Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Parking Meters That Aren't Parking Meters

Okay, so maybe I don't get out as much as I should. And maybe I'm the last person in the world who's never seen this before. But today I parked in a lot on Larchmont to jump into (where else?) Starbucks and all the parking meters were gone!

Instead, there was a machine at the front of the lot. You fed in your space number and your coins, and you got a ticket with your time on it. Which was silly, because I didn't know how it worked, and ended up paying for an hour even though I only needed five minutes.

As I waited for my latte, I realized what a scam this was. They had done away with one of urban life's simple pleasures: finding time left on a parking meter. There was no way to know if there was time left on your space. When I pulled out, I realized, whoever pulled in after me had no way of knowing they had 55 minutes paid for on the space. The city was charging for the same time over and over again all day.

So I figured, screw 'em. I sat in the car and sipped my latte and waited. And the first car that pulled in, I got out of the car and walked over. I showed the couple inside the ticket, and told them to wait until I pulled out, and they had a free forty-five minutes. They couldn't have been more pleased, and thanked me profusely. It was a great feeling.

I encourage all of you to try it. You will never get a warmer feeling of "paying it forward," yet a more satisfying feeling of "sticking it to the man," all at the same time.


Ken Levine said...

There's also the fun of hiking all over the lot to find the box. And good luck if you're unfamiliar with the contraption and it's night. Or you're digging into your wallet for a bill all alone in a dark parking lot. I dunno, this is the kind of thing that never would have happened when Tom Bradley was mayor.

peeky said...

The MINIMUM is one hour? That's stinky.

Mary Lewys said...

Wow. One of my random acts of kindness is to empty my coin jar and plunk coinage in the meters in my little downtown. It's just something I like to do on the way to the bank.

Way to go out of your way to be nice.

gina said...

Nice :).

Michael Markowitz said...

No, there's no minimum, there's just a lot of pressure because there's a line of people who are familiar with the machine and then there's me. (Oh, yeah, another great side benefit: standing in line to use a parking meter)

So I watched what other people did and when my turn came, I pumped two quarters in. That's when I saw I was paying for an hour. Next time I'll know a nickel or dime would have sufficed. Or actually, I'll probably still pay for the full hour and wait for the next person. It's a good feeling for fifty cents.

Mary, that's a great random act!

Ken, yours reminded me of the scariest parking apparatus of all: the one in the Best Buy on LaBrea. I was there once and was so baffled by it I will never go back there again. I still don't understand how that thing worked or how I got out of there. In a store devoted to technology, it was the most confusing thing in the building.

peeky said...

It does sound nightmarish. They're so damn SERIOUS about their traffic and parking laws out there. Too bad subway transportation isn't a more viable consideration for you, as it is for us, because then you too could become an olfactory expert on hobo urines.

Michael Markowitz said...

Peeky, now I know you must be kidding... because if you're not kidding, and if you were not a woman, I would congratulate you on the size of your balls. You live in NYC, the parking seriousness capital of the world! Don't you have alternate side of the street parking? And people, like, inheriting parking spaces, and parking garages where cars ride in elevators, and places where parking goes for, like, fifty bucks a day?

Here, I occasionally spend a quarter for a meter. Or three bucks for a garage. Maybe once every two weeks.

As for subways, there was an article in the New Yorker that sniffed at our failure to develop a mass transit system. I definitely thought of that as I watched thousands of New Yorkers walking across the bridges for three days.

And as for hobo urine, I make my own, thank you very much!

peeky said...

Oh, my yes, it's prohibitively expensive here and there are tedious alternate-side laws, etc. What I meant by "serious" was the whole ticket-getting aspect out there, which seemed to me terrifyingly well-monitored. Or maybe I was just hyper-aware of it because I broke many, many laws (and I don't drive here in hobo-peeville).

Ken Levine said...

I had trouble figuring the Metrocard machine the first time I used it....with seven New Yorkers screaming at me to hurry it up.