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Parking illegally makes mathematical sense, says 23andMe's Wojcicki

Anne Wojcicki, wife of Google's Sergey Brin, says that she's looked at the numbers and taking the risk of getting a ticket is worth it.

Is it daring or merely sensible to risk getting a parking ticket all the time?
CBS This Morning/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

We're always calculating the odds.

Chances she'll love me in five years' time? Thirty percent. Chances he's concealing that he's a menace to society? Sixty percent.

But now that we live in the Kingdom of Nerd, every number tells a story and offers an indication of how to live.

It's instructive, then, to read an interview given to Britain's Sunday Times (paywall) by Anne Wojcicki. The CEO of genetic testing company 23andMe and wife of Google's Sergey Brin revealed that she's always had something of a tightfisted streak.

She described how she was once so enamored of the fact that there was free carrot juice in her office that she had to drink as much as she could. That would be around 32 ounces a day for one whole year. She claims to have turned orange.

Some will be green that she now has an enviable lifestyle and a bank balance that must be enormously in the black.

Wojcicki insists, though, that she is still mostly miserly, save for a couple of luxuries. One is paying for short-term parking at airports. It makes getting home far quicker and easier.

The second is an interestingly mathematical calculation. "I get parking tickets all the time. We've worked out the stats and it's 50-50 odds of getting a ticket and the cost versus time saved means I can accept it."

She's surely not alone in making calculations with respect to the law. Many people feel that if they drive 10 mph over the speed limit down a freeway, they won't get caught. There may not exist a single Californian who hasn't rolled through a stop sign.

But assuming Wojcicki's calculation is correct, what if everyone enrolled in her parking plan? Of course, many couldn't afford it. It's unclear if Wojcicki parks her car in a legitimate space and just leaves it there all day, or whether she sometimes parks wherever she feels like it. It's also unclear if some of her parking calculations have resulted in her car being towed. Perhaps she has numbers that show where towing is most prevalent.

Still, San Francisco, a notoriously difficult place to park, would enjoy fascinating scenes if the majority of its seemingly wealthy inhabitants were to embrace a willy-nilly parking principle. (Some already do.)

In one sense, it's frightfully libertarian. I see a space. I put my car in the space. As long as it isn't disturbing anyone else, there should be no problem. (Delivery zone? Pah.)

The only kink is the parker's own judgment of whether his or her parking really won't disturb anyone. People have such maddeningly varied emotions about so many things that one person's act of liberty might be another's source of (perhaps irrational) enervation.

Maybe the whole Bay Area ought to try a "park where you like as long as it doesn't block or annoy anyone" experiment for Christmas.

I wonder how the notoriously altruistic residents would do. And I wonder how much money the local councils would make.