In its Teutonic abhorrence of perceived disorder, the city of Milwaukee has long instituted night parking restrictions – which are utterly pointless because, as anyone who lives here has noticed, they have not aided the city in clearing away snow and ice from parking spaces, and also because anyone can get permission to park overnight for any reason merely by calling or filling out an online request form.
So, basically, night-parking citations are for the dull, the lazy, and out-of-towners who didn’t happen to catch the handful of signs posted as you enter the city.
But that hasn’t stopped the city from trying to fool its citizens into parking illegally and becoming cash cows for its coffers. First, note that the regulations prohibit parking from 2 am to 6 am, and that when you get permission, you must park on a particular side of the street. Here’s the language from the city’s website pertaining to the restrictions, which you see as you’re applying for permission:
On even-numbered calendar days (before midnight) a vehicle with a valid night permit must be legally parked on the side of the street with even house numbers; on odd-numbered calendar days (before midnight) a vehicle must be parked on the side of the street with odd house numbers.
And when you fill out the form (as I did last night – which was February 12), the confirmation page that comes back looks sort of like this
Confirmation Number: 64212XU Parking Date: Friday, February 13, 2009 Address: 1 Buckingham Pl Vehicle info: KAR120C
Quick quiz: which side of the street was I supposed to have parked on last night?
The confirmation tells me I’m parking on the 13th, an odd-numbered date…so I should park on the odd-numbered side of the street, right? But wait – the instructions include the puzzling phrase “before midnight”: what does that mean?
It turns out to mean that I’m supposed to park on the even side of the street if the restriction occurs during an odd-numbered date, that’s what. At least that’s what I was told when, my brain threatening to boil over in an endless logic loop, I called the city last night to make sure I wasn’t going to get a ticket.
In other words, that phrase “before midnight” essentially reverses what would seem to be the meaning of the rest of the sentence, which suggests parking on even sides on even dates and vice versa.
The innocent explanation is that the city assumes people will be parking before midnight and will be thinking of that calendar date when they call in or fill out the online form. But it also assumes they’re too stupid to figure out that, between 2 and 6 in the morning when parking is actually restricted, it’ll be the next calendar date.
Of course, it would have been very simple to clarify: “You park on the same side of the street (even or odd) as the date before midnight, even though the restricted hours are after midnight and therefore on the next calendar date.” How hard is that?
Of course it’d be even simpler to just get rid of the pointless overnight parking restrictions, and restrict parking only if there’s snow (and then frakkin’ plow it) or for scheduled, posted street cleaning.
(When I mentioned in that phone call that the online instructions were confusing, I got Smug Cop Public Service Voice #37: “I’ll be sure to pass that on”; i.e., “like I give a rat’s ass about your problems – I’ve got important mustache-grooming tasks to do.”)