The line wasn't as long as it is normally, and there was, after all, the convenience of being able to pay with either your Master Charge or Visa card. But as far as Pat Kearse was concerned yesterday, taking off work so she could pay $135 in District of Columbia parking tickets to get the boot off her car would never be anything better than the pits.
So her reaction to the news that the federal government had announced Tuesday that the District is the nation's leader in the towing, ticketing and booting of cars was hardly a surprise.
"They ought to be," she said disgustedly.
"They're not doing anything else in the city."
If city officials were pleased at the District's being cited as the country's expert in enforcing parking laws, the two dozen or so city residents and suburabn commuters standing in line in the city's Bureau of Traffic Adjudication office with fistfuls of tickets were not impressed.
"Wouldn't you know it?" asked one ticket toting city employe who had complained about the absence of parking for those who work at the District Building. "When Washington finally gets recognition for doing something the best in the country, it's for something that has to do with getting more money out of city residents instead of providing a service or something."
"Right on," grumbled the man in front of her.
"I catch all the hell right there," sid one traffic bureau employe, pointing to the computer he stands behind for eight hours a day, punching in the names of motorists whose cars have been booted or towed to find out how many outstanding tickets they have to pay before being allowed to reclaim their car. "A couple of weeks ago we had one guy come around behind the counter and push the computer onto the floor, he was so mad. Just got it fixed a week ago."
Every day, the city's efficiency in policing the streets for illegally parked cars is proved once again in these offices at 601 Indiana Ave. NW. About 400 to 500 drivers, many of then irate, shuffle through lines to pay $50 towing or $25 booting fees and pay anywhere from a half-dozen to 50 or more outstanding parking tickets, most of which are for $10 each.
"yeah," said the employe. "I remember one woman came through here who owed $1,045 in parking tickets. That's the most I've seen."
In addition to the 400 to 500 motorists who pass before the cashier's office daily, 300 more walk upstairs to traffic court to contest their tickets. oAnother 200 write letters, a workload that has necessitated the creation of a special staff of eight traffic bureau employes who just write replies. Still another 300 people call in to complain about their tickets or ask for information. Eight more traffic bureau employes are assigned to do nothing more than answer the telephones.
In all, anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 people a day deal with the traffic bureau, elequent testimony to the effectiveness of the city's ticket-writing effort.
For those standing in the lines, however, it's not the efficiency that they see but the aggravation of it all.
"I thought about moving my car this morning when I read in The Post about the city getting the credit for its parking ticket program," said Jack Perkins, a Maryland resident who works in the Senate Post Office. "Unfortunately, I didn't. So I got booted." He was glumly contemplating the $130 he was going to have to pay in back tickets to get the boot off his car.
"I go to Howard [University]," said Elbert R. Ford whose hard-earned $155 was now going towards paying off tickets and removing a boot on his car. "Over around Howard, everybody gets booted. Man, that's boot country over there."
Nonetheless, for those in line, the ironies can be amusing.
"I got a good job now," said one woman, "but a couple of months ago I had to go down to the unemployment office. I got a ticket while I was in the unemployment line."
"The city gives it to you and then takes it away," said the woman standing behind her.