The $115 question

Wednesday January 23, 2013

When traveling, knowing the rules of the road are essential. I was born in New York, did some of my growing up in New York and I even root for all the sports teams. But when it comes to driving in New York and trying to pay attention to the rules of the road, it’s next to impossible.

Now if you want to get hopelessly lost inside a city, Boston is your town. In fact there’s a funny picture that’s making the rounds that has a shot of New York from the air and a shot of Boston from the air. The text over the New York picture, which shows how the streets run horizontally and vertically, states "New York, because we want you to know where you’re going and how to get there." Over the Boston picture with the same type of shot of the Boston roadways it states "Boston, because ..." then goes on to feature a few expletives that one frustrated lost driver might yell at another frustrated lost driver.

But (and this is a tough thing for me to admit) Boston does it a little better than New York when posting the rules of the road. New York just bites when it comes to signage. Seriously. It flat out stinks. And because of the lack of signage, I’m now looking at $115 fine.

I’ll be honest. I’m not sure how far away from a fire hydrant you should park, so I rely on caution paint, street markings or maybe a simple sign that just says you can’t park within seven feet of a hydrant. Is that asking too much? I don’t feel it is. Yet, here I am sitting with a piece of paper stating that I owe the borough of Manhattan $115. Yes, I plan to plead my case via something called "trial via mail." I’m not holding my breath but I want an explanation and I want photographic proof that I wasn’t parked far enough away from the fire hydrant.

I have been diligently looking up info online on how to fight these tickets, and what I’ve found out is the truth will not set you free. Nope, quite the contrary. If you simply state that you were parked far enough from the fire hydrant you’ll get a nice letter stating (and you gotta use your best New York Accent with this one) "Dat’s a nice story, but youse still gotta pay dis ticket." So, what to do? Well, I took some pictures of the street markings and of another car that was parked the same distance as I was, which was not ticketed, and I have to ask for proof that I was inside the New York-regulated distance.

If I was parked too close the hydrant, I would take my lumps and pay the fine. After all, blocking a fire plug is a public safety hazard and I want no part of that. So I went on a hunt for the proper distance and here’s what I found out. In New York the distance is 12 feet, Boston is 10 feet, and Chicago is 15 feet. Do you see where I’m going with this? It’s confusing. The common man doesn’t stand a chance trying to do it right. But for the record I was every bit of 10 feet from the hydrant (easily) and that’s OK for Boston, though apparently not New York.

But I ask again, is it that hard to hang a sign? If it was a uniform distance countrywide then that’s one thing; after all we stop at red lights and speed up at yellow ones -- right?

Still, I plan on putting up a good fight; I’ve got pictures, measurements, even a small schematic -- everything I feel I need to win.

Will I win? Well, that’s up to the mood of the person that opens my envelope and whether they decide I created enough of a case to dismiss the ticket or, at the very least, reduce the fine. I’ll be sure to let you know but in the mean time ... $115 ticket. What the hell is up with that?

Fish is the morning talent on Classic Hits 92.7 FM. He also offers up his opinion on-line at www.whatda E-mail him at fish@wk


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