I have an idea for the new Oak Park slogan: Oak Park – A Complicated Place to Live.

We live in a highly regulated village. Park here, not there, but not before 6 a.m. Then meters start at 8 a.m. and end after 6 p.m., unless they don’t. It’s complicated to get a building permit, particularly if you live in a Hysterical District. Replacing Doric with Corinthian columns? Fat chance, buddy.

Even the police get in on the game. I recently got a ticket for failing to come to a complete stop at the corner of Pleasant and East. In common parlance, failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign is called a “Chicago stop.” Everybody does it. I learned it from my father. Watch any four-way stop in town and 77 percent of all cars will do a slow roll without stopping completely. This includes buses, municipal vehicles and squads.

Failing to stop completely is clearly against the law and subject to strict penalties under the motor-vehicle code. But it’s like a ticky-tack foul in the NBA. No self-respecting ref blows the whistle, except in Oak Park. That morning, I had stopped at 7-Eleven to pick up my donut and decaf after dropping off my son at the high school. I was listening to a pleasant CD, probably Renee Fleming and Bryn Terfel singing duets from Broadway, which I recommend.

I’m a pretty slow driver around town. Imagine my surprise when I see not one but two police cars, with their lights on, gunning behind me. I pulled over. Was there a criminal on the loose? A young officer approached my driver’s-side window.

Me: “What seems to be the problem?”

Officer: “You failed to come to a complete stop at that stop sign.”

Me: (Thinking to myself) “I haven’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign in 30 years.”

Officer: “I’m going to write you a ticket.”

Remembering that I am an intrepid journalist, I asked a question.

Me: “Which do you think would lead to better driving here, writing a ticket or giving a warning?”

Officer: “That’s not an apt question.”

You see what I mean? Not an apt question? What are we teaching these guys in police training school? If the cop had said, “Listen smart Alec, shut your trap or I’m hauling you down to the station,” I would have understood. But this guy got me into this whole philosophical semiotics issue about what is or is not an apt question when you live in Oak Park and are stopped by a cop on a dubious call.

Later at lunch time, I was driving past Wisconsin and Pleasant near the YMCA. Who did I see? The same cop pulling over an older woman just past the intersection. I rolled down my window. He didn’t seem to recognize me.

“Got another one?” I asked pleasantly enough.

“Sixth one since this morning,” he shook his head.

And that is why living in Oak Park is complicated.

Jack Crowe is a third-generation Oak Parker. He cycles with the Lake and Harlem group, volunteers at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep in Austin and sometimes performs at the Village Players Performing Arts Center.

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