Where I work, the beginning of Fall is the busiest time of year. A few weeks ago, I had a rotten day. People had been rude on the phone, mistakes were made on multiple documents and packages, and more people than usual came into the office looking for assistance. The chaos was non-stop. When 5 o’clock finally arrived, I breathed a sigh of relief. Walking out the door, I said a prayer of gratitude that I did not have to bring work home with me.
You can imagine the look on my face when I saw a beige piece of paper on my car’s windshield. I walked faster, hoping it was just a solicitation that someone had tucked under my windshield wiper. Unfortunately, it was a dreaded parking ticket.
Now, normally I don’t park on the street, but when I returned from lunch to find a full parking lot, I didn’t have any other options. It wasn’t that big of a deal, it happens from time to time. People tend to come downtown for errands during their lunch breaks and thus parking becomes scarce. Usually, I just have to wait an hour or so until I can move my car from the street into our company parking lot. However, amidst the chaos of the busy day, the need to move my car had completely slipped my mind. I had violated the 2 hour parking maximum, and now I had to pay.
My chest tightened and I worried about how this fine would bust our monthly budget. The self-condemnation began, and I picked up the ticket, cringing in anticipation. Then I saw the amount of the fine.
FIVE DOLLARS. Never in my life have I seen a smaller vehicular ticket. Part of me was relieved… but another part of me (probably the tired part) was furious. Why would someone even bother to write a ticket if he or she was only going to fine me five dollars? It felt like a power play, a little slap on the wrist for violating the 2 hour time limit even though my car wasn’t causing a problem for anyone. After the rush hour during the middle of the afternoon, parking spaces were always plentiful. The officers know that this happens. They even watch us move our cars sometimes. We always try to do what we’re supposed to do. Why even bother writing the ticket at all?
Looking back now, I’m aware of the mercy the unknown officer was probably handing out. He could have fined me more. At the time, I was just too worked up to see the situation in a positive light. I drove to the gym to meet my husband and our lifting partners. In a huff, I told them the story and stubbornly insisted that I was going to pay the entire fine in pennies. My rationalization was this: I had been inconvenienced, so I was going to inconvenience them (really Christ-like, I know).
The guys were both amused and sympathetic. They emptied their pockets and wallets of all their change, came up with $11.34 worth of coins, and gave it all to me to pay for the ticket. That little act of love softened my heart. Their gift of loose change, enveloped with friendly humor, felt like a wink from God. “Okay…” I thought to myself, “this really isn’t a big deal….” I let go of my anger and annoyance, and swapped it for the grace which seemed to be mixed in the Ziploc baggie along with all the loose change.
I got over myself. I forgave the police officer who wrote me the ticket. I mailed in my payment (using paper money), and now, I can laugh at myself about it. However, I will never again forget to move my car when I have to park on the street.