Monday, May 23, 2011

Ticket Tom and The Yard Sale Fiasco

Ticket Tom has been my arch enemy.  It started a long time ago . . . 

For years, I'd heard about the guy, how he gave my friend a ticket because she took her dog into a No Dog Zone.  I heard how he gave tickets to people who left their trailers parked next to the curb for over three days.  Ticket Tom fined my neighbor for having a fire pit.  He fined my friend for having grass that stood too long!

I saw the guy driving in his little Code Enforcement car, but I never met him.  I never got to see him up close . . . not until my yard sale.

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I thought it would be great to have a yard sale.  I planned in innocence because I didn't know what lurked in the future.  I knew I'd get rid of a bunch of things.  Plus Grandma Gertie would help me and then I could spend time with that woman I love to be around.  Sure, I'd have to put up a ton of neon signs, but as soon as that was over, things would be great.

Gertie helped me watch the kids while I taped signs to poles and stuck others in city grass.  I'd made twenty signs--a bit excessive, I know--but I was that excited to sell stuff!  I only ended up placing ten signs.  I was really proud, so I leaned back in my minivan's awesome seats and drove like I was a Viking sailor.  I went to do a drive-by past the signs I'd taped first.  I turned my oldies music loud and grinned toward the rising sun.  But when I drove past the first signs, they weren't there!  I went to the next signs.  They were gone too.  I gulped my steaming coffee, looked like a bull with red fuming out its ears.  I drove to the next sign and the next, until I saw Ticket Tom, driving away from the scene of the crime where he'd just pulled another sign.  That stupid Code Enforcement car looked cute as he drove away, and I wanted to sock that ex-cop in the nose!

I called my neighbor.  "What the heck?  Does he have the right to do that?"

"I guess so.  City regulations states that you can't put signs on any city property.  You can stick the signs in people's yards though."

"Seriously?"

I felt lucky I'd only used half the signs.  I called Gertie and told her I'd be a bit longer because Ticket Tom was the devil in human guise.  I drove to people's houses and asked permission to put signs in their yards.  I met some great people, even had lemonade at one house and a cookie at another.  So, after I met a bunch of people, including a cashier from the grocery store, I went to the last corner.  The house reeked of pomposity.  They had this immaculate yard and decorations that made me jealous in an "I love flamingos" sort of way.  I knocked on the door once, twice, but no one answered.  That's when I decided to put my sign there anyway.  I smiled like the Grinch, that one time, before Christmas.  I sneaked, picking my legs up high and looking from side to side.  I drove that sign into their yard, and then as if the thing didn't have my address on it, I jumped into my car and drove away.  I felt cool then, like a one legged kangaroo who's still got it and can win any butt kicking contest!

I couldn't believe I'd just stuck my sign into some schmuck's yard.  I giggled, remembering how I'd heard about kids doing that, except the kids had been way cooler--what they did was epic.  They'd take realtor's "for sale" signs and put them into other people's yards.  I guess it was pretty funny when the occupants would call the realtor.  "Why is your sign in my yard?  That's no way to get our business!  When we sell our home, we'll never go with you.  Never I tell you!"

So, anyway, I wasn't that neat, but still pretty damn cool.  After I'd stuck the sign, proving my woman balls had obviously dropped, I went straight home to my driveway of bargains.  Grandma Gertie bartered and sold, she laughed and joked.  She'd done a great job and I had to giggle as I watched a man who kept annoying her.  "Ten cents?" he asked, holding up a game system.

"No.  That's five dollars," Gertie said.

"Ten cents."  He pointed to a T. V.

"Ten dollars."

"Ten cents."  He pointed to a doll.

"No, one quarter."

He handed her a dime, snatched up the doll and walked toward another section of the sale. 

"I said, one quarter!" Gertie stomped after him because no one gets away with stuff when Ger-tay is around.

As I laughed and watched the yard sale scene, I almost forgot about the sign and my crime. I told Gertie about Ticket Tom and my signs.  I told her about the one I'd stuck in some random person's yard.

"Good Lord, girl.  The sign has your address on it."

"I'll pull the thing as soon as the sale's over."  I winked.  "Hopefully the person won't care anyway.  I wouldn't care."  I paused, but I wouldn't put flamingos in my yard either.

While we talked, The Ten Cent Man stayed around, perusing through everything.  I watched him and nearly fainted as he neared a pile that looked just like THE CONTENTS OF MY PURSE!  The Scribe or The Hippie had dumped my purse, on top of a blanket in the driveway.  I'd offered them a portion of the sales, just as long as they got rid of their old toys.  I couldn't believe they'd emptied my purse!  At least they had the decency to leave some things out of the sale, like my wallet!  They'd dumped my make-up, some papers, a sewing kit.

I paused as I watched the man go through the stuff.  He grabbed a handful of items-- including my driver's license!  I'd get those girls.  They'd kept my wallet, but left out my license!  I watched him stick my license inside the pile he held.  He sauntered toward Grandma Gertie.  Instead of offering ten cents, he looked guilty shifting from one foot to the next and said, "one dollar?"

"No.  No way!"  I ran up and plucked my license from the pile.  "One dollar for a license?  Are you nuts?  That's worth way more! You can have the rest of that . . . stuff."  I fumbled through the pile.   "You can have the make-up and sewing kit, for a dollar, but not my license."

"Ten cents?" he asked sadly as I took the license away.

"One dollar."

"No, ten cents."

"I said . . .," my voice turned low, "one dollar."

I was about to get into a full-on brawl, when the code enforcement car drove up and smoked to a stop.  I nearly dropped my license on the ground.

You should have seen the awesomeness of Ticket Tom as he stepped from the car.  I'd always heard about him, how he used to be the best cop until they forced him into a retirement "code enforcement" job.

I stood several yards away, but almost smelled the power emanating from him.  Everyone stopped and stared.  I know he commanded our full attention because he stepped around the back of the car and exhaust fluttered around him, like dry ice at a rock concert.  Plus, he'd ticketed almost everyone there.  The Ten Cent Man saw Ticket Tom.  He dropped the contents in his hand, and as he got in his car and drove away, I wished I could follow.

Ticket Tom held up a sign with a wooden post taped to it.  "Who had the gall . . . the shear audacity . . . to put this IN MY YARD?!"

"Oh my gosh!  You're the flamingo . . . yard . . . dude," I sputtered.  My woman balls, cringed back into a non-dropped position.  My voice felt small.  I didn't seem cool anymore.  I was a mouse, facing a beast of a man!  A criminal who'd almost sold their license to a ten cent immigrant!

"Who did this?" he barked.

"It was," I raised my hand, actually raised my hand like a kindergartener, "sir.  Tom, sir.  It was me."

"You . . . put a sign, without permission . . . into a code enforcer's yard.  And, you know my name?"

I didn't know what to do.  I was about to shrink back, but then I stood strong.  The license in my hand must have given me power--since licenses are like that.  "I'm sorry, sir, but you took all my other signs down."

"There'll be a hefty fine for this, a hefty fine."

I felt my insides turn to saddened mush; my yard sale profit would probably just cover the fine.

"You wanna bet," Gertie said at my side.  "You can try to bully the rest of these people, but you can't bully me!  This girl is trying to make some money.  She just wanted to have a nice little yard sale.  She has a bunch of kids.  She works from home and takes care of a family.  It's people like her, who live in this community that make it so you can even have a job and you want to fine her for advertising a yard sale?  Haven't you ever been young?  Haven't you ever needed to make a dime?  Have a heart, Tom.  Show some compassion."  Her words hung in the air like a powerful storm.  I stared in awe; Gertie had transformed into Ger-tay!

He slowly put the sign at his side.  He looked at all the people around.  He glanced at me and then Ger-tay.  "You know what," he said.  "It is Saturday.  Today is my day off, but if I ever, if you ever put a sign in my yard again . . ."

"I won't," I said.

He drove off after that and my girls bounded outside.  "What was that about?" The Hippie asked.

"Oh, nothing, but I do have something I need to ask you.  Which one of you decided to sell the stuff inside of my purse?"

They looked at each other and pointed.

"Why, why did you do it?"

"Because," The Scribe said, "we thought it might be worth a lot."

"You think?  And you tried to sell this?" I held up my license.

"Well, yeah," The Hippie said.

"We didn't think anyone would buy it.  Plus, who carries a picture of themselves, around in their own wallet?"

I put my face into my hand.  "Someone offered a dollar for it."

"And you didn't sell it?" The Hippie asked, stunned.

"Heck no."

"Wow," The Scribe said, "they must have thought you were awfully pretty.  We didn't think that would ever sell."

I laughed again.  "This is what says I can drive a car."


The Scribe gasped.  "How much are you selling it for?"

So, that was the first time I met Ticket Tom.  I had to write about him today, because I just found out that he retired.  I met his replacement last weekend, my grass was too long.  Anyway, I'll have to save that story for another time.