If there’s anything that deserves to be cross-stitched into the great Throw Pillow of Justice, it’s probably the phrase Drive What Thou Wilt. Unless it’s dangerous or somehow really impairing someone else’s freedom, everyone should be free to drive whatever they damn well please. This is a lesson that the Canadian town of Rothesay, New Brunswick really needs to learn.
The CBC reports Hannah Fleet is a 25-year-old photographer who lives in Rothesay and drives a badass 1994 Cadillac hearse. It’s great for carrying all her equipment, and that coffin-roller-shelf-thing I bet makes loading and unloading a joy. (How come no one else has thought of this?)
She picked up the hearse for $2,000 (Canadian, I’m guessing), and that’s great for what amounts to a huge V8 Caddy station wagon with curtains and landau bars. It seems great to me, but it seems to make the town of Rothesay uncomfortable, leading them to harass Fleet about her car.
Things started after Fleet was parking her car on an area of road by her home known as a ‘lay-by’: a paved area reserved for parking for local residents. Fleet told CBC News that she got a letter in the mail on May 2 that told her she needed to find a new place to park.
The letter said that her parking there was tolerated during the winter because the town:
“...recognized that a long wheelbase vehicle may be difficult to manoeuvre on the driveway,”
... and that she was permitted to park there:
“in spite of town by-laws to the contrary.”
But, now with winter over, the town wants that car gone.
Here’s the problem, though: those by-laws that were cited as not allowing parking in the lay-by don’t actually exist. According to what Kennebecasis Regional Police Force traffic division head Sgt. Evan Scott told the CBC,
“Are the lay-bys a portion of the highway? I’d say they are. Does that mean no one can park there unless it’s in the wintertime? I don’t think so.”
Since the letter, Fleet has been confronted by other drivers and police were sent by the town to her home to tell her to move her car, on threat of first being ticketed, then towed. Yet the town has the same problem: the area where Fleet parks her car is not a no-parking zone.
Back to Sgt. Scott, and his explanation to the CBC:
“You need signs in order to identify no parking zones. If there are no signs, no one is going to know that it’s a no-parking zone, and I would not issue a ticket.”
Of course, there are no no-parking signs on the lay-by, because it’s fine to park there. Strangely, the town suggested she park by the an area called Renforth Wharf, which does have no-parking signs that the town seemed cool with ignoring.
It’s pretty clear what’s happening. There’s people in the town who don’t like seeing a hearse. Another CBC story seems to support this idea:
Nor do all the neighbours appreciate Maude.
Fleet usually parks on Rothesay Road, since the driveway of her family’s house — a converted church, formerly St. James the Less — gets icy, and the vehicle is tricky to back out.
“It’s been a problem for some people,” she said.
“My neighbour got a phone call. Some people have made complaints. I’m not really sure what their problem is with it, but I assume it’s something to do with the mortality that a hearse makes you think of.”
Sure, it’s unusual, but town manager John Jarvie himself admits that’s not against the law:
“I’m not aware of any bylaws that would prohibit the parking of the hearse simply because people find it off-putting. People have unusual tastes, or drive unusual vehicles, but there’s no law against it.”
I reached out to the town, and found that all questions about the hearse and its owner would only be answered by the mayor herself, and she wasn’t currently in. I left a message, and will update if I hear anything back.
For reasons that continue to baffle me, there seems to be a strange phenomenon in small, picturesque towns where a certain mindset of resident decides that any car that isn’t so boring as to disappear from your field of vision is the Worst Possible Affront to Aesthetic Decency Ever.
We saw this with a yellow car in the UK, and it certainly seems to be the case here. This is discrimination against interesting cars by people who are to tragically small-minded to just accept that other people may want cars that aren’t wrist-slittingly dull.
We’ve reached out to the hearse’s owner as well, and will update if we get more information.
Until then, keep that hearse. Don’t let the bastards get you down.