Sunday, July 30, 2023

"That's the Ticket"

By Jerry Zezima

I’ve got a ticket to hide. Actually, I’ve got four tickets that the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles thought I was trying to hide.

I plead ignorance, which I can say about practically any situation that involves me, because the parking citations were issued for a car that didn’t belong to me, in a place where I no longer lived, at a time dating back to the turn of the century.

The mystery began recently when I received a letter from a collection agency informing me that the vehicle in question received four parking citations, totaling $120, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in September 2002, October 2002, May 2003 and November 2003.

Curious as to why it took so long to get hold of me, and wondering if anyone who owned a Model T was also on the list, I called the collection agency and spoke with a nice person named Sarah.

I explained that I have never owned a car of that make and model and that it wasn’t registered to me. I added that while I was born and raised in Stamford, Connecticut, I moved to Long Island, New York, in 1998.

“The account is still collectible,” Sarah said.

“If it takes me 20 years to pay the tickets, would that be OK?” I asked.

“I can’t give you any legal advice,” Sarah told me, “but if this isn’t you, contact the state DMV.”

I called and, after being on hold for about the length of time it would take to drive to Connecticut, spoke with a friendly young woman named Taylor, who said, “When we have people who inquire about tickets that weren’t for them, I direct them to the tickets department. Unfortunately, I don’t have a number for them. They only communicate through email.”

After Taylor gave me the email address, I asked, “Have you ever gotten a ticket?”

“No,” she said proudly. “I don’t have any parking violations or speeding tickets. I’m very careful.”

Duly impressed, I thanked Taylor and sent the following email to the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles.

Dear DMV:

I recently received a letter from a collection agency about four parking tickets for a vehicle I never owned. Not only that, but the tickets, issued in Bridgeport and totaling $120, were from 2002 and 2003. That’s 20 years ago!

I suspect that the car belonged to my daughter and that I co-signed the loan. Frankly, my name must be on half the documents in the United States. I’m surprised the matter didn’t come up during the debt negotiations.

Anyway, here are my questions:

Since the car technically wasn’t mine, do I have to pay the tickets?

Isn’t there a statute of limitations on this sort of thing?

If not, will you give me 20 years to clear it up?

Speaking of the time lag, why did it take the DMV so long to pursue the issue?

I am now 69. I will turn 70 in January. I think a nice 70th birthday present from you to me would be to drop the whole stupid thing. I’ll use the $120 to buy myself something. Or I’ll put it toward my car loan.

If you insist I pay the tickets, I will take the same amount of time you took to send this matter to a collection agency. That means I will be nearing 90. I may not even be around then, in which case you should contact my daughter. Good luck getting money from her.

Thanks, DMV. I look forward to hearing back from you. Till then, take care, buy a calendar for the office and watch where you park.


Jerry Zezima

I received an email response from Ramon, who said the DMV doesn’t have any record of the car being registered in my name and that my email was forwarded to the Bridgeport Parking Authority.

I called the authority and spoke with a pleasant and helpful person named Giselle, who said, “In Connecticut, parking tickets do not have a statute of limitations. The farthest back I could find was 1990. Unfortunately, the city of Bridgeport was $100 million in debt for parking tickets.”

“I’ve put two daughters through college, including the one who owned the car that was ticketed, and I’m $100 million in debt,” I said.

Giselle laughed and admitted that she once got a parking ticket.

“I could say I’m guilty,” she said. “But I took responsibility and paid it.”

Giselle added, much to my relief, that I’m not guilty.

“I’m emailing the collection agency,” she said. “It will be taken care of.”

“After all these years, I’m off the hook?” I said.

“Yes,” Giselle replied. “But if you come back to Connecticut, be careful where you park. You don’t want to get a ticket.”

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, July 23, 2023

"Headed Off at the Password"

By Jerry Zezima

I’m a mild and lazy guy. That’s the only reason I haven’t been driven stark, raving mad by an evil cabal I am convinced is now running my life and has turned it into one big gaslight job.

There is no other explanation for the fact that every business, organization, outlet, entity, agency or group I must deal with requires me to have a username and a password that don’t work and must be changed every damn time I try to log in to one of their websites.

I envision shadowy figures in a small room ringed with screens that show me on my computer, attempting to pay a loan or trying to get the information I need to meet my obligations and stay out of either jail or, more likely, the loony bin.

“Look,” chortles the ringleader, “he’s banging his fist on the desk and cursing a blue streak because he can’t log in!”

“Let’s make sure his password doesn’t work!” a henchman chimes in.

“How about his username?” another one asks.

“We’ll force him to come up with a new one!” a lieutenant says gleefully.

“And that won’t work, either!” says a fellow fiend.

“Brilliant!” they all agree.

“And when he calls for assistance,” the ringleader sneers, “he’ll be put on hold for an eternity. Ha ha ha ha ha!”

It just so happens that I did call for assistance recently after being rebuffed in my several maddening attempts to log in to a website so I could find out when the next loan payment is due and whether I could get an extension.

“I apologize for the inconvenience,” a very nice customer care representative named Darlene said when I finally got through. “More than likely, you tried to log in to the old website.”

“Is there a new website?” I wondered.

“We have old and new systems in place,” Darlene answered. “I know it’s a big headache.”

“At this point,” I said, “the ache is in a lower portion of my anatomy.”

Darlene chuckled and said, “I hear you.” Then she added, “Go to the new website and log in.”

“My username doesn’t work,” I said when I tried. “I got a new username last week after being told that the one I had before was no good.”

“What happened?” Darlene asked.

“The new username did, indeed, work,” I said. “But when I went back on the website, it didn’t work anymore. So I had to use the old one.”

“Did it work?” Darlene inquired.

“Yes,” I said. “But it doesn’t work now.”

“What do you see on your screen?” Darlene asked.

“It says, ‘We’re sorry. We can’t find the User ID and Password combination you entered. Remember, your Password is case sensitive. Please go to Forgot User ID or Forgot Password, or try to log in again,’ ” I told her.

Darlene said I should use the new-old username. Or the old-new one. By that time, I was totally confused. But at least it worked. Unfortunately, what I thought was my password didn’t. So Darlene texted me a new, temporary password that looked like the electron configuration for boron.

“You can change it to whatever you want,” she said. “But don’t use your previous password.”

“I can’t remember what the hell it was anyway,” I confessed.

I chose a password that was no good because it wasn’t alphameric, a term that encompasses letters and numerals but not certain symbols. I was disappointed since I would have chosen a raised-finger emoji.

So I picked an acceptable password and, utilizing my sophisticated filing system, wrote it down on a Post-it Note.

I ignored a box that allowed me to write a password hint because, after suggesting one to Darlene, she said, “I don’t think you can use swear words.”

“Have you helped other people who’ve had these problems?” I asked.

“All the time,” said Darlene.

“Has it ever happened to you?” I asked.

“Not at this company,” Darlene replied. “But it’s happened with other institutions.”

“At this rate, I’ll end up in an institution,” I said. “The only way out is if I forget my password.”

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, July 16, 2023

"I'm All Wet"

By Jerry Zezima

There’s no fool like an old fool who tries to keep cool in a pool with granddaughters who prove it’s girls who rule.

That’s the lesson I learned from the little mermaids, whose aquatic exploits made me feel like a fish out of water.

My wife, Sue, and I were guests at the pool club where our granddaughters, ages 10 and 6, are members (along, of course, with their parents, who joined using liquid assets).

I hadn’t been in an Olympic-size swimming pool since approximately the 1996 Summer Games, in which I didn’t compete because I was already on the verge of decrepitude. Besides, if one of the events had been the dog paddle, I would have been beaten by our late pooch, Lizzie.

Mark Spitz or Michael Phelps I am not.

I’m also not a merman, the male equivalent of the mythical creatures my granddaughters pretended to be.

“You can be a dolphin,” the younger girl told me.

“You mean like Flipper?” I asked, referring to the cetacean star of the 1960s TV series of the same name.

A woman about my age who had overheard this exchange smiled and said to me, “You’re dating yourself.”

“No one else will go out with me,” I replied.

“Not even your wife?” the woman asked.

Sue, who was standing a few feet from us, pretended not to hear. Then she turned around and swam away.

Speaking of hearing, my left ear immediately became clogged, which in my case is known as water on the brain.

“Tilt your head and hop on one foot,” my older granddaughter instructed.

It worked so well that, five seconds later, my right ear became clogged.

But it didn’t detract from the fun I was having with the girls, who both proved to be champions in underwater ballet, the older one doing backward somersaults and the younger one doing pirouettes.

“You try it, Poppie,” my older granddaughter said, referring to the floating flip.

I got about a third of the way over before water went up my nose.

“Blow it out!” my younger granddaughter implored after I popped to the surface.

“I don’t want to get boogers in the pool,” I spluttered.

They both chortled. They did the same when I tried to do a handstand that was so bad, my younger granddaughter declared, “That was terrible!”

I couldn’t even get the hang of the pool noodle my younger granddaughter was using. She filled the foam tube, which has a hole in either end, and said, “Look, Poppie!”

When I looked, she blew water out of one end directly into my face.

I had better luck on a float that a woman named Margot let me try.

“Jump up and put your rear end in the bottom,” she said.

I noticed a pocket on the right side of the float.

“It’s for drinks,” Margot said.

“Like beer?” I wondered.

“Whatever you want,” she answered.

“At this point, I could use one,” I said.

Since the pool club is part of a marina, Margot asked if I have a boat.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Where do you keep it?” she inquired.

“In my bathtub,” I replied.

She chuckled and said to the girls, “You have the best grandparents!”

“Nini is nice,” the older one said, referring to Sue.

The younger one added, “Poppie’s crazy.”

I asked the lifeguards — a young man and a young woman who looked to be in college — if they ever had to save a geezer like me.

“Not yet,” the guy responded.

“I hope today isn’t the first time,” his partner said.

It wasn’t, even though I proved to be anything but Olympic material.

At least there weren’t any pooches to beat me in the dog paddle.

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima