Sometimes, crazy stories can have sane conclusions.
Yesterday afternoon, just for the hell of it, I called the Las Vegas parking people again to ask if they could dismiss a gigantic ticket I received for parking illegally in the city with a car that was three time zones away.
The day before, when I had phoned the same department, the fellow who answered had sounded befuddled. He was cordial but didn’t have any good ideas about how to assist me. Ultimately, he suggested that I send a letter to his unit outlining my case — a solution that seemed nebulous to me.
When I called again yesterday, however, I was fortunate enough to reach a different clerk.
When I informed her that the city was asking me to pay $896.80 for a parking violation that occurred in Las Vegas two years after I (and my Toyota Camry) had moved away, she took control of the situation immediately.
She related that the city’s parking tickets are written by hand, and that it was possible that my citation should have gone to a stranger with a similar license plate.
If that’s what happened, she told me, “it’s an easy fix.” The fact that the ticket was supposed to go to a Kia, not a Camry, made the wrong-plate scenario all the more likely, she said.
She volunteered not only to take a look at the original ticket for me, but to send me evidence confirming my innocence if her search verified my version of the story.
Less than three hours later, I received an email containing a printout showing that she had voided the citation as a “data entry error.”
In her message to me, the clerk explained that, “Photo was taken of the vehicle and plate should have been entered 053VSH.”
This confirmed her earlier suspicions: The tag number I had before moving my Camry from Nevada to New York in 2009 read “053USH,” sporting a “U” instead of the telltale “V.”
She concluded her email by saying that she had notified Linebarger, Goggan Blair and Sampson, a firm the city uses to collect parking debts, about the reversal.
“We are sorry for any inconvenience,” she wrote.
It all happened so quickly. I still quite can’t believe it. The day before, the problem had seemed intractable.
I’m going to write letter to the clerk’s supervisor and to the city’s parking program to let them know what a great job she did. Because of her actions, what could have been a nightmare came to a sane and peaceable end.
I should point out that the speedy resolution is a win not just for me, but for the city, too.
Because we were able to fix the problem over the phone, the parking office won’t have to waste its resources fielding more of my phone calls or examining my case in writing.
In addition, the DMV people in Nevada and New York will be spared from the mundane task of hunting down the vehicle registration histories I would have needed to make a case in writing.
The takeaway lesson? Calling repeatedly about the same problem can be a useful tactic when grappling with bureaucracy. Who picks up on the other end can make all the difference.
I have nothing good to say about the people at Linebarger, who expressed little interest in my pleas for mercy and insisted that I work through them instead of through the city.
But to Brandy in the Las Vegas parking department: THANK YOU! It’s wonderful to know that in an age of red tape, it’s still possible to call a public agency and get a human on the phone.
In conclusion, the Vegas parking office has verified what we all knew from the beginning: Transporter technology does not yet exist; my Toyota Camry did not spontaneously materialize across the country, transform into a Kia and park illegally in a handicap spot in a state I hadn’t visited for over a year.
An addendum about the amount of the ticket. It appears from the printout above that the original citation was for $250, and that it ballooned to $760 due to late fees. Later, another $136.80 fee was apparently added on by Linebarger, the debt collection agency, bringing the grand total to $896.80.