Today’s column will provide a voice for the voiceless; an outlet for those poor souls among us who spend every day on the streets, only to be berated and abused by the wealthy upper crust. Yes, that’s right: I am referring to meter maids.
Meter maids, also called “parking enforcement,” or simply “you asshole,” are some of the most reviled, hated, despised human beings in our entire society. Seriously: I have now lived in two major cities that took parking enforcement rather seriously, and in both places I sort of got the sense that people would be happier if meter maids walked around distributing crack cocaine instead of parking citations.
Why are they so hated? Because they question our judgment. They draw attention to our decisions. They point out our flaws. They examine our mistakes. They are tasked with prohibiting us from exercising the ability to park our automobiles, an unalienable right that we all should have, by virtue of living in the free world, and by God they interfere with our COMMUNITIES and LOCALITIES by giving us parking tickets when we were trying to support local businesses with our HARD-EARNED MONEY!!
Well, today I’m coming to you with the cold, hard truth: if you got a parking ticket, you shouldn’t blame parking enforcement. You should blame yourself. Because it was probably your fault.
Allow me to provide an example that comes from a recent situation I witnessed. About a year ago, I was eating dinner in the Virginia-Highland section of Atlanta, which is this leafy urban neighborhood that’s the kind of place where parents cover their kids’ ears whenever two people on television are shooting, or punching, or having a loud disagreement.
So I’m sitting outside on a restaurant patio, enjoying a nice Thai dish, when I notice this guy pull in to a metered parking spot. Then I see him rush inside, clearly thinking that he will be there for just five minutes so he shouldn’t have to pay the meter. I’m exempt from the meter, he must’ve thought. Because I plan to support a local business for just five minutes.
Well, you can guess what happened next: about two minutes later, the meter maid rolls up, and BAM! Slaps this guy with a $35 ticket for not paying the parking meter. And then, just as the meter maid has finished writing the citation, the guy walks out to discover a parking ticket on his recently parked car. That’s when the yelling began.
“You son of a bitch!” this guy screams, standing next to his brand-new family crossover with more airbags than horsepower. “I was only in there for five minutes! FIVE MINUTES! You asshole!” And then he continues this tirade for several minutes, yelling and giving angry looks, but never actually threatening physical violence, because he is probably an accountant who occasionally cuts his lip on dessert forks.
When we finished dinner, I walked outside to check the sign, and sure enough, it was very clear: all cars must pay to park. It doesn’t exempt certain classes, like “people who were just running in for five minutes,” or “people who were going to pay, they swear” or “people who shouldn’t have to pay because they work here” or “people who can’t afford the ticket, but didn’t consider that when they parked illegally.” Instead, it says that all cars must pay. So this guy stood there yelling at the meter maid even though, legally, he deserved that ticket, and it was just his bad luck that the meter maid showed up during the five minutes when he was inside.
I remembered this situation a couple of days ago when I happened to get a parking ticket. Here’s what happened: at around 8:30 p.m., I pulled up to a metered street parking spot, parked, and walked away, assuming that the meters turned off by 8. When I returned an hour later, I had a ticket: failure to pay the meter. Initially, I was angry: Don’t they know these things shut off at eight?!?! But then I went over and checked the sign, and guess what? Metered parking is valid through 10 p.m.
So you might be wondering what I did next. Did I scream and yell and curse the ground the meter maid walked on? Did I drive block by block searching for the offending meter maid, so I could spit in their face? Did I go on a long tirade about how my rights as an American citizen were violated and I should be able to park my giant SUV wherever I want? No! I paid the fucking parking ticket, because I’m an adult, and I broke the law. Also, I made fun of the meter maid’s last name a little bit.
Before you say it, I already know that some of you have been unjustly ticketed. You paid until 6:53 p.m., and you got a ticket at 6:51. You were just baaaarely over the line, and you got cited for parking in a fire zone. You parked in front of a broken down old hydrant, and then the fire department needed it to shoot a cat out of a tree. But guess what? This is life. Sometimes you get unlucky. For instance: tomorrow, a few lucky people will wake up and discover they won the lottery. And a few unlucky people will wake up and discover that their cable is out, and they must wait for the Comcast repairman to show up between 8 a.m. and July.
Now, a lot of people take a different stand against parking tickets: they shouldn’t exist in the first place, because we should be able to park wherever we want for as long as we want. And this makes logical sense at first, but then later you think about it realize it’s approximately as smart as that time Napoleon sold most of North America to Thomas Jefferson for six hundred bucks and a stolen Macbook.
Allow me to provide yet another example. Here in Philadelphia, some streets have these resident parking restrictions wherein normal people are limited to just two hours in a certain zone, but residents can park as long as they want. So do you know what happens? People live in these parking spots. They put their little resident permit on the back window, they get the “perfect spot” three doors down from their apartment, and then they make their guests wipe with paper towels for the next four months because they don’t want to move their car to go get toilet paper.
What I’m saying is that we need meter maids, because otherwise this sort of chaotic behavior would run rampant all over the city, and we would all live in a lawless, fearsome society of rulebreakers. So I suggest the next time you get a parking ticket, you should thank the meter maid, and insist you’ll do better next time. Because without their services, people might go crazy. Parking on the sidewalks. Abandoning cars for years. Stopping in front of hydrants. Blocking the street. Taking up multiple spaces.
Hell, someone may even park a giant yellow Hummer in front of your house.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.