Haven’t Got Time for the Payin’

I hate paying for parking. You give money to someone, and what do you get in return? Nothing. You hand the money over, park your car, and leave the scene, usually to go spend more money somewhere else. All you’re paying for is the right to not drive your car for a while. Well, it’s your car! You should be able to not drive it whenever you want!

Even worse than paying for parking, of course, is paying for parking tickets, not just because they cost more, but because they indicate you were thwarted. You didn’t want to pay to park, so you found an illegal spot and gambled you’d be back before anyone noticed, and you failed, caught by The Man (who in this case is usually a woman, but still).

Having read the preceding paragraphs, it will not surprise you to learn that I am the recipient of parking tickets. If you are a longtime reader, it may not even surprise you to learn that these tickets were issued by BYU.

I wrote a column about getting parking tickets at BYU way back in 1997, when as a student there I single-handedly funded the new library with my parking tickets. If you get enough tickets, even if you pay them all, BYU eventually bans you from parking on campus anymore. This seems counter-intuitive, since the whole purpose of parking tickets is to make money, and why not let frequent recipients keep racking them up? I suppose it’s similar to how bartenders are required to stop selling you alcohol after a certain point, even though it would be more profitable for them to let you buy drinks until you pass out. At some point, if you can’t take care of yourself, someone has to take care of you for you.

Anyway, I was banned from parking in 1997, but was subsequently forgiven and permitted on campus again. I kept my nose clean, at least metaphorically, until I graduated in 1999. Then, in the early part of 2000, when I had to visit campus often for Garrens Comedy Troupe rehearsals, I racked up another eight tickets in rapid succession. This clearly was not my fault, however. We were rehearsing in a building that was not adjacent to any public parking, so I had two choices: walk a great distance, or park right next to the building in a faculty spot. Obviously, the decision was made for me.

So I got these tickets, and as is always the case when I am given a bill for something, my first thought was: How can I get out of paying this? (You should see me at tithing settlement.) Then it occurred to me that since I was no longer a student there, BYU had no power over me. All their usual threats — withholding transcripts, preventing class registration, damning to hell — held no sway when I wasn’t under their tutelage. So I decided not to pay the tickets at all, to see what, if anything, they would do.

And here’s what they do: They send a polite bill every month asking me to pay them.

It isn’t even a letter. It’s on green paper, with the heading “ACCOUNT STATEMENT,” followed by a list of my outstanding “transactions” with the Student Financial Services office. The total amount owed is $190. There is a part of the bill that can be detached and mailed in with my payment. An addressed envelope is enclosed.

I have received this document every month for the past four years. When I have moved, BYU has found my new address and the monthly bills have followed me. The bills never change; they never become more threatening or demanding, the way they would if a collection agency or even a human being were involved, rather than just a computer; there’s never even a letter enclosed. It’s just a statement of my “account.”

But here’s the thing — and BYU, if you are reading this, please pay close attention — I AM NEVER GOING TO PAY YOU. As long as I live, I will never pay those parking tickets, and my next of kin will be instructed not to pay them, either, and so on, through all eternity. It’s not that I dispute having earned them, or that I feel you are not deserving of my money. It’s that you’ve given me no incentive to pay them. A simple green-papered bill sent in the mail every month? Come on, BYU. You’ll have to do better than that. People who REALLY want to collect money from me send reminder letters and assign late fees and dispatch goons to confront me at my home. Frankly, I’m a little offended that you’d think you could get $190 from me just by ASKING. What sort of fool do you take me for?

(Note to BYU: If this column inspires you to send me a real letter and begin actively trying to get the money from me, I’m still not paying it. Like I have $190 lying around!)

There's also a parking ticket I got in Lake Elsinore, Calif., that I'm never going to pay, but there's not much story to it, so I didn't mention it in the column. But if any Lake Elsinore city employees have access to the Internet, and can read, and are reading this -- well, none of that's likely, so never mind.

For those not in the know, "tithing settlement" is a Mormon custom where at the end of the year you meet with your bishop for a few minutes and he asks whether you're a current tithe-payer. It's a chance for you to pay any tithing you've been procrastinating, to make sure what the church has in its records as to how much you've paid is accurate, and to get a statement for your tax returns, if necessary. It's not a "here's what you owe, you need to pay it" situation, so the analogy in the column doesn't exactly work, but you get the idea.