“Rules apply to you, too,” Maxwell said to himself as he started his car again and the cop waved him on like a gentleman. Waiting at the red light, he thought back to his days living on 15th Street between Dolores and Church, a few paces from where he was now waiting for the light to turn green. He was thirty back then living in a precious flat on 15th Street that was often packed with parked cars, only inches apart most of the time.

At night after catting about, Maxwell could never find a parking place—so he parked in red zones, corner spots wedging his car in and rarely paying attention to the Street Cleaning signs that started at 6:am–those got the best of him. He racked up 1800.00 dollars’ worth of tickets, smiling to think of how he managed to get out the ticket fees. It was a Monday morning, he sat in SF Traffic court among fifty others—the room was smothering and silent, the poor to the owning class pondering how to ask the court for mercy.

The judge was a no-nonsense woman of about fifty-five with short gray hair and glasses, Person after person asked for understanding and she didn’t budge. She’d hit her gavel, said pay the fine downstairs at window one and called the next person, “Maxwell Saunders.” Max got up; he was wiry thin and a bit pale. He’d racked walked up to her, stood silently as she reviewed his multiple citations. She lifted her head—”You know that’s a tough neighborhood to park in. I can see why you have these tickets. I will reduce this to 800.00. How will you pay?” Max. kept his eyes slightly lowered. “If I could,” he said. “I would like to do Project Twenty—Volunteer at Shanti Project.”

“A good organization.” She half-smiled. And handed Max a slip. Max thought maybe she thinks I have AIDS or she is a sister lesbian camouflaged in a judge’s cloak.

He walked out whistling. He directed the largest Program at Shanti and knew he could get George the Operations Manager to sign off. Arriving at work he soon found George near the back supply room. “Hey George. I need you to sign these hours off—tickets.”

“Maxwell, you work here.” George pushed his wire frame glasses up his non-descript nose and shook his head. George was an alcoholic in AA for ten years—was honest in all his affairs like the good book says, but Max knew he could tip George back into a drinker’s mind with gentle prodding.
“Just sign it George, we work hard.”

Maxwel,” George sighed then took the black pen and signed.

“Don’t date; I will.” Max smiled. This only fed Max’s belief that breaking rules, wasn’t necessarily costly. Afterall, he got off free.

But today, after being pulled over by the cop, it would be more difficult. “There are two problems here,” The cop had told him, after he directed Maxwell out of the street towards the curb. “One, the sign that says don’t enter right before Market Street, that’s a moving violation. The other is riding on the red pavement for Muni only.”

“Oh, really!” Max said; “I didn’t know you couldn’t cross over Market.”

“The sign is back there;” The cop pointed behind him.”

“And the infraction, what it’s called, is driving on the red pavement.” Max put his head down. He wanted to tell him it was actually watermelon colored, but hesitated.

“What are you supposed to do, officer?” Max played ignorant.

“Not cross over to begin with.” The cop steeped closer towards Max lowering his timbre.

“Well, that’s If you can follow these multiple signs and arrows, bus lanes, divided bike paths. It’s like a puzzle. Pretty soon, they will add a dog walking lane.” Max murmured.

“Do you have your license and registration?” Max handed it to him.

“I’ll be right back.” The forty-something cop with the kind eyes walked to his car.

Max sat kind of numb. I am going to be late for school. He pondered. You’re seventy-two Max, I don’t think the professor cares. But Max cared. He liked school and always wanted to come out on top. Then he cocked his head around to see if the cop was almost finished. He had to shit, but that would have to wait.
Maxwell was fidgety. When Officer No-Name returned, he said, “I will only give you the infraction. Muni has been complaining, so that’s why I am stationed here. They are installing cameras very soon –no need for me.” He raised his cap from his head.

“I see,” Max half smiled; “But officer, you can drive through, going North.”

“No,” the officer said and turned around; “Awe, you are correct; you can.”

“I know, I do it often—that’s why this whole thing is confusing—doesn’t equate.” Max knew very well he shouldn’t have crossed going South, in fact he crossed three times a week at a minimum-thinking the whole set up was a nuisance. but he gave his theory a try.

“Thanks again,” the cop said.

This wasn’t new behavior. Max, over the years, took chances and there were consequences, he usually maneuvered his way out of. Hey, he had gotten off many times when he was forty after being caught driving the wrong way in the Marin Headlands on a scooter—his passenger had no helmet, Max’s registration was locked in his glove compartment, he had no key and his license was home. Two weeks later standing in front of the judge with his papers in hand, she said, “Show me your license and registration.” He handed them to her. “Dismissed;” Then she looked at him. “Be smart, pay attention, wear a helmet.” “Oh, yes ma’am.” But he knew he never would.

As the light turned green, he turned right on to Dolores. “Rules apply to you too, Maxwel,” he said again as if it was a novel idea, then lit a cigarette. He exhaled thinking that he would go to court and say he thought that block of Church Street was painted red for Valentine’s Day like in the eighties. He laughed to himself, but did not rule it out. If the cop didn’t show, it will be dismissed but if not, he could try on the grounds of confusion– use the watermelon-colored road defense.

And then like a Hot-rodder, he high-tailed it towards City College.

Andrew Pelfini published an anthology of works taken from the Intergenerational Writers in San Francisco of which he has been a member for over twenty years. Andrew is a psychotherapist and educator by trade and in the evenings can often be found at the barr, of the Academy of Ballet.