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From The Vault Of Art Shay: I Fought The Law And The Law Won

By Art Shay in News on Oct 3, 2013 4:00PM

(Legendary Chicago-based photographer Art Shay has taken photos of kings, queens, celebrities and the common man in a 60-year career. This week, Art fights a parking ticket with expected results.)

When I left the Regal Theater in Lincolnshire, Ill. it was twilight and as I walked on my rachitic knees (sacrificed to 50 years of racquetball) to the nearby handicapped space to board my 11-year-old Lexus, my stomach lurched south.

There, under my windshield wiper, eight inches away from my blue handicapped card, was a $250 illegal parking ticket signed by a cop named Lindahl.

I was too shocked and angry to race to the Lincolnshire Village Hall and erupt over having been ticketed while legally parked. I grimly drove the five miles to my Deerfield home. I Googled Lincolnshire which I knew to be rich because a friend of mine, Jack Miller, sold his business there, Quill, to Staples for $550 million. But Jack didn't live in Lincolnshire now. I got angrier and angrier as I learned that Lincolnshire's median house price was $604,450 and its 99 percent urban and 1 percent rural population earned a median $61,000 a year. Rich as they were they were holding me up for $250!

The police! All my professional life I had photographed the police and now they were getting even. Years ago I had written an expose for the Des Plaines Journal. I had been stopped in my 1954 Hudson Jet on Cicero and Peterson, at 3 a.m.—stopped by two drunken cops. My article told how I smelled alcohol on their breaths and pulled out my Leica from its case in my trunk, only to look up at two drawn guns. "Yer under arreshhht," said one.

Despite my alderman lawyer Sydney Wexler's advice to "pay the two dollars," I indignantly took the case to court-where I found eight high ranking police officers arrayed against me and the judge started the proceedings with a speech on how the police risked their lives every day to defend us all against crime and other incivilities.

I lost my case, paid a then-exorbitant fine of $5, and got crank calls from tough voices who said they knew where my children went to school. I was used to calls like that from the Mafia. I also got seven letters from other citizens who had been stopped by drunken cops or worse. By worse I mean a team that drove moneyless victims home where their shocked wives rustled up $20 while the officers waited drinking from a bottle.

A big reshuffle resulted so I dusted off my Bartlett and looked for the quote at the bottom of my mind generally attributed to Shakespeare, but first used by Dickens: "If the law supposes that," said Mr. Bumble, "the law is a ass, a idiot."

So I went back the next morning with my camera and parked my car the way I remembered I had parked it when I committed my "crime." And I wrote a scathing but polite letter to Police Chief Kinsey pointing out my WWII service, my 52 missions, my good driving record, etc.

And I gathered my pictures for this spirited defense against the opprobrious law.

Published with permission.

If you can't wait until this time every week to get your Art Shay fix, please check out the photographer's blog, which is updated regularly. Art Shay's book, Chicago's Nelson Algren, is also available at Amazon.