This episode began on Jan. 30, when my wife and I decided to venture downtown to do some Saturday shopping. Well, we had a nice time shopping, but when we returned to the car, much to our dismay, a parking ticket had found its way underneath our windshield wiper.

Injustice, I thought. There has to be a way to correct such a mistake. So I carefully read my ticket and learned that I could appear for a hearing at 65 K Street NE, the Bureau of Adjudication. Right then I felt a shiver run down my spine -- and the spiritual laughter of hundreds who had traveled to the bureau in the past. But it did not matter; my mind was made up to fight this ticket.

I took some photos to prove my case and made sure I got eight hours of sleep the night before. I left home at 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 12, my pockets full of coins to feed the meter and a stomach full of oatmeal. I arrived at approximately 11:10, but had to park roughly three blocks away at a two-hour meter. No matter. I was at 65 K Street, where justice was about to be served.

I was confident as I approached the information desk. I was told to proceed to the unscheduled hearing line where someone would mark my ticket, whatever that meant. So off I went. The young man behind the counter took my ticket and issued me a number -- B27. I asked if I had time to go to the restroom before the hearing, and the young man glanced up with a smile and said, ''Yeah.''

When I returned, I discovered that the hearing officers were on A82, and when they reached A99 they would start on B1. I sat down and began to wait.

It is now 12 noon, and the hearing officer is talking about pizza for lunch; we are at A89. It is approaching 1 p.m., and we are still on A89. I figure the hearings stopped for pizza. By now I have been to the restroom twice (no longer worried that my number will be called) and fed my parking meter more change so that I would not end up with ticket No. 2.

During my wait, I have a chance to look around. The scenery is interesting, with signs such as ''No Sitting on the Floor,'' ''No Eating, Drinking, or Smoking,'' and ''Quiet, Please.''

The lady seated next to me says, ''It's faster down at the D.C. Jail,'' yet this knowledge brings little comfort. I notice that people are asking for their tickets back to pay the fine, because they cannot afford to miss anymore time away from work.

At 1:50 p.m. the man behind the counter announces that if we do not want to wait, we can opt for a ''mail-in hearing.'' But after two hours and 40 minutes, I was determined to fulfill my mission.

At 2:20 p.m. I am called forward for my hearing, and I have almost forgotten why I came down here. My head hurts and all I keep thinking is that a pizza right about now sure would be good. I am sworn in, and then argue my case, showing my photos. Confident that I have won (since no reasons are brought to my attention as to why I should have to pay), I am told to proceed to the blue counter. On my way to the counter, I look at the paper work, and much to my disbelief I still owe the $35 that I wanted to have dismissed.

After three hours and 15 minutes, justice still eludes me, yet I plan to appeal so I can observe the wheels of justice grind just one more time.

By the way, I did learn one thing from my ordeal: if you ever have a free Saturday to shop, go to Montgomery Mall.

-- Dan Feller