I've been meaning to post this photoessay for a while. Sadly, the quality of my camera phone is poor. My apologies.
The events portrayed below happened on Friday May 22, 2009 between 8 PM and 9 PM
A few weeks ago I was having dinner at a local neighborhood establishment. I was enjoying the view of Columbia Road when I spotted a parking enforcement car parked outside the Radio Shack. I was a bit surprised to see Parking Enforcement out this late, but hey, it was a Friday night. Gotta make that revenue for the city. Good for them, I thought. I watched the Parking Enforcement officer get into her car. She pulled out into traffic and began to do a U-Turn in the middle of Columbia Road. At the same time, I saw a MPD cruiser heading Eastbound on Columbia. I thought, "I wouldn't do that U-Turn in front of a cop... but hey, I'm not Parking Enforcement. Maybe they'd let it slide."
Its in these moments that time seems to slow down a bit. As the Parking Enforcement car sped into the U-Turn, it became very clear she wasn't going to make it. She wasn't going to make it--and in fact, she was going to hit the police car. "Holy shit" I exclaimed, as other diners turned in time to hear the loud crunch. It was not a serious accident, but the idea of a Parking Enforcement colliding with a MPD car was just too much. As people began to figure out what happened, laughter erupted.
Immediately you could see the exhaustion and frustration of the police officer. I think I could hear his eyes rolling. There wasn't going to be a whole lot of professional courtesy extended to the Parking Enforcement officer. He gets out and talks to her for a bit. Then he calls for backup. At no time does either party move either of the vehicles. Of course, when regular people get into accidents, MPD will yell at you if you obstruct traffic (if there are no injuries and the cars are drivable). But hey, whatevs, this is going to be a shitstorm. Two DC owned vehicles have crashed into each other. There's going to be a lot of finger pointing. It's obvious to anyone with eyesight that the Parking Enforcement car is at fault, but of course this will all need to be documented. I joked that they would have the forensics unit show up.
After about 10 minutes, a sergeant shows up. He looks like he's about fifteen. He's got his gold badge and his Starbucks coffee. A few other police cars have shown up as well, mostly just to look and then they move on. People on the street stop to take photos. The sergeant and the officer head over to talk to the Parking officer. She's got her arms crossed and doesn't look like someone I'd want to mess with. I should also point out I've now seen several different attempts at making the "she was doing an illegal U-Turn" gesture using arm movements.
Some dude and his little girl are walking down Columbia Road, when he decides he really wants photos. So he tells the girl to stand by the light pole, and he goes out in traffic to take photos. He gets yelled at a few times for standing in front of cars, but he is undaunted. In the photo above (emphasis added to show him and his daughter) he has wandered into traffic again, nearly getting hit by an SUV. Immediately after I took this, he was yelled at again.
Asshole dad was not the only one--groups of hipsters and neighborhood folk have gathered, whipping out cell phone cameras.
They get pretty daring, even bending down on one knee to stabilize their shots. Impressive. Unlike in London or at Union Station, the police generally do not care. I saw only one other person get yelled at, and it was for obstructing traffic as well.
A bit later, a Parking Enforcement supervisor shows up. The photo is a bit blurry, but the Parking Enforcement supervisor drives right through an actual parking spot and parks halfway into a crosswalk. A small, non-serious accident now has several vehicles obstructing traffic. On more than one occasion there are near accidents, generally involving bicycles or pedestrians gawking at the accident. It's also difficult for any car to make a left turn onto Columbia Road, but they try anyways.
Never fear, though, because we've got some dude with a guitar who stops and plays for a while at the accident site.
Originally I was joking, however about 35 minutes into the whole situation, an MPD Forensics car shows up.
We obstruct traffic a bit longer to take photos from all angles, and take measurements.
About an hour after the whole incident began, another Parking Enforcement officer drives the wrecked car away, and the scene winds down. Mountains of paperwork ensue, I'm sure.
I don't know what I find most hilarious about the whole situation. That the city needed to deploy at least five cop cars over the course of the incident, or that people are such jackasses they almost get hit by the 42 bus so they can take a photo with their iPhone. Government bureaucracy and idiot spectators at their best.
In the end, it turns out that the Parking Enforcement officer was under the influence of Jumbo Slice pizza. While Councilmember Graham later denies it, this incident prompted the conflagration over banning pizza.