Resolved - Ticket Issue #2098470312 - 10/28/04
A month ago I got pulled over when a cop spotted me not wearing my seatbelt from across the intersection. The only reason this happened was because A) I was a block from my house and hadn’t put my seatbelt on yet, B) I was wearing a bright orange shirt which contrasted with the lack of a black seatbelt, allowing him to see my offense from so far away, and C) I saw the cop, and thus made a deliberate, a-little-too-long stop at the intersection stop sign. Anyway, all this resulted in a ticket, another ticket for my tabs being expired, and a very complicated chart.

I love how they never tell you how much the ticket is going to be when it’s issued, I guess so you don’t totally blow your top right there in traffic. Instead, they make you wait with impending doom for three weeks until they get around to sending you the total in the mail. But for once, I was pleasantly surprised. The fine, from what I could glean from the convoluted form, was only $95. Thinking this might be a mistake, (perhaps it was for only one of the violations) but not wanting to tip them off, I went down the Redondo Beach police station and politely asked them if I had any violations on my record. After all, the tabs thing was correctable and I had fixed the problem. Mistake or no mistake, I might be able to get out of some finage.

The officer told me yes, both these violations had shown up and been billed, but he’d happily write me off on the tabs thing if I showed him my car and paid him $6 for processing, which I did. Apparently I had to go elsewhere to pay the rest of the balance though – despite the fact that I live in Redondo Beach and was pulled over in Redondo Beach, I had to drive to Torrance to pay the fine. Go figure.

I waited in a (refreshingly short) line at Torrance City Hall and showed them my proof of corrected plates. They said it checked out, and if I just paid them the $10 reduced fine, the tabs ticket would be dismissed. Which I did. Now all that was left was the $85 seat belt fine.

Wait a minute. $85 + $10 + $6? That’s $101 dollars. But the amount I had been billed in the mail was only $95. Had I actually been charged more for getting my tabs corrected, driving to two police stations and paying my fine in person? Apparently this was the case. Had I just mailed in a check for $95 everything would have been all clear. Now for all my conscientiousness, I was out an extra six bucks.

Remember when I vowed never to get the Spacemobile property registered in California? That was over six months ago and I have yet to reap a single negative consequence (except, I suppose, this 6 bucks that indirectly came out of forgetting to order more tabs from Minnesota). Shall I now vow never to get a correctable offense corrected? Apparently it can only hurt you if you do. Or was this one of those abstruse math puzzles like “three guys walk into a hotel and each pay $34 dollars for a $100 hotel room…” simply designed to keep sharp/aggravate all the friendly, math-loving citizens of Torrance/Redondo Beach?

It turns out, like many things, this was a clerical error. I was supposed to be charged $200 bucks for the tabs fine, plus $85 for the seatbelt ticket. But somebody screwed up and just billed me the already-corrected $10 tab rate. The $6 bucks I threw away at the Redondo Beach police station was my own fault for not capitalizing on their error. So wait, all this running around and puzzlement and erroneous billing just came down to the system screwing up? God forbid.

Service, B+. Bureaucracy, F-.

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