I am not a morning person. At all. Even a little bit. Relationships of mine have ended in between the girl trying to get me up and me actually getting up. One time, at summer camp, I punched someone in the gut for trying to wake me up, while dreaming I was boxing Muhammad Ali. The only time I'm up during normal people's breakfast hours is when I pull an all nighter. I have slept through earthquakes, hurricanes, and keggers. Every alarm clock I've bought has killed itself after becoming overwhelmed with its own failure.
Fortunately, I'm a writer. Nobody gives a shit if I can wake up in the morning. I chose the perfect profession for my unfortunate malady. The only reason I ever have to wake up… is to move my car.
Unless you have had driveways for your car your entire life, you know the pain of 'Alternate Side of the Street Parking'. For those of you who don't, in order to clean the streets in big cities, cars need to not be parked there sometimes. So they give you two to four hours of the week, emblazoned on a tiny sign that's usually hidden behind some foliage, when you can't park there. That way, they can drive by with a massive machine that sweeps up all the garbage into it. The point is, if your car is there when the clock strikes 9am, it doesn't turn into a pumpkin, you just get a $65 ticket.
Does it look like I have $65 to you?
Well, 9am is not a time that I see with my own eyes very often, so when I do have to move my car, it's really, really bad. And then, a few weeks ago, I woke up at like noon, realized I hadn't moved my car, and promptly flew into a rage the likes of which had not been seen since someone told Kermit that it was easy being green, and he teamed up with the Hulk for some old-school Muppet vengeance.
But, while looking at the bright orange notice of incompetence, I realized something. It wasn't just the area directly around my car that wasn't clean. It was the whole block. So I walked a few blocks over to a street that was, allegedly, currently being cleaned. I stood around for a few minutes, looked around, and waited. The street was still covered in leaves from the fall. Amongst the rotting foliage, I found a receipt… from 2002.
Befuddled, I devised a plan. First, I would find a comfortable chair and a six-pack of beer. Then, next week, I would sit on the street from 9am-11am, when the spinny cleany truck was supposed to show up. My car, still parked in the forbidden zone, would be the bait. But I would be watching.
At 9:17 am, I blinked. Clearly, that was the wrong choice, because an instant later, I had a ticket on my windshield. I looked around and saw no one. But the street was still dirty, so obviously the truck hadn't come through. Frustrated at my failure, I waited till 11 just in case, finished the six pack, ate the ticket and then threw it all up on the hood of my car.
A week later, I had devised a new strategy. Standing on the hood of my car, with my arms outstretched and a bottle of cheap whiskey in one hand, cigarette in the other, I waited. If I didn't give them the space to give me a ticket, no matter how fast they did it, I could catch them. Then, from out of nowhere, I heard a soft thwap, and felt a twinge of pain in my leg.
The ticket was imbedded in my leg, and we all know that paper cuts are just the worst. I followed the trajectory and there, in the trees, was a ninja holding a meter maid's bag. The only reason I noticed him was the multitude of bright orange tickets sticking out of the bag- otherwise, he was the pinnacle of stealth.
See if you can find him!
I had to think quickly. I dropped my cigarette into what was left of the whiskey and threw it, in the hopes that the whiskey was cheap enough to catch and make a molotov cocktail. Unfortunately, it just put the cigarette out, but the bottle broke on the street. For a moment, I thought all had been lost, until I saw a blur move across the wet patch on the street, slip and collapse on the ground. Stupid ninja.
I limped over to the meter ninja, lying in the middle of the street like a foolish ninja who just slipped on some whiskey cause he wasn't looking where he was going. This was my chance! I tied him up, threw him in my trunk, and drove out into the middle of the desert.
As I was drunk, and this is my trunk, the ninja did not have a great time.
Once we were far out enough, I took him out and interrogated him.
"Whuuuuuut the hell, ninja dude? What is going on?"
"For the sake of expedience and exposition, my ninja code insists that I tell you all of the truths. I have been hired by the state of California to distribute tickets for Alternate Sides violations."
"So I assumed. But why aren't you doing ninja-y things?"
"The assassination market has completely crashed over the last few years. Most of us ninjas are out of work. The best we can do is minimum wage and decent benefits from a governmental body."
"Wow. That sucks, dude. But why aren't the streets getting cleaned?"
"The city has no money. Any money they spend has to return them something. If I don't get enough tickets a month to pay twice my salary, they sacrifice me in the Pit of Neverending Horrors over at the DMV. It happened to Horishi last week."
"Well, shit. I can't be mad at you now. That sounds like it sucks."
"Yeah, but you will be. You still need to pay that ticket."
I looked down at my bloody leg and laughed. The Ninja laughed too, and later I found out his name was Ichiro. We're good friends now, and I got him a better gig here at Crave doing our filing, though we've lost some good filing cabinets and an intern's hand. Speaking of which, the ticket is paid (I sold my tires), and the leg wound healed nicely. But my street is still filthy.