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Personal Space

All we want are the facts, ma'am

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The story you are about to read is true. The man pictured above, Doug Martin, is the chief technical officer for a company called Digital Voice Xchange. Exactly seven years ago, Mr. Martin brainstormed up Courtline, a telephone voice system that would let people pay their parking and traffic tickets over the phone with their Visa or MasterCard.

Then, he was seized with another scheme -- the voice on the phone that people would "talk" to while paying their parking tickets would be the unmistakable Jack Webb, AKA Sgt. Joe Friday of the L.A. Police Department. So Mr. Martin hired a fellow named "Gordy" from Denver as the voice talent impersonating Joe Friday. Listen to it yourself at 578-6951.

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For several years, Courtline also played the familiar "dum-de-dum-dum" theme music from Dragnet. Most people who have been walked through paying their parking or traffic tickets by Joe Friday are amused; some even say it has made paying their parking tickets fun. But a few grumpy bad eggs complained, saying that paying tickets is "serious" business, so the Municipal Court ordered the music removed.

Mr. Martin's company did not charge the city for the initial costs of hooking up Courtline, including the software program. But it does get to keep the $3 convenience fees that 1,000 people a month pay to use Courtline. Which prompts Mr. Martin to compliment any meter maid he comes across for their job well done.

-- By Cara DeGette

photo by Cathy Cayton

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