It's possible to beat the rap in traffic court in Fairfax County if you've got a good enough excuse -- even if you admit violating the law.

A Fairfax County longtimer, now enjoying retirement in Florida and preferring anonymity, reports this sequence of events last month:

On a visit home in early October, he had three tax bills to pay at the Massey Building, the county government headquarters. Finding no legal parking spaces and a row of "no parking" signs, he decided to risk it: He ran into the building, gave a clerk the envelopes, and scampered out--only to find a ticket. "I deserved the ticket," my correspondent writes. "I saw the yellow curb and I took a calculated risk -- I lost."

Next day, old neighbors drove him back to a farmers' market in Fairfax City. To his chagrin, it was in front of the Massey Building "where about 25 vans and trucks were parked . . . crates on the curb and parking area . . . in the same zone where I received a summons 24 hours earlier." He got angry.

* Calling the county executive's office to protest, he said he was told the farmers' market was held under a special arrangement that had official approval.

* Told all this when the longtimer decided to take the case to court, the judge dismissed the citation.