Thursday, June 22, 2006

Parking Infringement.


I got my wheel-clamp fee refunded. That is quite a big deal for me.


***
Background:

I am a person who, in addition to crashing a car in every major city I have spent significant time driving in, picks up parking violations like spilled honey picks up ants. In the time that I had to maintain a car in Singapore, I incurred multiple parking fines. Most of them were for neglecting to put up parking coupons, but I also got a couple for illegal parking, parking across lots, et al. If I were still driving in Singapore I am sure it would a matter of time before the car would be featured on Parking Idiots in Singapore.

The simple and sad truth is that my parking skills (and my ability to pay attention to parking requirements) is inferior to even my driving skills. Gasps of terror, clutching of the dash as well as exclamations of "I just want to live!" emanating from the passenger seat when I drive - they are fact and not legend. However I try to redeem myself by minimising the threat to lives and inconvenience to others to the best of what my limited hand-eye motor skills will allow.

***


The whole saga begins when I come back to the paid carpark (note: parking outside the CBD zone is free), and I see this huge A4-sized black sticker obscuring the driver side window. Big yellow words advising me the vehicle has been clamped and any attempt to drive with the clamp attached will damage the car.. blah blah blah.

So I call the mobile number on the sticker and this gruff voice tells me I have to pay him $135 for him to remove the clamp. No negotiations. No appeal. No pay, no wheel clamp removal. Being someone who is accustomed to authority figures imposing their arbitary will upon me and having to accede helplessly, I manage to exclaim "That's blackmail" followed by a few choice phrases and was all prepared to work up a rant over the phone.

The resigned tone "I am just doing my job, myte" coming down the other side of the line stopped me in my tracks. Especially when I thought of all the abuse the poor guy must take on a daily basis to make a living. So I just say "how far are you?" and then head back to the immobile car.

Five minutes later I am sitting on the hood of the car enjoying the twilight and thinking it would be really nice to have a big mug of coffee and a couple of hot sandwiches (yes, I am constantly thinking about food) when this guy pulls up in a ute with "Parking Enforcement Services" on the side. By then I had calmed down and was in a surprisingly good mood.

The guy (who is hulking and at least 150% my weight) parks about 5 lots away in the now near-empty carpark and approaches cautiously as if he was worried I was going to hit him or something. I disarm him by yelling my apologies for being rude to him earlier from across the carpark and offer to pay the penalty immediately to get unclamped.

As he goes through the paces, we strike up a conversation of sorts. [name deleted for privacy] was a veteran at the job and putting up with verbal abuse was the least of it. He actually had to put up with upset drivers having a go at him with tire-irons, spanners and what-not. We chat some more as the handheld wireless credit card machine was acting up and he explains it is actually a very specific detailed procedure they had to follow before wheel-clamping a vehicle.

He comments that I must have an oustanding parking violation since only repeat offenders get clamped. That was news to me. Then he motions to me and pulls out a handheld video recorder. "You seem a nice bloke. But I am not supposed to show this to you". He fastforwards the tape to the appropriate section and shows me the visual record. The video clearly shows the car dash empty and a ticket lying on the passenger side floor. The ticket must have blown off the dash when I was slamming the door shut. "Shit happens", I echo his last phrase. And I think that was that.

He hands me the paperwork then pauses eyeing me. Then he reaches into his ute and hands me a card with contact information on it. I look at it. "Parking Enforcement Services - Appeals".

...

So the next day I call the number and the bored-sounding lady tells me I have an outstanding fine (from the last owner?), takes down my address to send me a copy of the penalty notice and tells me all appeals must be in writing.

Having written multiple parking fines appeals in Singapore and always having having them met with silence or worse still bureaucratic legalese that tell me to stuff it, I did not hold out much hope that any appeal letter would have any effect.

The appeal letter quoted the following mitigating circumstances:
  • that I was not aware of a prior parking violation
  • that I had a valid ticket which had been blown on the floor (verified by video)
  • that I was cooperative in paying the wheel clamp penalty
  • that I was prepared to pay the prior parking violation, if it was found to be my fault

A copy of the previous parking ticket then came in the post couple days later. I paid it immediately.


Then the results of the appeal letter came in. Sections quoted below.

"tickets must be displayed.. clearly visible from outside the vehicle... ticket not valid unless placed on dashboard with expiry time visible from outside.."

"..you have paid the outstanding infringement since vehicle was wheel clamped.. as you have provide a valid ticket.. ticket not visible.."

And the last sweet line was "A cheque will be mailed to the address above.."

***


The direct Singlish translation of the letter:
"You cock up. By right must kenna summon. But donch say dun give chance."

Which is more than the world class HDB / URA / JTC system has ever done for me. I guess some societies and systems are just more tolerant of mistakes and offer more second-chances than others.



7 Comments:

Blogger Southern Sky said...

It's humanity.... this country has got lots of it.

June 23, 2006 2:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You did not inform us that you did not have a television set, so you have to pay the fine. - Media Development Authority Officer

http://www.mrbrown.com/blog/2006/06/browncast_early.html

http://lancerlord.blogspot.com/2006/06/of-no-tv-fine.html

June 23, 2006 9:27 AM  
Blogger KnightofPentacles said...

The phrase I was thinking of was

人情 / rén qíng / ren2 qing2

humanity is close but does not quite convey the essence of the spirit of the law being more important than the bookish application of the rules.

June 23, 2006 10:40 AM  
Blogger Singapore Calamari said...

I had tried to appeal 2 parking fines :

(1) Carpark under renovation. I parked at a place where someone else had vacated. I did NOT put a parking coupon.

I got fined. Luckily, the officer put the fine as "not parking in a proper lot" and not the one where I didn't put a coupon.

I wrote in, said that the carpark was under construction, and I saw white lines, so I THOUGHT it was a lot. That the whole place was messy.

I won this appeal.

(2) I parked in town (you were there), thinking it was free parking after 10pm. Wrong. We both got it.

I wrote in, saying that I just parked, realized I had no coupon, so rushed to buy coupons. Ran here and there, none of the coffee shops sells them. Finally, found them at 7-11 and I was back 15 minutes later, I got the fine.

I know, I am just cooking excuses, but what the heck, no harm trying.

The official reply to that was somethhing to the effect that the coupon system is based on the responsibility of the drivers to ensure they have the coupons. Therefore, forgetting that I ran out of coupons and I had to run around buying it and got fined in the meantime, is my own fault for not maintain the proper quantity in my car.

Basically " You forget, your own fault, sorry."

June 23, 2006 4:22 PM  
Blogger Singapore Calamari said...

Must commend you on your retained knowledge of Chinese language.. haha..
Yes, ren qing is something that my chinese-self-educated father always say that is lacking in those asians-who-wanna-be-ang-moh people (basically, Sg govt and people).

He commented that usually, the ang-mohs themselves are also quite gentlemanly (except the Americans)...

June 23, 2006 4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it goes both ways. Singaporean officials involved in adminstering fines are also just doing their job. They have a family to feed, and going around in the blistering hot sun is no picnic. You can bet that they get a lot of verbal abuse too.

But I don't think you would have bothered about thinking of their side the story in Singapore, and accorded them the same apologies for ranting at them.

Modifying your own behaviour always makes others more receptive to you, whatever country you are in.

July 01, 2006 4:04 PM  
Blogger KnightofPentacles said...

anonymous:

I would never dream of ranting and raving at a Singapore official. Especially one in uniform. The risk - and penalty - of getting arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the very efficient Singapore legal system is just too high for a serf without connections to the elite for recourse.

Modifying my own behaviour of my volition to achieve a more harmonious life is very different from behaviour modification as a result of social engineering.

July 10, 2006 1:18 PM  

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