This Parking Meter Needs A User Manual

Posted on October 25, 2010


Two friends and I drove into Washington, DC (newly designated as the 2nd WORSE TRAFFIC CITY in the US) to do the “Walk to End Modern Day Slavery.” DC is the World Mecca for Walks/Runs/Demonstrations/Rallies/Political Motorcades/Tourism/General Mayhem on the Road.  There were at least four events happening that day, including an Army 10 Miler.  For this reason, bridges were shut down, roads were blocked, police were in force at all intersections, and food vendors were having a field day.  Combine this with spectacular 70 degree October weekend weather, drawing tourists from as far away as one of the moons of Saturn.  All of this equaled a race for parking spaces that rivaled the land-grab mayhem that occurred after the passage of the Homestead Act. 

My friend Marj was driving.  My friend Ellen was helping her scout out parking spots.  I was doing what I usually do, which is to get completely distracted by extraneous issues.  
Marj: Damn!  That guy got my spot!
Ellen: Wait!  I think there is one up ahead!
Me: Do you think I should have blown dry my hair before I left?

Thanks to Marj, we executed some really fancy maneuvers, most of which involved making U turns in the middle of the street, then driving into oncoming traffic until some hysterical motorist let her into the lane she wanted to be in.
Marj: Done!
Ellen: I think I’m having a heart attack.
Me: I’m seriously never leaving my house again without blow drying my hair.

Two blocks from the rally, we came upon a street lined with parking meters.  All spots but one were available.  I don’t know about you, but if I’m a mouse and I see a random piece of cheese in some prominent place in someone’s kitchen, I’m going to be a wee bit skeptical.  I won’t leap onto it without first considering the possibility that the neck that I have become somewhat attached to might find itself squished into a mechanical deathtrap.  Just call me the suspicious type, but a street of unoccupied parking spaces just doesn’t seem like a good thing.

We pulled over.  First we scanned all the signs.  Thanks to the DC Government, there are at least five at every corner:
1. Don’t even THINK about parking here.
2. Two hour parking Mon-Fri before 6:30PM.
3. No parking between here and there except for sometimes at night. Sort of.
4. This space for rent
5. Parking reserved for employee-of-the-month

Then we looked at the meter: “Two hour parking between 9AM-6:30PM Mon-Fri.  We thought we were home free.  But wait.  There was a little red sticker in a different place on the meter. “Must pay Sat.  This means you.”  We decided to go ahead and pay for two hours of parking, then hope for the best (“the best” meaning a parking ticket that we could split three ways).  We did so.  Then we saw it: another sticker on the meter that said, “Call the number on the side of the meter which will give you payment instructions.” It was a cell phone parking meter!  There, on the side of the meter, was an 800 number and a ten digit ID number. Marj copied the number.
Marj: Thank goodness I have my cell phone with me.
Ellen: Yes, you can call in more time after our two hours expires!
Me: Look at all the tiny little words and stickers.  How do they fit so much stuff on one parking meter?

At the rally, Marj called the number, and was told she would have to “sign up for the service” and would have to enter the 10-digit number. Then she was put on hold . After at least three minutes, she hung up.  Or rather, she thought she hung up.  Turns out, her cell was still connected, so we brought the Helpful Cell Phone Parking Meter Android along with us on the march.

Anybody have an old meter and a nickel?