I will admit I’m “guilty” of crossing an empty street devoid of traffic in Downtown LA. The only witness was an LAPD motorcycle officer who I suspect was in a bad mood or trying to fill a quota. Apparently all the murderers, gangbangers and dangerous drivers have been caught, and LA would be safe if only I was not walking in it. “Do you realize how dangerous it is to cross the street,” he asked – seriously. “This is a long block, and there’s not a single car”, I reply, thinking, “I’ve been crossing streets successfully for over 35 years, you idiot, don’t you have anything better to do?” Next time I patronize my favorite, wonderful French lunch cafe, Angelique, I’ll drive.
The indignity of receiving the ticket was nothing compared to the process of resolving it. Not only did the “courtesy notice” promised by the cop not arrive in the mail, I woke in a panic the day before the ticket was due only to read that you must send payment at least 10 days before the due date. On to the LA County Superior Court website where I discover first that the bail is only $25. Whew, I can live with that. Log into their brutally efficient payment system (with $10 conveniece fee, just like everyone else), only to discover my jaywalking costs $124 to resolve!
Not wanting to give up so easy, I call the court clerk to find out why my lunch should now cost me $134 – there must be some mistake. Here’s where voice response hell breaks loose. Not only is the LA County Court phone perpetually busy, but when you get through, you cannot even speak to a person without entering your drivers license and confirming your name, language, ticket, etc. which takes about 10 steps, with long, detailed explanations along the way. Pressing ‘0’ gets nowhere.
When I finally got into the operator queue, the system informed, “there are too many people waiting, please call later”, and then hung up. Arghh! This happened to me 4 times. The system even says to call back during early afternoons on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Hmm, it’s Tuesday at 1pm… Finally, I get into the queue, only to be told “You are number 79…” counting down for the next 35 minutes. The surly clerk, who only speaks with citizens pissed off at not only receiving tickets but having to work nearly an hour to get through, could not explain why the ticket now cost so much, and promptly directed me back into voice response hell.
My spirit broken, having wasted nearly 90 minutes of work time, resigned to getting a “prior conviction” noted on my record, I pay the damn ticket. I have now lost respect of the LAPD and the Superior court which, which has made a system so “efficient” that a normal working person has no chance to dispute it but must resign, pay, and try to move on.
As a technologist, I marvel at the comprehensiveness and rigidity of both the website and the voice response system. The vendor can be proud. It does its job: shift the burden away from the court, make the people pay, eliminate exceptions and maximize revenue. But next time, I’ll drive.