June 7, 2013

What’s in a parking ticket?

If you are ever in the city of Tsfat and you get one of those official looking papers tucked under your windshield wiper, run!  Sell your car and go live off the grid, because that’s probably easier than figuring out how to pay a parking ticket.

Having received my fair share of parking tickets in Israel, I do have experience with this.  Take, for example, Tel Aviv. I begrudgingly paid my ticket right away using a convenient phone service.  To help facilitate any issues, there’s a website in English with a Tel Aviv parking violation page. 

In Ra’anana, where they love to take one’s money, it’s the same. But beware of bringing a car anywhere near Ra’anana, as menacing pkachim will stealthily hunt you down. Those “Men in Black” with their dark shades sneak around on their silent electric motorbikes handing out tickets even before you pull the keys from the ignition.

A Tsfat parking ticket is, well, artistic in an abstract sense. Look at the ticket upside down, sideways, front and back; you will see words, but gather no concrete information. There is no place on the ticket that tells you how to pay it. You may make out something about the Doar, the place Israelis line up all day long and perform the most bizarre, un-post office related activities imaginable. Lining up to pay bills seems like a very backward activity for such a high-tech country, but that itself may be another blog entry and I’ve already had enough post-office related breakdown (see Burnt Quinoa and A Stamp).

I could not handle visiting the post office and spied a phone number way up in the corner of the ticket. This was a start; it was Monday at 1:00 p.m., regular office hours. The phone rang and rang. No one answered and there was no message. 

I then emailed a friend who knows everything and everyone in Tsfat. She has no car so has never had the opportunity to pay a parking ticket, but she dug up a phone number for a company in charge of parking tickets.

I called and explained the problem. They gave me another number and I called. The woman who answered the phone said this was the right place, but I needed to talk to Dina.

“She’s sitting shiva so call back in two days,” she said and hung up.

Where else in the world would you call an office and get such an answer? Outside  of Israel, a clerk would say, “She’s away from the office. Please call back in two days.”

This is a sweet reminder that Israel is an informal place and a tiny country where people talk to strangers like they are family, be it with kind, gruff or rude words. It reminded me of the time I was stopped at a red light and the driver in the car beside me signaled to me to pull down the window. I did and he asked me how much I paid for my car. When I told him, he screamed back, “Hah! You paid too much,” and took off.

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