Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten a parking ticket?
Raise your hand if you then complained about it on Facebook or to a friend?
Raise your hand if it was your fault? :)
At one of the meetups I go to every week, there’s always some chatter in the background on how horrible the parking is and how many tickets someone has now racked up. This quickly turns into a pity party when someone else overhears and tries to “one up” them on the amount of injustice being bestowed upon him (“you have two tickets? I have ten!”).
But here’s the thing about parking tickets – it’s almost always our fault, and almost always avoidable. We just choose convenience and pray we don’t get caught!
The place we meet each week? There’s PLENTY of free parking! You may have to drive an extra block to get there, but there’s plenty of space for the taking and I’ve never once had a problem finding a spot. Nor getting a ticket, for that matter. And you now why? Because I take two seconds to read the signs where I park – imagine that? If it says “no parking” or “residents only,” I go find a different spot. Pretty simple! (And once you figure out where the safe streets are, you don’t even have to think about it anymore the next time)
Unfortunately my friends still haven’t caught on. Sure they overlook a sign or two at times (which is still our own fault, btw), but more often than not they’re playing the “I’ll only be here for a bit” game, hoping to not get caught. Only they do, and then they roll the dice all over again the next week full well knowing the odds are still not in their favor.
This is why I follow the “Assume you’ll always get caught” rule with stuff like this. Anytime I find myself about to break the law – whether I think it’s a valid law or not – I ask myself if I’m okay with the repercussions of getting caught? If I am, I risk it like a naughty boy and pray I get away with it. If I’m not (which is mostly the case), I obey and move on with myself. But in either case it’s a *conscious* decision I make which I can only blame myself for if I happen to choose wrongly. And sometimes it’s worth doing so.
An example: any time I have a friend visiting from out of town, we go out to eat downtown and usually sit there for hours gabbing away. It’s always nice to be able to do that in the middle of the work week (a perk of setting your own schedule!), but I often forget to park in the spots that aren’t capped at only 2 hours. So somewhere around the hour and a half/45 mins mark I have to ask myself if it’s worth ending our time together, or if I should just suck it up and pay the $45 ticket I assume I’ll be getting. And most times I choose the latter. To me, the time being spent with friends is worth more than the penalty. Which thankfully I only end up needing to pay a fraction of the time!
This rule of getting caught has served me well in other areas too:
- Wearing a seat belt? Yes please – I don’t want to die
- Brush my teeth? Of course! They’ll fall out if I don’t!
- Drugs? No thanks, I’ll get addicted
- Not reporting side income? I’ll go to jail!
- Save for retirement? Only if I plan on living past 60 ;)
I get made fun of a lot for some of these, but hey – it’s my world right? And lest you think I’m a wet blanket, I have been known to play the odds in other areas of my life such as with underage drinking, illegal music downloading (remember Napster? Hah!), and these days driving 10-15 miles over the speed limit. Which is another one of those things people get so irate about – it’s not like you don’t know you’re driving fast! It just sucks when we’re caught!
All this to say that if you assume the worst outcome with these things, you’ll probably be steered towards making better decisions. It’s not the worst thing in the world to get a parking or speeding ticket, but if your money’s tight and you’re tired of living paycheck to paycheck, well, these are the things to consider until you have enough not to be concerned with such annoyances anymore… And some people will gladly pay for them!
My old boss used to illegally park his car in front of our office building almost every single day, full well knowing he’d be slapped with outrageous fines. When I asked him one day why he just doesn’t park a few streets over, he told me it wasn’t about the money – it was about the convenience. And the convenience was worth every penny to him. (Of course, this was the same company which eventually went under due to financial problems, but hey – at least he was consciously deciding his fate ;))
Assume the worst for the next few weeks and see if it changes anything… You still might get tickets, but at least it’ll feel better knowing you chose them vs being “unjustly” blindsided. No shame in spending money on things you value!