I recently read in one of my newsfeeds that an 85-year-old man was fumbling through his drawers (which is a funny image, right there) and found a one-dollar parking ticket fine that he had gotten almost 70 years ago and forgot to pay.
Henry was apparently a man with a sharp financial sense. He knew that someday he’d be 85 (with any kind of luck) and that if he conveniently misplaced the summons, he could pay it 60 years later when a buck was a mere pittance—and maybe he could pick up a little positive press for seniors at the same time.
I’d like to re-examine this case in light of a similar event in my own life. I also forgot to pay a parking fine, right before we left for a vacation. It was a legitimate oversight. Actually, I had put the ticket in my back pants pocket, then went home, threw the pants in the Maytag, and that’s the last I remembered seeing it. After that, it was washed completely from my mind.
When we returned from our trip, I received a note from the city saying that my fine had been doubled due to failure to pay. I was somewhat relieved because I had heard that if you are delinquent on paying those tickets, they can even take away your car. Who knows what they take away if you don’t pay a jaywalking ticket.
I recalled that story about Henry. I’m a senior, also. Not quite as senior as Henry, but I think I have entered that period of life when some of my oversights would no longer be considered punishable. Most people would even say they are charming.
I decided to contest this and made the call to the Traffic Violation Bureau: “Hello, I have a question. I’m curious: have you heard about this guy, Henry, the senior citizen who didn’t pay his parking ticket for almost 70 years?”
“Yes, of course. What an uplifting, touching story about the inner goodness of human beings. His honesty is so heartwarming. Who is this, anyway?”
“My name is Dick Wolfsie and I …”
“Yes, Mr. Wolfsie, we have your records. Disgraceful, contemptible — criminal, even.”
“I don’t get it. This guy doesn’t pay his ticket for six decades and he’s a hero. I skip a few weeks and you double my fine? You called his story heartwarming.”
“How old are you, Mr. Wolfsie?”
“I just turned 76.”
“I’m afraid you don’t have enough time left to make your story heartwarming.”
“Look, I still don’t understand why you are punishing me after two months, and I bet you have his photo on your bulletin board.”
“Oh, your picture is up there, too.”
As a result of Henry’s story, I am thinking about heading to my hometown in New York in a couple of months and taking back an old library book that I forgot to return in 1980. Of course, if I do return it now, they’ll charge me big time and call me a thief. But if I could stay alive for 30 more years, they’d think I’m downright adorable.
Retired television personality Dick Wolfsie writes this weekly column for Indiana newspapers, including the Daily Journal. Send comments to email@example.com.