Dan In Real Life

I first saw him walking down the main street of Hudson, swinging a ticket book, doling out parking violations for the famously greedy meters of the town.

Next time was at the bar. “That’s Dan,” they said. “He does the meters.” He was gruff, or maybe a little shy as he ordered a beer. His wife was friendly.

They were regulars, and I eventually graduated to an occasional wry chuckle from Dan. He especially got a kick out of it when I’d fill the beers too high, or leave a tap handle running by mistake. We developed our routine, me always asking what he’d like and he saying the exact same thing every time.

I went away by train for a few days, leaving the van parked on a residential, non-metered section of the Hudson main street. I came back to find a ticket on the windshield. Sent in the ticket with a letter of protest – there was no parking sign on the entire block! How was a driver supposed to know etc.

When I opened the letter from Hudson Parking Violations, it was signed by one Daniel McAlister. Dan! I felt almost honored. But he was requesting that I fill out a form giving the same information I’d already given in my letter.

Next time, when I was pouring the usual for Dan, I wondered if he knew I was Amelia Rigby, the way I knew he was Daniel McAlister. Like a priest sliding back the window of the confessional and recognizing the sinner on the other side, I wondered if Dan now thought of me as that scofflaw Rigby.

Annoyed by Dan’s pedantry but accepting that he was just a man doing a job, I filled out the form and mailed it in, but the next day I received another letter from Hudson Parking Violations, stating that because I’d never responded to the ticket, they were increasing the fine. I almost couldn’t sleep I felt so upset.

It’s me, Dan! I wanted to say. The one who always tries to make your beer extra nice, maybe because you’re gruff and taciturn. That’s just your way, I realized a while ago. The neutrality of the bartender/customer relationship best maintained with a companionable silence. I respect that, admire it even , as long as you don’t forget to tip us back here.

Next time I’m behind the bar, there’s Dan. I slide his beer across to him. “How are you doing, Dan?” I ask, maybe a little too meaningfully.

I wrote a response to the Parking Violations letter, saying how I did respond in a timely manner, and attached a copy of my previous letter and Dan’s response and my response to the Parking Violations response. I closed with “I await your response”.

Was it my imagination or was Dan a little more subdued than usual next time? His wife, always so sweet, was extra-friendly: “How are you doing, Amy?” Did I detect a note of concern in her voice? Was the stress starting to show?

Couldn’t I just say “Hey, what’s with the letter and extra fine? And anyway, where are the parking rules signs?” Instead, I asked him what he’d like and he asked for the usual, almost as if we’d never seen each other before.

Yesterday, a “Parking Adjudication” arrived, in response to my response to their response to my initial response. It said simply “Signs at all entrances, pay in full – $15”.

Entrances to what? To the town? I should stop the car, get out and read a sign on my way in to know where and when I’m allowed to park? What entrances? This is bullshit! I cried.

But I’ll be behind the bar again today and tomorrow, and Friday, and I just can’t handle the tension. I wrote out a check.

So Dan and I can go back to the way we were before.

17 thoughts on “Dan In Real Life

  1. Jason Stoneking

    You should say something to him! You don’t have to be accusatory or aggressive. But you could nicely ask if he knows anything about these “entrances” or if he could help explain to you how and why you got cited. I’m sure he wouldn’t feel bad asking you what goes into a screwdriver or a cosmo. It’s just a little shop talk. And why should he be able to give you a hard time when he’s at work, and then be immune for you saying anything to him when you’re at work? I know you’re trying to take the high road, but I relate to your tears of frustration. You haven’t been treated fairly, and yet you’re going out of your way to be more than fair yourself. I think it’s a bit one-sided. And personally, I would love to see the blog post about what happens when you bring it up with him.

    1. amyrigby

      Thinking I’ll buy him a drink this holiday season and say “Hey, let’s talk parking” – I imagine him giving a little chuckle. He probably gets buttonholed by every person in town for the same reason.

  2. Tim Brown

    Probably he’d say, “If i knew it was you I’d have taken care of it.” When I went for my draft physical long long ago I had a similar conversation with one of the orderlies there, when he discovered I lived around the corner from him.

      1. Tim Brown

        Had (still have) a significant hearing loss, went with proof, they put me in an airtight booth and tested me 3 times with a crazy computerized scheme designed to weed out cheaters with perfect pitch, first two came out like my doc’s test, 3rd i was half nuts pushing buttons at random. Went to see those in charge, they said you passed the 3rd one, “don’t worry, we’ll put you right up front where you can hear everything.” I pushed some more, guy says “what the hell, 4f him.” So i was out. In the locker room is where i met the orderly, who said, “if i knew you were from the Bronx (I lived there for 2 years) I would have fixed it with no trouble.”
        That was the same day where the drill sergeant leading us throughout the paperwork said, “line 14 is for your religion, if you have no religion, choose one now.”
        Vietnam days, around 1966. Before you were born.

  3. amyrigby

    I think I’ll just pay the $15 and be done with the ticket part of it – in my twisted way I feel like I’m saving $40 because they’d upped the fine to that and now have lowered it back to what it initially was. In the old days I would’ve treated myself to some forty dollar item, thinking that’s forty extra dollars I’ve got! I’m less deluded about money than I used to be…

  4. amyrigby

    You’re so right! I admit they only recently started charging for parking at the train station and I thought “ha – I won’t pay for that!” (it was probably cheaper than the $15 ticket)

  5. amyrigby

    Amazing story, Tim. “Don’t worry, we’ll put you right up front where you can hear everything.” “If you have no religion, choose one now.” Glad you were 4F!

  6. John Young

    Here in Ithaca, you have to move your car every night, or you are liable to get a ticket. There are no signs…except at the city limits.

    1. amyrigby

      That must be the Hudson scheme too. Then there is the famous stretch of 30 mph well outside of the town with nothing but marshes. Eric got a speeding ticket there recently – the locals call that spot “duck hunting” because the cops sit in the reeds and wait.

  7. Peter

    It costs that to park for an hour in London, and a parking fine is $90.
    It’s as well our wages are so astronomical…

    1. amyrigby

      Minimum wage or just above jobs are pretty much what are available around here. I could keep arguing but after three exchanges I have to believe my time is worth more than $15, even if it’s the principle I’m arguing. There was Dan right in front of me at the bar last night, I wanted to turn the computer to him and say “hey, you want to read something?” He seemed extra cheery (or maybe it was the beer).

  8. Pingback: Free Parking – Diary Of Amy Rigby

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