Extract from “Bazinga”

Smitty turned the rearview mirror his way and examined his wounds. The big gash continued to bleed. He took a fresh gauze pad out of the first aid kit in the console between the seats, and held it to his forehead. He tossed the used one out the window.

“You ever catch a triple Red Flagged car, Randy?” he asked me.

“Maybe once or twice,” I said, “but most folks get wise after the first Red Flag and they just pay up.”

As I said earlier, some drivers do continue to have the boots cut off until they are Red Flagged, double Red-Flagged, triple Red-Flagged, on up to where they owe so much in fines that no cutter will go near them. Because the cutters know that after a triple Red Flagged car is booted, we hang close by the car, waiting.

But usually it doesn’t get to that. After the first time he uses a cutter your average motorist figures, well, he’ll just never get caught parking illegally again. But he does park illegally again, and he does get booted again and at that point most people see the light and just pay the fine. You may have to deal with your friendly neighborhood loan shark to make that work, but hey, he’s got to live too. We’re all in it together in the New Economy.

“But,” you ask, “what about prison time for the motorists? Wouldn’t that be a strong incentive to park legally, or at least stay on top of your fines?” Well, brother, prisons cost money and the system hasn’t got any money. So, we will jail (or shoot) cutters because they interfere with the collection of parking fines. But you, Mr. Motorist, well, we want you at your job working, or doing whatever it is you do to pay your bills. Cause it’s all about the money. And understand, even if you didn’t compound your misfeasance by using a cutter, and even if we didn’t catch you red-handed, you still don’t get to pay your fine by dropping a check in the mail. No, you go out and you find an on-duty narc and you pay up right there, right then. Hand your money over to a large, ugly man wearing body armor and toting a weapon. A large ugly man who may have just gunned down a cutter before your very eyes. So you pay, pronto.

You see, parking enforcement is based on terror. Cut off a boot and you’ll rot in prison or be shot, take your pick. Get caught with unpaid fines and you’ll be terrorized and shaken down. Walk up to a narc and voluntarily pay your fine and you’ll still get the stink-eye, and you’ll be intimidated. That’s the cold harsh reality, friend. That’s what pays my salary.

How do I feel about all of that? I don’t know. Ask me later, maybe after I’ve left parking enforcement and I’m doing something else. Maybe I’ll have an opinion then. Or maybe you’ll see me in some afterlife, after I finally get killed on the job. Gone, wasted, bazinga. Mowed down in a hail of AK47 fire, my Browning shotgun in my hands, right forefinger reflexively triggering one last load of buckshot skyward, into a gray, stinky wasteland. Maybe then we’ll talk.


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