To the City of Helsinki’s parking inspection bureau:
I’m writing this not with any serious hope that you’ll reconsider the absurd fine that I received last week, since if you were capable of logical thought the inspector would not have written the fine to begin with, and the supervisor I spoke with on the phone would not have attempted to defend it. I’m merely writing an open letter to congratulate you on demonstrating the most profound example of anally retentive behavior I have witnessed in this city this century. Given the extent to which rule enforcement has replaced rational thought in Finnish culture in general, achieving a superlative position in this category is no mean feat. Your organization is truly remarkable.
The fine in question was issued on my home street, where on weekdays on-street parking is restricted to 4 hours at a time between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Since I work as a school teacher 5 days per week this is no problem for me. I’m always out before noon, and never back before 3:00. If I arrive before the end of the time-restricted parking period each day, I realize that, for practical reasons, I must place the standard arrival time indicator disk in the window, to demonstrate to any inspector that comes along that my car has not in fact been sitting there all day.
This, however, was not the case on the evening of Thursday the 12th and the morning of Friday the 13th of this month. I arrived home Thursday well after 6:00, took the dog out and settled into my evening activities. Then Friday being my late starting morning of the week at work, I went out to the car at 9:30 to find a ticket on it!
Apparently an inspector came around at 9:00 and, without an indicator disk in the window, she really couldn’t tell whether or not, during the one hour of restricted time parking which had elapsed so far that day, my car had been there for over 4 hours already. The logical process involved (or more specifically the lack thereof) is mind boggling! How such a person graduates from elementary school is frankly beyond me.
I called the phone number on the ticket to ask how this sort of “service” is even possible, it took 3 tries and 5 minutes worth of waiting on the third try to get a connection. The person I spoke with first clearly had instructions simply to answer the phone and tell people to write a letter instead. He did, however, after some wait, manage to direct me to a supervisor, who was enough of a veteran and an insider in your office to attempt to justify this absurdity. Her explanation: The law requires that the indicator disk just has to be there. It doesn’t make any difference whatsoever what time it reads, but such an indicator disk just has to be there, because that’s the law.
This definitively belongs in the category of “Things Which Make You Go ‘Hmmmm…’”.
By way of comparison, it is also a law in Finland that those who wish to get a youth or senior citizen discount on public transport in the capital district must carry some proof of their age with them, so so that bus drivers and inspectors can tell when a 19-year-old is trying to pass herself off as a 15-year-old. This law makes a certain amount of sense, in that such fraud attempts really do happen. If, however, I were to be taking a fifth grade class out on a field trip as a school teacher, and in the process I would be confronted by a bus driver who would insist on seeing each pupil’s personal ID of before allowing me to pay for them with a youth pass, citing this as part of the rule enforcement which goes with his job, it would be justifiable for me to consider such a driver to be an anally retentive idiot. If he would insist on an adult fare for every pupil who did not have such an ID with him/her for the school day, hew would be that much more the anally retentive idiot. I would certainly complain about such service, and I would certainly expect that the driver would receive an official reprimand.
Even so, I’d have to recognize that in theory there might be some practical justification for him enforcing the rule in question. After all, as far as the driver knows one of those “11-year-olds” might really be a 30-year-old midget in disguise. Thus if such a driver sticks to enforcing the letter of the law by refusing the right to travel on a youth ticket to any pupils without a valid form of identification with them, he might actually prevent this form of fraud from happening. Odds of him actually preventing a case of fraud through such an anal rule enforcement procedure would be lower than those of Finland taking gold in the 4 x 100m men’s sprint relay in the up-coming London Olympics, but in theory it could still happen.
A parking inspector, on the other hand, if she has any resemblance of logical skills whatsoever, would have to realize that one hour into the restricted time parking period, it is quite impossible for any car parked there to be in violation of the law in terms of having been there for over 4 hours worth of the restricted time parking period for that day. Issuing a citation for not providing the required statutory evidence that, during the last hour, the car has been there for less than 4 hours can only be described as anal retention practiced purely for the joy of building hemorrhoids.
There really isn’t any other logical explanation for such law enforcement procedures. That is unless, of course, your department is interested in preying off of local residents rather than maintaining order as a public service for local residents. I would not accuse you of operating in bad faith though; merely of being fundamentally and illogically anal.
Thus, rather than refusing to pay the € 40 parking fine, I merely wish to have this payment re-designated as prize money, for the newly instituted “FINNISH RECTAL INFLAMMATION OF THE DECADE AWARD – 2011-2020”.
If you wish to add your own comments to the announcement of this award on my blog (huisjenphilosophy.wordpress.com), you may freely do so. If you feel that it would soothe your department’s collective inflammation to return this prize money, you are under no obligation to keep it. In the surreal case that you can point out another government agency which is (verifiably) even more deserving of this award than you are, please send information and corroborating evidence to the above address, and upon verification of the claim, I hereby promise to award € 40 in prize money to that department as well; still allowing you to keep your own prize, of course. (It will be worth it for the sheer entertainment value it provides for my readers and I.)
So again, congratulations on your outstanding accomplishment in your specialized field! And here’s wishing you even greater redness and swelling of the sort you are striving for as your careers advance.