Lum: The parking plot thickens

Su Lum

Imagine my surprise when I found a $50 ticket on my car for parking in the exact spot, behind my shed in the alley, where it has been parked since August 1972.

Of course they were different cars over the years: the unpredictable MGBs, the hated Fiat, the Honda station wagon with the unfixable carburetor and a couple of sweet Toyotas prior to my current 2001 VW Beetle.

The Beetle carries the scars of countless hit-and-runs, was tromped on by a bear who left big footprints that I didn’t wash off for years and had its sunroof caved in by a refrigerator-size chunk of ice that slid off my shed, but it only has 46,000 miles on it and is a nice, sturdy little car.

The winter before last, during the Great Storm, a garbage truck got stuck in the alley and swiped off the Bug’s left mirror, but other than that, my vehicles, tucked up against the back of my shed (the shed bears the scars), have cased no harm or inconvenience to anyone that I know of.

I called the Parking Department to see what cooked, getting a nice lady who looked up my ticket number and said I’d been parked in the alley and that I had been given a ticket because someone had complained. Thinking of resolution rather than retaliation, I asked who complained, and she said she didn’t know, a premise I expect to look into down the line.

She said I could dispute the ticket online and, that failing, I could request a court hearing.

Having visited in the past, I was not overly optimistic when I logged on, but it only took a few minutes to find that typing “parking ticket dispute” in the search box took me to the complaint form I was seeking.

Not so fast — don’t count your chickens. I filled in all of my requested background information, and when I was finished I got a red asterisk by my email address saying, “The email address you have specified is already in use on another user’s account and cannot be added.”

Just as the spot in the alley behind the shed has been my only parking space, I have had one and only one personal email address, and I was not happy when I called the Parking Department again to ask what cooked and a nice lady named Rita told me that sometimes this happens and what I should do is open a new email account.

“Are you saying I need to open a separate email account to get the parking dispute form?”

“It’s really easy.”

“Easy for you to say — I’m almost 80.”

We had a laugh, and she said she will send me the form and not to worry about the 10 days I have to dispute the ticket, which was issued Sunday. Sunday they’re giving out tickets for parking in alleys?

While I’m waiting for the dispute form, I’ve been cogitating my response.

The city owns the lion’s share of every alley in town, and a huge chunk of parking is out of compliance. If we’re kicked out of the alleys, where will we park? Do you want us in the street?

Why was I given no warning?

How can you justify a tattletale system rather than general enforcement?

And you do ask for complainers’ names, don’t you? One time I called the police about a domestic hullabaloo (in the same alley), and the first thing they wanted was my name and address. A lawsuit recently determined that complainers’ names cannot be withheld.

I have a handicapped placard and may park on city streets, but this is not in the city’s best interests, and it is not in mine because it is so much easier for me to get my dachshunds safely into and out of the car when it’s in the alley, and it is almost impossible for me to lug in any groceries from the street.

To the complainer: I am sorry if I inconvenienced you. Stop by and I’ll make you cookies, and you can show me how to park better.

To everybody: You know for sure and certain that I would die of old age before I ever got permission from the Historic Preservation Commission, the Planning and Zoning Commission, the City Council and whoever else needs to approve it to knock down my shed and turn it into my private parking space.

Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks we can all get along. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at