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Those Pesky Parking Tickets!

March 6th, 2008

ChubbyJohnBuchanon.jpg

The other day while patiently sitting in my doctor’s waiting room, a cry went out to see who might have change for a loonie to feed one of the parking meters out front.

Although the receptionist eventually came up with the prerequisite four quarters, an ensuing exchange about the lack of free parking in the area soon erupted. Since a routine blood pressure check was on my roster, I chose to quietly listen and chill out rather than participate.

However, the only other male in the waiting room zeroed in on me to vent his frustration over a parking ticket he had recently been awarded at Halifax’s Stanfield International Airport. He’d gone to pick up his 14-year-old son from a flight and parked out front in the ‘no stopping’ zone, leaving his car unattended. Duhhh!

While I couldn’t offer any sympathy, his story got me thinking about one of life’s little hassles, the Parking Ticket. Sooner or later just about everyone who drives ends up with one of the pesky critters. Most people accept responsibility, pay up and move on with life.

It’s obvious that without controls on where we park, cities would soon be congested messes. Emergency vehicles would be hampered, tempers would flare, plenty of parking enforcement people would be out of a job and of course the city’s coffers would take a hit.

As I zoned out on buddy’s airport ticket turmoil, some of my own ticket tragedies surfaced. The time came to mind that I parked my frost - green 1968 Chevy Impala convertible on Blowers Street, topped up the meter and moseyed off to a meeting with my lawyer. Of course, lawyer talk went overtime and when I got back to the car it looked like a ceremonial Japanese fan was tucked under its windshield wiper.

I’d expected a ticket, but three? One for an expired meter. Fine, I deserved it. Then 15 minutes later, one for not having the wheels cut into the curb and a third, fifteen minutes after that for an expired meter. Again!

Hey, the car was detailed to the nines with the top down. Doesn’t one get a break for being neat and tidy, making the city look good? I motored to the cop shop where the officer on duty agreed enough was enough and tore up all 3 tickets that had been issued by the same over-zealous parking enforcer. A happy-ending story, nothing to get worked up about.

Meanwhile, the guy across from me in the doctor’s waiting room found another person to direct the rant about his right to leave a car unattended in front of the airport. I drifted into recall of another parking ticket story.

This one involved the Checker taxicab Baddeck lawyer Ken Langley and I had purchased to drive in the 75th anniversary recreation of the 1908 Peking to Paris Motoring Challenge. We’d managed to score the last unit sold from Checker Motors Corporation in Kalamazoo, Michigan when they stopped production of the venerable tank-like taxicabs in 1982. We even made it on Good Morning America when we picked it up at the factory.

Tom Khattar, the same lawyer who had motor-mouthed me into the pyramid of Impala convertible tickets, reckoned it looked like an overgrown ’55 Chevy Bel Air and dubbed the big green beast ‘Chubby’. The name stuck so we browbeat the Nova Scotia licensing commission into Nova Scotia’s very first vanity plate, CHUBBY.

A few months later on a business trip to Toronto another overtime meeting resulted in a parking infraction, but I was dumbfounded when I checked out the ticket. The space for ‘license number’ was right over the ‘make of vehicle’ spot and there it was, CHUBBY CHECKER in block letters, jumping right off the ticket! I laughed out loud then and again a couple of weeks ago in the waiting room of my doctor’s office.

I was on a roll and, while the atmosphere in the waiting room was heating up, dreaming about good news parking tickets would obviously ensure the blood pressure of an Olympic athlete when the good doctor strapped on the cuff.

But thoughts turned dark recalling the time I parked my 1966 Vauxhall Victor beside a Canadian Tire store on a street featuring a ‘no parking after 6:00 PM without resident parking permit’ sign. No sweat, I had twenty minutes, plenty of time to go inside, score a replacement for a broken headlight and install it before becoming a parking criminal.

Fate played a rusty card though and precious minutes were lost as I fumbled with the headlight’s retaining screws. As I finally secured the light, a police officer, who had been standing behind me unnoticed, presented a $20 ticket. It was ten minutes after six and I fruitlessly pleaded for mercy. No way, and even though that incident was decades ago, I still get heated up thinking about it.

“Garry, you’re next. Go to the first door on the left.”

Reality set in as the receptionist’s voice wrenched me back into the doctor’s office.

‘Wow, your systolic number is a little high. Let’s wait a minute or so and see if it comes down,” the doctor offered.

I knew it would, as soon as I got back to thinking about Chubby Checker instead of the burly brute who tagged the Vauxhall Victor right over my shoulder so long ago.

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