March 16th, 2011


A serendipitous story in two and a half acts

Two Fridays ago, when walking home from work, I found an expensive-looking walkie-talkie lying on the sidewalk. I was about to walk past it, but decided it would be better to pick it up. Someone else will try to steal it if I don't, and besides, two-way radios are cool.

I turned the volume up and walked the remaining half-block home, in order to stand inside my building and hear the radio better. Here's what happened next, as I related it on Facebook:

Radio: *Lots of people identifying themselves by radio, sounding all official-like.*
Radio: *silence*
Me: *Pushes talk button*
Radio: *Squeals*
Me: *Releases button, startled*
Radio: *silence*
Me: *Pushes talk button, waits out the one-second squeal* "Um, I found radio 847 lying on the sidewalk. What should I do with it?"
Radio dispatcher: "Unit 847, what is your location?"
Me: (I'm a unit?) "Uh, 2200 block of Walnut."
Radio dispatcher: "Do we have any units near 2200 Walnut?"
Radio other person: "I'm at 21st and Market"
Radio dispatcher: "Any units nearer to 2200 Walnut?"
Radio yet another person: "I'm at 22nd and Walnut."
Me: "I'm walking to 22nd and Walnut but don't see anyone, I don't think, I don't know what I'm looking for..."
Radio yet another person: "I'm right on the corner of 22nd and....sorry, 23rd and Walnut."
Radio dispatcher: "Citizen with radio 847, please respond."
Me: (I'm a citizen!!!) *Waves wildly* "I see him now."
Yet another person, in person: "Thank you! Thank you! I really appreciate it!"
Me: *hands him radio* (Any time, sir! Just doing my citizenly duties!) "Uh, sure. Here you go."
Him: "Thank you!"
Me: *beams*

The guy I handed the radio to was a Philadelphia Parking Authority officer; I had no idea what agency I was talking to until I saw his uniform. I found out later that PPA officers are charged the full replacement cost if they lose a radio, so I definitely did some guy a favor.

It was a fun story to tell, and I was in a good mood for the rest of the day.


Last Friday, walking home from running some errands at about the same time of day, and talking to my mom on the phone, I walked past the spot where I found the radio. There was a PPA officer sitting in the exact spot, smoking a cigarette.

"Mom, let me call you back in a minute."

I turned around to face the guy and said, "Hey, by any chance did you lose a radio here last week?"

"Are you the guy who found my radio?"

I introduced myself, and so did Brian. He was really thankful for me turning in his radio. He said that this was his beat, pointing to the general area where I usually look for on-street parking, and said to let him know if I ever get a parking ticket. He can try to help me out.

Karma! Except that I haven't gotten a parking ticket in a couple years, and haven't gotten a parking ticket that I couldn't successfully challenge on my own in more than 5 years.


Monday afternoon, I got a ticket in the mail. I allegedly ran a red light, turning right on red in a no-turn-on-red zone near City Hall. I was caught by a red light camera. I did a bit of reading, and apparently red-light-camera tickets in Philadelphia are administered by the PPA.


I started thinking about how else to challenge the ticket, but clearly talking to Brian would be the best idea. If I could find him.

Well, this morning, while walking to my car, I made a wrong turn (walking toward where my car had been parked the other day, but not most recently), and there was Brian. I waved, from about 25 feet away, and he immediately recognized me. "Hi, Josh! How's it going?" Amazing.

He thanked me again for finding his radio. I told him that actually, it was good to run into him, because I had a question. I told him about the ticket.

He said that, unfortunately, red light camera tickets are tough ones, and he doesn't think there's anything he can do to help, but I should fight it anyway. (Which I was going to; I have a couple of angles I'm thinking of taking.) He said that even he had trouble getting out of a ticket (or actually couldn't get out of it, I don't remember) where his parking kiosk receipt had flipped upside-down on his dash board; the PPA doesn't take kindly to officers failing to pay meters. Apparently if you deliberately try to get out of a meter payment by leaving PPA-identifying stuff in your car, you're likely to get fired.

We had a nice chat and then went our separate ways.

Oh well. But it's still fun to have made a buddy like that.

I'll probably end up with a hearing about the ticket sometime in late spring or summer.