So I parked at a meter on what they refer to as the "unit block" of Massachusetts Avenue NW, and when I tried to put my quarters in, the meter was jammed. No way could I get that money in. I left a sign, "METER BROKEN," with the date and time, and went to my appointment. Needless to say, when I returned an hour later, I had a ticket.

"Hey," I said to the first meter cop I saw. "This isn't fair." He told me to call Mrs. Wells at a number he wrote down and ask for a meter investigation. I dialed, said I had a complaint.

"You're not making a complaint, you're making a report," Mrs. Wells corrected. "Complaint is such a negative word. There is too much negative feeling around. I can't handle it spiritually."

I carefully rephrased my inquiry. "God bless you," she said in closing our conversation.

Unfortunately, God did not bless my investigation. I had been told to call back in three working days. No report. Two days later, no report. I began to worry that by the time the "investigation" was complete, the ticket would have doubled. "Don't fret," said Mrs. Wells.

You know the end of this story. Two days after the ticket had doubled, I was told the meter investigation had shown my meter was perfectly okay -- i.e., not broken. I expressed a lot of negativity. I was told to call Mr. McKay in the meter investigation department.

"It probably was jammed by a slug," he said. "But it was not broken. It just wasn't functioning properly."

"Could you explain to me the difference between 'not functioning properly' and 'broken'?" I asked.

"We know how to deal with these slugs. The meter is not actually broken -- it's jammed. Why don't you write the Traffic Adjudication Bureau?"

I sighed. I wrote, enclosing the letter and the scrap of cardboard the meter cop had given me, with the phone number on it. I'm still waiting for an answer. But I have a lot of negative feelings about what it's going to be.