Birnbach Communications




Indianapolis News: When Good Cars Go Bad
I recently got a new car, a Toyota, but I'd rather not talk about it. The problem? On June 26, a random Monday when I was hard at work in my office in Boston, my car drove to West Lafayette, Indiana and back with enough time to be waiting for me at the MBTA parking lot at Wonderland for my evening commute.

How did I found out? I got a ticket in the mail from the West Lafayette Town Hall for 3-hour overtime parking, with my car's license plate number. (Until I got the notice, I didn't know where West Lafayette is, but presumably the car did not get lost on a roundtrip that, according to MapQuest, would take 1,971 miles and 36 hours. To go there and back in one day, perhaps my car knew a shortcut.)

And we all know computers don't make mistakes.

But it proves that Boston is not the only city with parking problems – or ticket quotas.

I would hope that West Lafeyette's finest might waive the first infraction with a warning for an out-of-state car. But what if June 26 wasn't my car's first time? What if it was a repeat offender? What if the West Lafayette Police had distributed a "wanted" poster of my car?

I was so embarrassed. My old car, a six-year-old Volkswagen Jetta, was too sensible to be so irresponsible. Maybe, like George W.'s alleged drug use, this is my Toyota's youthful indiscretion.

Now I feel I can no longer trust my car. (Especially since I don't know what business it has in West Lafayette.) Do I really know what it does when I think it's parked at Wonderland? (That would certainly explain why the radio sometimes comes on louder, much louder, than when I had it on in the morning.) How do I regain that trust?

So I tried talking to my car about responsibility and paying tickets - but it must have picked up the attitude my computer has. No matter what I said, it did not respond.

I thought about possible punishments: low-octane gas, no car wash for a month, only AM talk radio - but that last one, especially, would hurt me more than it would hurt it.

And, of course it doesn't have the money to pay the $20 ticket. I'm amazed it had enough money for gas and tolls to West Lafayette.

If I don't pay, the notice threatened an additional fine, immobilization or towing – the last two seem like the town can't decide whether it wants to move my car or prevent me from moving my car. Either way, I'm sure they would charge me extra to drive all the way from West Lafayette to do the towing.

Unfortunately, payment may be made in person to the city hall, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. I'll never make it in time – unless I let my car do the driving. If not, I can never show my face – um, my car – in West Lafayette again.


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