A few months ago -- in fact, it was May 18, "Taxi Appreciation Day" -- I got a ticket by the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) for making a turn during daytime non-turning hours. I figured it wouldn't hurt to fight it, since the fine was for $150, no small amount of change, so I went down to the big TLC building in Long Island City last week and -- guess what? I lost.
I don't know why I ever thought for a second I might get out of it, since I was indeed guilty and the TLC is definitely not renowned for forgiveness, but I was determined to try nonetheless. When I got into the hearing room, the ticketing officer recognized me right away. He had seen his own picture posted on the site and amiably complained to me that he looked like he was sleeping in the shot. He wasn't. He was simply looking down, writing my ticket.
We chatted for a few minutes while the administrative judge finished up the case just before mine, and then we got sworn in. The officer gave his testimony, I gave mine, then showed the judge pictures of how there are no signs at the intersection of 49th and 2nd Ave warning drivers that, if they turn on 49th, they'll be trapped on a "Thru-Street," meaning you can't turn off until Park. This didn't really matter, I guess. I still made the turn, even though I didn't mean to break the law.
The whole thing took about ten minutes, and when we got out of the hearing room, I joked with the officer, saying "I hope I never see you again." Then I spent close to an hour waiting for the decision, and here I got to observe the unruly chaos of the TLC adjudication floor. Men streamed in and out of hearing rooms, chatted loudly on cell phones in the waiting area, and cheap lawyers in shiny suits "advised" drivers about how to plead.
Finally, my name was called over the loudspeaker and I approached the information desk. They were handing back decisions, and when I got up to the front, the woman behind the counter handed me a piece of paper and said, "Go to the cashier. Have a nice day." There was no joy in her voice, just a not-quite-polite monotone that seemed to come from repeating the same words over and over all day everyday.
The paper read as follows:
The Inspector credibly testified that, during an assignment at the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 49th Street, on May 18, 2006 at 4:02 pm, he observed the driver/respondent in a taxi approach the intersection in a westbound direction and make a left onto Lexington Avenue (southbound) from East 49th Street. He testified that a sign was posted (facing east on 49th Street onto Lexington Avenue) stating "No left turns Monday thru Friday, 10:00am - 6:00pm." He then stopped the vehicle and personally issued summons to the respondent.
In her testimony, the respondent stated that the testimony of the inspector was accurate, but that she did not intentionally violate the "no turn" rule. She testified that she did not see the sign due to the volume of traffic.
Even though the respondent may not have intended to violate the "no turn" rule, this is not a valid defense to a violation of TLC Rule 2-21B2, as set forth in this summons.
Accordingly, a violation of 2-21B2 is sustained.
I guess the judge wasn't interested in my little "lack of a sign on 2nd Avenue" defense. (Note to DOT: Put a damn sign up there already.) But my main problem with the whole thing was that I'd rather get a ticket for something I actually meant to do, rather than just for some stupid mistake I made.
I paid my $150 at the cashier and vowed to never make that stupid mistake ever again.