In most confrontations, The Powers that Be win and the Little Guys lose. In this story, the Little Guy won, and the Powers that Be had to do re-write the rules.
Some background is essential for readers to understand this story. Decades ago when I came to teach at Letongaloosa Community Junior College, Emmaline and I moved next door to a retired military officer. His last assignment was in a country where cars drove on the right side of the road. The colonel bought a four-door Hillman Minx, and shipped it to the U.S. The car’s steering wheel was on the right hand side. When he moved a couple of years later, I bought the car. I loved driving that car. The gearshift was on the left side of the steering column.
At the beginning of fall semester the university administration gave faculty members and students a pamphlet that outlined driving and parking instructions. Everyone on campus had to buy a parking sticker and display it on the rear window of their car. The instructions were explicit. The parking sticker was to be displayed in the lower corner of the rear window on the driver’s side.
I affixed my parking sticker in the lower corner of the rear window on the right side of my right-hand-drive car. That model Hillman Minx had a curved rear window—so the parking sticker was less visible than on domestic cars.
A couple of days after school started I received a parking citation for not displaying the parking sticker correctly. I called the Parking Department and told
them that my parking sticker was displayed according to regulations and asked them to invalidate the parking citation. For the next several days, I found parking citations under my windshield. I put the citations in the glove box, assuming that the Parking Department would inform the people who issued the tickets that my sticker was properly displayed and would void the citations.
A week or so later the dean called me to his office The Parking Department had accused me of being an egregious parking offender. They asked the dean to make me pay the fines for all the parking tickets that the department had issued..
I told the dean that my parking sticker was displayed strictly according to the regulations, but that I would get the problem straightened out.
The university police handled parking on campus so I called the department and told the dispatcher that despite the fact that my parking sticker was affixed strictly according to regulations I had received numerous parking citations and that the department had contacted my dean.
The dispatcher said that the people who issue parking citations didn’t make mistakes and that my sticker was obviously misplaced. I demurred, he insisted. I demurred. Finally he told me to bring the car to the parking lot behind the Police Department so he could see for himself.
I drove to the Police Department parking lot and parked near the office with my car facing away from the building so that the dispatcher could see my rear window. The dispatcher took one look at my car and said:
“That sticker is on the wrong side.”
I said, “Sir, do I have the option of changing the way I follow this pamphlet? I handed him the parking regulation pamphlet.
“No you DON”T.” he said emphatically.
I said, “the regulation says that my sticker is to be displayed on the back window on the driver’s side. That’s where the sticker is.”
“No, it’s on the left side, That’s wrong.”
“Sir,” I said. “Please Look! The steering wheel is on the right side. I am displaying the parking sticker on the driver’s side just as the regulation requires.
The officer looked, sputtered for a few seconds, and then said, “WELL, That’s not what we meant!”
The Parking Department voided all my citations and I reported to the dean that the problem had been solved.
The next year the parking regulation said that parking stickers were to be displayed in the lower corner of the LEFT side of the rear window. I smiled.
-Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co