in fine
step 6) decide if you want to contest any of the offense
step 7) proceed around the corner and wait for the next available judge
step 8) hand the judge your paperwork, swear in, state your name, sign in, plead your case, hope for the best. He can only dismiss the offense, or find you guilty in which case you are obliged to pay the full fine (not the reduced fine offered by the adjudicator)
step 9) proceed back to bullet proof glass area, to the cashiers in the back, and pay fine
step 10) get out of Dodge

Simple as pie, right? Riiiight !!!

Must have picked the right day and time (was there early in the morning), place was pretty empty. Front info desk had no line, smiles and courtesy from the workers, and ZERO wait time when my number was up right away. Yeee-hah, this is gonna be a breeze.

At bulletproof glass where I hand over my form. Woman takes my form and then looks at me. I wait. She waits. I wait.
She says, "What would you like to do?"
I give her my best "I'm perplexed" look, and then say "I believe I have some outstanding tickets. I'd like to take care of them today."
She says, "You would like printouts of your tickets?"
I say, "Yes please."
She says, "Which ones?"
I give her my 2nd best "I'm perplexed" look, and then say "Since I'm here, I'd like to take care of all of them today."
She says,"You want printouts of all of them?"
I say, "Yes please."
She says, "Can I see your license?"
I hand her my license, and she scans it in the electric beam. Then prints out two tickets, and a third sheet that lists all three offenses, one of which says "in judgment". Then takes out a PEN. Yes, a blue ball point ink PEN, and writes a series of numbers along the top of the page, which she is copying from the computer screen.

Can I repeat that for emphasis... after scanning my license with an electronic scanner, printing out two tickets ad a rap sheet, she WRITES a long series of numbers along the top of the rap sheet... numbers she's READING from the computer screen.

She hands me the stack, including the original form and my license, and asks "Is there anything else?"
I say, "No thank you. Now where do I go?"
Mind you, I don't know WHAT ELSE she could possibly do for me... I don't know what else she DOES there... as far as I can tell, that's ALL she does there, all day. And I DID know where to go, but I wanted to be sure we were all in agreement, and honestly, I wanted her to do her f'n job and direct the people towards the next stage.
She says, "Over that way to the adjudicator and wait for you number to come up."

So I head over to adjudicator, have a seat, and wait for my number to come up. Meanwhile two people come after me, and go right up to the desk, and the adjudicator deals with them. OK, apparently they DON'T go by the numbers at this point. I did notice that she directed both of those people around the side to go see the judges.

I approach the adjudicator, and say "I'm not sure if I should come right to you or wait for my number."
She says "It's fine, what do you have?"
I say "I just got my printout, and I'd like to adjudicate these tickets and fines."
She says "Go around and wait for the judge."

Hmmmm... that's not right. I'm pretty sure she's supposed to go through the papers and offer me a reduction. But I'm gonna play this there way, and see where it brings me. I go around and wait a few minutes for the next judge.

Nice guy... funny guy... comments on my ski lift tickets... (note to self, don't wear lift tickets next time, just in case I want to plead poverty, or insanity or something). He takes my paper work, I sign the electronic sign in gizmo, swear in, and he starts to type the hand written number into his computer. Tries it a few times, hands it back to me and says "read off that number to me"

I read it back slowly and accurately, and he says "Yeah, that's what I got... it's not working... go back and tell them that the number doesn't work. Come back to me if I'm around... or any of the other judges."

Yup, the one hand written part of the procedure... and the FUCKED it up !!!!

I go back to the same window, now waiting behind a lady who is yelling that she needs a copy of a ticket that they don't have for her. Eventually I get back there and say "The judge sent me back. This number is not right. It doesn't work." She punches around for a minute, crosses it out and writes it back again... this time with the digit she forgot to write... but it was still sloppy, so she wrote it out yet again.

Back to the same judge, have a good laugh about the missing digit, and he says "I see you have three tickets, but only two are coming up under this number. The third is in judgment. I could hear your case about the one in judgment, but not now, not under this number. You'll have to go back there and get another number for that one. So let's deal with these two. What's going on..."

I say "I'm kind of confused, I was going to just have these adjudicated."
He says, "So what are you doing here, you should have done that out at the desk."
I said, "I told them that's what I wanted to do... they sent me back here."
He said, "Well, let's look at this anyway... hmmm, ok, How about this... you'll still come out ahead... I'll just waive one ticket, find you guilty of the other, and that will be less than the adjudicated fines would have been."
I say, "Fair enough."
He says, "Then you can get back to the ski slopes, with your rosignol skis, and your salomon boots, and your SNS bindings, and be like Glen Plake... and starts prattling off half a dozen other ski terms."
I ask about the other ticket. He says that I can go get another number for that ticket, but I better have a good reason why I didn't pay it... like I was in Afghanistan fighting terrorists at the time, or something like that... otherwise the judgment will stand. "In Judgment" means that I was already found guilty.

Like I said, no excuses, I head over to the cashier and hand him all the paperwork. He looks at me, I look at him, he looks at me and says "So what do you want to do?"
I say, "I'd like to pay these fines, there are two of them... one of them was dismissed."
He says, "You can't just SAY THAT, you have to prove it."
I say, "How should I prove it?"
He says, "Show me what the judge gave you."
I point to the stack of papers that are in his hand.
He says begrudgingly, "Oh, ok... let me look... hmm... yes... ok... well, according to this, you had three fines, one was dismissed. What would you like to pay?"
I said, "I'd like to pay the two fines that I owe, and not pay the one that was dismissed."
He says, "Hmmm.. oh, ok. So where's the bill?"
I say, "I don't know."
He says, "They were supposed to give you a bill?"
I say, "Who was supposed to give me a bill?"
He says, "I don't know... the judge?... ahh, it doesn't matter..."
He then punches it into a glorified adding machine, and reads off the ribbon receipt $237.45. I pay cash and he pulls the change from an old school wooden money drawer. Punches something into a computer, and gets a printout that shows that I paid both fines.

Step 10... GET OUT OF DODGE.