“Wutown,” by Alia Volz

Dec 20th, 2012 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose


A tangerine Scion pulls into my driveway 6 minutes late. I get in the car and look the rookie over. He’s cut from the funny pages: pink-cheeked and yellow-haired, with a Dennis the Menace cowlick. His new badge gleams.

“Officer Wu at your service,” I say.

“Whup Ass Wu?”

“Only one I know. Sergeant Fagen asked me to ride in with you so we could have a talk before your first run.”

“This is a real honor.” He shows his teeth and we shake hands. “I’m Matt Taylor.”

Officer Taylor, from now on. Let’s move.” I direct him to the 101-South. Traffic is loose, so we crest the hill above Hollywood at 6:28AM. The city sits before us in a heap like a jigsaw puzzle in its box.

“I control 403 Adam,” I say. “That’s Central Hollywood. Everything from Normandie to La Brea and Franklin to Sunset is Wutown. Some of the worst offenders in the city are on my beat. I know them by make and plate. To the average officer’s 30-35 per day, Wu does 50-55.

“Now you’re fresh out of the package, and maybe you’re nervous. You’ll be tempted to stick to stick to easy stuff. I’m here to tell you that the DOT doesn’t need another half-wit in uniform. We need enforcers.”

The rookie purses his lips. His knuckles pale, gripping the wheel.

“Remember your 300 series? What about the 400s? If you want to excel in this organization, I suggest you study.”

“Yes Sir. That manual was my—”

“I bet you’re an actor, right? You came to us for a job with flexible hours, something to accommodate auditions. Listen, we got junkies, drunks and crackheads parking under the influence; got half a million third-world imports that can’t read signage; got celebs, ex-celebs, producers and jackass lawyers who think the rules don’t apply to them. Every breed of scumbag rat drives these streets. You can’t change that. But you can encourage them to park in an orderly fashion. And that’s something.

“I’ve ticketed Pamela Anderson, my own uncle, and probably yours too. I personally handed a citation to Mayor Villaraigosa. He gave me a campaign button and thanked me for my service.”

“You ticketed Pamela?” His cheeks are looking less rosy.

“Fire hydrant.”

“Holy shit.”

We exit at Vermont. A left and a right take us to HQ—a squat, square building that hasn’t seen paint since 1979. As we enter the parking structure, I place my hand on his shoulder.

“Officer Taylor, have a good first day. Keep your pepper spray on the ready. No fear, no mercy. Remember, parking enforcement is the great equalizer.”


I operate 01194, a white Plymouth bearing the sundial insignia of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. The steering wheel is constructed on the right, to facilitate chalking. I hang the chalking stick out the window and cruise up Fountain at 4 miles per hour, marking the left front tire of every car.

I’ll maintain this speed until La Brea, double back via Santa Monica Boulevard, then snake through my run east of Highland, returning to this spot at precisely 11:00AM. In accordance with signage, many of the vehicles will have been removed. Anything remaining is mine. I’ll issue 10-15 citations on this morning loop. Punctuality is key.

I turn onto La Brea and, right away, the vista gets bueno. I issue a 540.2 for expired registration and a 490.1 for a WHITE ZONE violation. On the next block, I spot a vehicle parked approximately 1’6” from the curb. It’s a close call. I pull over, unclip the tape measurer from my belt and kneel on the concrete. The rear right tire is 1’7” away from the curb. I slap him with a 412.1.

They’d park upside down if they could.


It was roadwork and molasses all the way down Santa Monica. Now I must increase my chalking speed to 6 MPH to make up the difference. This requires superior skill, my own flick-of-the-wrist technique. In my haste, I nearly miss a flashing meter: EXPIRED EXPIRED EXPIRED.

A citizen approaches the vehicle: Asian or Pacific Islander female, black hair, approximately 32 y/o, professionally dressed.

“I’m putting change in right now!” she hollers, waving a handbag over her head. She smiles like someone accustomed to winning.

Although I am usually happy to educate the public, I’m in serious danger of missing the morning run on Fountain. I enter license plate FC1H332 in my hand-held for a 212.5, without slowing my vehicle.

The citizen yells “Thank you!” as I pass.

She will receive the citation via the USPS in 7-10 business days. Laws don’t bend in America. They break.


I pull in beside a beige Oldsmobile occupying a BLUE ZONE in the Rite-Aid parking lot on Sunset.

I possess a sixth sense about DISABLED PARKING. Something is wrong here. I note a citizen behind the wheel: African-American male, gray hair, 65-70 years, indeterminate height (due to seated position).

I slide my pepper spray into the UNLOCKED position and approach the Oldsmobile. I tap on the window with my flashlight. The citizen slowly cranks the glass down. “Can I help you, Officer?”

I lean in to read the placard hanging from a cracked rearview mirror. The date is current. I’m not convinced.

“Officer Wu to dispatch,” I say into my CB. “Run Disabled Placard 002112546 for me.” I throb with anticipation.

“That’s a Code 37, Officer,” crackles Cherry, the day dispatcher. “Missing/Stolen since 1/18/10.”

“Get the boys out here,” I growl. “Code 4!” My instincts are sharp as tacks. Law courses through my veins.

“10-4, Officer Wu,” says Cherry.

I address the citizen: “Are you the owner of this vehicle?”

“I am.”

“Where did you buy that placard, MacArthur Park? Or did you steal it yourself?”

“Hold up,” says the citizen. “I’m a Vietnam Vet. I got 27 pieces of shrapnel in me and I can’t walk distances. I’m a disabled American—”

“Save it for the police,” I say.

“You ain’t the police?”

“I am a Parking Enforcement Officer. LAPD has been notified and is on its way.”

The citizen’s face turns the color of old sidewalk. His tongue darts out like a lizard’s. He starts the car.

“Sir, you cannot leave!”

“I ain’t getting strung up by my toes,” he says. He backs out, tires squealing. I throw myself in front of the vehicle to block his way, but he recklessly swerves around me.

I enter license plate 5ATL712 in my handheld and generate a 312 for violation of designated DISABLED PARKING, which the citizen will receive in the mail—assuming the vehicle is properly registered, which I doubt. I wait for LAPD.

It is 104 degrees by my lapel thermometer. The air is brown with smog rotting in the sunlight, trapped in the Hollywood basin. 20 minutes pass.

I walk out to the curb, where NO STOPPING/TOW AWAY 3PM-6PM MON-FRI is in effect. One of the sign poles is a lighter color than the rest, indicating that a delinquent removed the original sign, forcing The City of Los Angeles to replace it. I scour the block for violations. Nothing. 34 minutes pass. 48 minutes.

After 73 minutes, a black-and-white eases into the lot. The citizen could have driven to San Diego by now. “Shame on you,” I say to the officer at the wheel. “This is a flagrant disservice to the City of Los Angeles.”

“Pull the claws back, Tiger,” he says. “We’ll get him next time.” Sometimes I think there are no good guys in the world. Criminals foul every street corner and lurk behind most steering wheels. Some carry badges.


Everyone on the street has sunglasses and cell phones stuck to their faces. The only ones who don’t are bums swaddled in festering blankets like burritos. A row of them stretches out on Sunset, covering as much sidewalk as possible. If I could give bums parking tickets I would do it all day long.

My shift ended an hour ago, but I can’t stop driving. I feel low. With only 34 citations issued, this was the worst shift of my career. During the time I waited on the LAPD, I could have issued 15-20 citations, enough to hit the watermark. I can’t go to HQ until the daytime staff is gone. I can’t face them.

An idiot makes a left in a NO LEFT TURN intersection and cuts me off. No LAPD in sight. “Asshole!” I shout. I am powerless.

The CB crackles. “Come in, Officer Wu,” says Cherry.

Duty forces me to depress the TALK button. “Officer Wu here.”

“Where are you, Whup Ass? We’ve been waiting to tell you the good news.”

“I had business.”

“Oh, well let me tell you then. The new recruit did 62 citations his first solo flight.”

“Who counted?”

“Fagen reviewed every citation personally. He said it was the best rookie shift in history. Says the kid’s got real genius. I thought you’d want to congratulate him yourself. I hear you gave him a hell of a pep talk this morning.”

My tongue is wooden.

“He’s staying late on paperwork. The boys wanted to take him out to celebrate, but he just won’t stop.”

Stills from my rookie year flash in my head: my first citation, a GREEN ZONE; Fagen’s cheek-busting grin when he clapped me on the back and said, “You whupped ass today. You just made DOT history”; the first of 15 times my name and photo appeared on a brass and board plaque reading PARKING ENFORCEMENT OFFICER OF THE YEAR.

Sixty-two citations. Fagen’s right, the rookie must be a machine, the future of the DOT. I’m an old workhorse. In a few years they’ll put me out to pasture. Retirement = death. A bubble of hot oil bursts in my gut. My hands shake so badly I swerve. I pull over to regain composure. Breathe, Whup Ass, breathe.

A green Nissan pulls in front of a liquor store across the street. The curb is painted fresh bright red. The hazard lights begin their misguided flashing (it only attracts attention).

A citizen exits the driver’s side: Caucasian female, approximately 5’7”, red hair. She heads into the liquor store.

Instinct tells me to jump out and issue a citation before she returns, but I’m off-duty. I logged out of the hand-held over an hour ago. Officer Toledo is on the beat now. If I try to log back in, we’ll have administrative problems for the next week.

There is a way. My belt printer could, hypothetically, run out of paper, forcing me to write citations manually. I could ink in an earlier hour. No one would know the difference. The citizen couldn’t prove anything. It isn’t honest. It isn’t right. But neither is parking in a RED ZONE.

Through the doorway of the liquor store, I see the citizen making her purchase at the counter. It’s now or never. I get out the old-fashioned citation book I keep in the glove box for emergencies, and exit the patrol car.

The pen is a lead pipe in my hand. I don’t have time to walk half a block to the crosswalk and wait for the signal, so I’m going to cross right here, right now. For the first time since I earned my badge, I am going to jay walk. I step into the street, feeling an exhilarating rush. So this is how the other half lives.

Tires screech. My hips whip left, my spine cracks. I roll across the hood and off the side, landing on my head and neck. A blast of agony travels from my skull down my spine and out my toes. The sunlight dwindles to a pinhole. I feel the concrete split underneath me, and liquid seeps out through the fissure. Los Angeles is spilling its putrid guts. It’s high time for a flood. My uniform is soaked. It’s hot. It’s my blood.

A car door slams. A female voice eases slowly into focus like the volume being turned up on a television. “Oh shit, oh my God! Eddie, you hit a cop! I told you to goddamn slow down, Eddie!”

Law is in my blood. I am violated all the time. I feel it happening. I have a sixth sense. Laws are breaking right now, all over town, all over the world. I want to be everywhere at once.

My CB spits nearby. “Officer Wu,” Cherry says, “what is your location?”

I’m off duty, off duty.


Defenestration-Alia VolzAlia Volz spent 9,366 hours hosting and producing Literary Death Match, a raucous reading series that throws naturally timid, introverted authors into a vicious battle for domination. She recently impersonated Anaïs Nin, Louise Brooks, and the 16-time WWF World Heavyweight Champion Slick Ric Flair—for the good of literature. Her work appears in some delicious magazines, but Alia is starting to think she should quit writing and join a fourth-tier celebrity review in Reno, where she can live out her true calling. Stalk her at www.aliavolz.com.

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