You return to your car parked in one of Cedar Rapids’ downtown parking spaces where LUKE stands sentinel, and there it is. Under one wiper blade, a bright orange envelope with your personalized citation for a “Parking Meter Violation.”
The thought of not following the letter of the law gives you night sweats. How can this be? “Parking Meter Violation?”
In front of your car, you see a little orange sign with a big white number on it, but not a familiar gray device with a red “Expired” flag.
The citation says right on it: “Parking Meter Violation.” OK, so it seems only fair that you should get a parking meter to violate, right?
You’re pretty sure you know what a parking meter is, but it never hurts to check. So, you look it up on your smartphone. There it is, right in the Cedar Rapids Code.
According to the people elected to make these decisions, a parking meter and the parking space have to be “adjacent.” This seems logical. With orange envelope in hand, you go to the pointy sign adjacent to your parking space to investigate.
Those empowered to govern have written that a meter has to have “a receptacle or chamber for receiving and storing coins of the United States money.” Nope, not there.
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Is there “a slot or place in which said coins may be deposited?” Nope, likewise not there.
Well, it must have “a timing mechanism to indicate the passage of the interval of time which shall have lapsed.” Nope, not so much.
How about “brief instructions as to its operations?” This isn’t ET. C’mon, this is reality, Greg.
You needn’t bother looking on your smartphone to verify the $10 fine on your ticket. The only Park Cedar Rapids website references you will find to “fines” are about Park Cedar Rapids forgiving parking tickets if violators made donations to charities.
You will be able to find the fine amount, published in the city ordinance, where Iowa law says the “fine shall be established,” but it says $7.50, not $10. Go figure.
You look at the orange envelope in your hand ... you look at the LUKE sign ... the City Code on your smartphone ... the LUKE sign. The Emperor says this is no parking meter, yet you come to understand “The Force is strong with this one!”
• Bob Teig is a retired federal prosecutor and adherent of the words of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: “Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher … Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law: it invites every man to become a law unto himself ...”