LOW ON emergency supplies? Worried about Isabel coming our way, cutting power and depriving us of normal, pleasant living for a few days? Just reach for your post-9/11 supplies, all the stuff you put away during the anthrax scares. Can't find the post-9/11 supplies? Then use your Y2K reserves, the bottled water, batteries and Spam you put away in anticipation of turn-of-millennium chaos. If you can't find any of this stuff, relax. It's probably all downstairs in the basement and will float up to the kitchen in a day or so.
I have been to Parking Court. I have heard the stories. I have heard the lies. My God, the lies! The things people will say on the record, under oath, in the presence of others -- including a presiding judge of the District Court of Maryland -- to get out of paying a $20 fine will shock and amaze you.
OK, maybe not shock.
And maybe not amaze.
Maybe you'll just sneer. Or just shake your head.
Or fall asleep, forcing the bailiff to slap you awake.
But, seriously, judges in Parking Court hear more excuses than Jenny Craig.
"There is more perjury committed in Parking Court than any other court in the land," a judge told me in 1984, and he asked that I not give his name because he didn't want his low opinion of the public to be made public. (All these years later, there's another reason why I won't give his name -- I forgot it.)
But what we're talking about here isn't felonious mendacity so much as creative excuse making, the art of stretching the facts like Silly Putty to form a reason for letting a parking meter expire.
Remember telling the teacher a story to explain why you didn't finish The Young Thomas Edison for a book report? ("Daniel has a very active imagination.") It's like that.
Some people have no shame. They employ the Diarrhea Defense, telling vivid tales of how gastrointestinal ailments prevented them from feeding a meter or parking in a legal zone.
A woman left her car parked in a fire lane because, she said, she spotted her husband about to enter a downtown hotel with The Other Woman and had to confront him.
Two women once told Carl W. Bacharach, a District Court judge in Baltimore for many years who died in 1990, that they left their car in a no-parking lane to run matches into the St. Jude Shrine to light candles during Holy Week. He cut the women a break. "What was I going to do?" he said. "I couldn't tell two nuns they were lying."
Sometimes judges reduce fines. In the long, tiresome drone of cases and excuses, they can become softies for a good story or creative defense. Judge Barbara Baer Waxman heard a good one Friday, and she thinks it was the best in her 12 years on the bench. I would put this excuse into the category of Killing 'Em With Cute.
A woman named Roberta Cook came into Parking Court to appeal a $52 fine for illegally parking in the Federal Hill area during an event at Camden Yards. (Cook was lucky. As of Sunday, the fine for illegal parking in certain neighborhoods during "stadium events" increased from $52 to $240; plus, the city now impounds vehicles.)
Cook stood before Waxman and read what she called "a letter from my dog." I'm going to quote it. But let me just warn my readers -- this thing is riddled with cute and involves a dog named Gigi. Here goes:
"Dear Judge, I am a new puppy, Gigi, and the second day with my owner she took me to Federal Hill Park and it was such a beautiful happy place for me. When we returned to our car my owner was upset and surprised that she had a ticket on her car. There wasn't a meter and we didn't realize that we couldn't park there. The meter lady was ticketing lots of cars and we asked her if we could stand trial because we are new to the city and didn't realize that it was baseball parking and we just wanted to walk in the park.
"Please -- ruff ruff -- give us a second chance because I was a country pumpkin dog and now I am a city slicker. I love Baltimore. My owner is a senior citizen and has many new experiences because of me."
The courtroom gallery was amused. So was Waxman, delighted at "the most creative defense I've ever heard for a parking ticket." She cut Cook's fine to $10.
Of course, had it been me, I would have tripled the woman's fine for having a dog named Gigi. That is inexcusable.
God bless Edna
Bruce Vilanch is a big smile in the role of Edna Turnblad in the production of Hairspray at the Mechanic. Crossed-up in frumpy housedress, then ostrich-feather boas, and making no effort to feminize his voice, he's your huge, hairy Highlandtown hon. All dolled up at the show's spectacular finish, Vilanch asked the 9/11 audience to join him in singing "God Bless America" because of the occasion and "because at this very moment I look just like Kate Smith."
Itchin' to meet
Spotted Tuesday night on Route 26, Eldersburg: Pontiac LeMans from the 1960s -- I'm guessing '66 or '67 -- green, with fake green woman's hand sticking out of trunk. "Poison Ivy" painted on right quarter panel, with ivy leaves. Blissful, Hairspray-ish female driver at the wheel. Get in touch. We want to party.