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Revolting against the government has its price

So members of the state's Public Service Commission took cash from some phone companies to throw a little party in Miami Beach. And it so happens that the commissioners are the ones who decide if the phone companies get the record 30 percent to 90 percent rate increase they want.

What can you do?

So your homeowners insurance bill ballooned this year. So your car insurance bill jumped, even though you've never had a ticket. So cities across Pasco County are salivating at the thought of spending your money, already dreaming of the riches they'll reap with a proposed 16-percent countywide sales tax increase. So Hernando County officials were thinking of going behind closed doors to ban a book.

What can you do?

City of Zephyrhills renaming your street over the neighborhood's objections? President Bush giving away billions of dollars of your money to another country _ and don't you dare ask for it to be repaid _ despite hard times at home? HMO increasing your co-pay?

What can you do?

Opportunities to fight The Man are few and far between. When that opportunity comes along, you need to be waiting behind the door with a baseball bat and a bad attitude. And when the big city of Tampa chose to prey on me _ a lowly east Pasco bumpkin _ with an arbitrary, arcane and positively kooky parking ticket, I was waiting.

Fight the power. Rage against the machine. Be all that you can be. Go to night court.

Numb to the injustices alternately heaped on me by greedy corporations, money-burning governments, or a combination of the two, I focused instead on my lone, $20 parking ticket.

In Tampa, it seems, the nose of a parked car must be positioned at the parking meter. Don't park next to the meter, like you would in another city.

It's not a rule anyone actually posts. And it doesn't matter if the lines painted on the asphalt to guide motorists have long faded away. You should just, well, pay the fine. Not me, brothers.

With a hundred of my kindred spirits, each of us brandishing a valid defense against the Masters of the Meters, I took a seat.

Poor suckers. What did we know? They lined us up like sheep, then sheared us good. Fleeced.

"A parking attendant told me to park there." Too bad.

"They are the only meters in the city that only accept quarters, not dimes and nickels," Tough.

One guy had what I thought was a darn good excuse for parking in a handicapped spot: He came home to find a fire truck parked in front of his apartment.

"At the time, I noticed there were firemen in my house, holding my son . . . That's why I immediately had to park."

Pay up.

Sitting through more than an hour of justice that wasn't just blind, but deaf as well, I began to doubt my chances before the judge.

My photograph of a poorly maintained parking spot, of a meter without any indication of how to position a car in front of it, didn't matter. A copy of the city's parking department Internet site, with no way to access parking regulations? Whatever.

Pay up. And add a $6 surcharge for daring to question The Man. It's called an administrative fee.

I asked the clerk if I could appeal. I could, she said, but it costs hundreds of dollars. Just pay the fine and quit struggling.

As you navigate traffic-choked streets at home, and you wonder how they approved another 1,000-home subdivision while claiming the region's water supply is stressed and the schools are too crowded, you might be tempted to ponder another little quirk. The salaries paid to county commissioners are, by state law, calculated based on the county population.

So the more subdivisions, the higher the salaries for the leaders of the government that approves them. I don't believe in my heart that any decision has ever been made on that basis, but it's interesting to think about, quietly. Alone.

I mean, you can wonder, but don't wonder aloud.

You can fight The Man, but you'll probably lose. And it costs $6.

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