Is there a Washingtonian who doesn't sigh wearily about cars with out-of-state plates?
We know the game well. A guy with Iowa tags parks his car on 16th Street during rush hour, telling himself it's okay because the District of Columbia belongs to all Americans.
Or do you prefer the Colorado Cordoba that pulls up to a traffic cop at Seventh and Pennsylvania some weeknight at 5:15 p.m.? The driver stops and leans out the window, delaying dozens of vehicles behind him. His question: Where's Seventh and Pennsylvania, officer?
And what about the fellow with Indiana plates who spies that big marble creation over yonder and realizes it's that Lincoln Memorial he's been looking for? There he goes, cutting across four lanes of traffic without so much as a glance in the mirror.
We snarl at all this. We shout. We smirk. We squawk. But we grin and bear it most of the time. Good for the hotel industry, these folks.
But Susanne Tedeschi of Spotsylvania, Va., has just weighed in with a report of retaliation. She says the D.C. police are writing "early tickets" on cars that bear out-of-state plates.
By "early," Susanne means that the cops are leaving tickets under windshield wipers before the red flag on the parking meter is actually flying. Apparently the cops are betting that the owner of a Montana Mazda won't come all the way back to D.C. traffic court to debate the ticket writer's honesty.
Susanne says she watched an officer apply a $10 love note to one car near the Air and Space Museum not long ago. It had Texas tags--and the meter had 10 minutes left on it.
Barely two weeks later, another cop started to do the same thing to a Georgia car parked on M Street in Georgetown. In that case, 15 minutes remained on the meter.
Is any of this true, Capt. Wayne Layfield, commander of the Traffic Enforcement Branch of the Metropolitan Police?
"I cannot imagine this happening," Layfield said. "I've been on the force for 19 years, and I've never heard of it in my entire time.
"With all the tickets officers can write, you don't have to hunt around. We don't need to be writing early tickets."
But what about quotas? Don't sergeants demand that officers write a certain number of tickets a month?
"That used to be the case, but it isn't any more. There's competition between officers, sure. One doesn't want to be outdone. But there's no policy coming down from the top."
In the case of the two episodes Susanne witnessed, there are no tickets outstanding either.
The motorist near the museum took the "early ticket," crumpled it into a ball and slam-dunked it in the nearest trash can. And on M Street, the motorist happened to return to her car as the police officer was still writing. When she "began to loudly tell him what she thought of the ticket," Susanne writes, the officer "pocketed the ticket and snuck off."