Pleading parking stupidity might be the ticket

Columnist Dan Rodricks' vehicle parked illegally at a bus stop. Will the "guilty but mostly stupid" defense get him out of a ticket?
Columnist Dan Rodricks' vehicle parked illegally at a bus stop. Will the "guilty but mostly stupid" defense get him out of a ticket? (Dan Rodricks)

I am preparing my argument for leniency in the matter of a $77 parking fine, and it looks like, for the first time in my life, I will have to enter the Rodricks Plea.

Over the years, I've suggested that Congress or state legislatures make this plea ("guilty but mostly stupid") an official option for the fools who failed at crime — the would-be bank robber who wrote a stickup note on his personalized stationery; the jewelry store burglar who got stuck in a chimney for a weekend. You know, a little mercy for dopes.


So now it's my turn to invoke it. When I go to Parking Court, I will enter the Rodricks Plea. Here's what happened:

Seeking a parking spot on 36th Street in Hampden, so as to purchase a morning cup of coffee across The Avenue at Common Ground, I failed to notice a sign signifying a bus stop. My attention went instead to another sign indicating a pay-to-park zone. So I became focused on the need to purchase time from the EZ Park kiosk and display the receipt in the car window.


I never noticed the bus stop.

A diligent law enforcement agent, D. Frierson, did, however. Frierson left a red-and-white citation under my wipers: $77 for parking in a transit zone.

I don't knock Frierson. I can't knock anyone. I won't even try to make the case that the bus stop in question is so huge — enough room for two MTA buses bumper to bumper to the corner of Chestnut Avenue — that it's ridiculous for the city to charge me $77 for taking up 120 inches of it for 47 minutes. But I won't go there.

I'll just plead stupidity.

I could say that I was determined to pay for parking to avoid those outrageously high fines that the mayor and City Council extort from hardworking citizens. I could argue that I was so focused on obeying one law that I inadvertently violated another. But that would come across as pretentious or preposterous — and just a little too precious.

So I won't go there.

I won't even argue that, instead of patrolling the largely empty streets of a retail and entertainment zone for parking violations at 8 o'clock on a weekday morning, an agent of the city should be going around handing us slices of carrot cake and thanking us for supporting local businesses — with an extra slice for those of us who live in the city with the highest property tax rate in the state! But I won't go there.

On advice of counsel, I'll just walk into Parking Court on the appointed day and look contritely at the judge and enter the Rodricks Plea — guilty but mostly stupid — and beg the mercy of the court.

You tell him

Gov. Martin O'Malley was scheduled to be in South Carolina again today to campaign for the Democratic candidate for governor there. He was in New Hampshire. He was in Iowa before that. MOM thinks he can be president some day, perhaps as early as 2016 if Hillary Clinton decides to become a regular on "The View."

I know: Most of you take a dim view of it. But let the lad dream, I say. Who among us wants to tell him he can't grow up to be president?

Who wants to break the news that, after eight years as Maryland governor, a speech at the Democratic National Convention, a stint as president of the Democratic Governors Association and numerous appearances on national talking-head TV, only 1 percent of registered Democrats in the most recent Washington Post/ABC News said they would vote for him?


Who wants to tell him about the thoroughly unflattering story in The New York Times the other day, the one that described O'Malley as "inauthentic" and "hammy," while noting his "fixed and blank gaze" and his tendency to "underwhelm on the stump"? Who wants to break this news to the poor, self-deluded fellow?

I know I don't.

A sight to see

I have a secret wish: That Troy Polamalu's hair falls off during Sunday's Ravens-Steelers game.

Spare the duck

I recently had the pleasure of serving as narrator for the Baltimore Philharmonia Orchestra's performance of Prokofiev's "Peter And the Wolf" at St. Anthony of Padua Church. Wonderful experience, but for the odd ending of the story — the poor duck is still alive inside the captured wolf as Peter and the hunters cart him off to the zoo. What are children to make of that? This unsatisfying conclusion either confuses them or gives them ghastly visions of a duck being digested alive.

Prokofiev wrote the music and narration for "Peter and the Wolf" in Stalin-era Moscow in just four days. I think he blew the ending. Plus, it was 1936, and the Heimlich maneuver had not yet been invented. I say to all orchestras who choose to perform this piece from now on: Have the hunters give the wolf the Heimlich so that the duck pops out, and we'll all live happily ever after.

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