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Baby You Can Park My Car

Cars are great inventions….SO much faster than pony express, and horse and buggy, and perhaps a little easier on the street cleaners. Until, however, they make them so they can be folded and popped into our pockets, they will need to go somewhere—hence parking lots and spaces. There’s the rub.

As I sat having dinner in a Georgetown eatery last week with friends, each nervously glancing at their watches to make sure they fed the ever-hungry meters before expiration, I quietly thanked my common sense for pushing me to take a cab. I was almost giddy with the idea that I could be auto-carefree. Let’s face it—especially on a nice evening, parking can be a challenge.

T-minus two minutes to violation, my friend collected quarters and dashed from the table to purchase another couple of hours of parking nirvana. Not so much. She returned several minutes later clutching the dreaded white rectangle. We were appropriately sympathetic. We were soon appropriately more so when we found out she missed the meter’s expiration by a mere three minutes. Three minutes. 120 seconds. Technically, this is late; upsetting, but late. We lamented the parking situation.

Fast forward two hours and three courses. Meter dash two—reprise. After an appropriate amount of time, my friend returned clutching…you guessed it…another citation. Citation two—the sequel. Kind of like a bad dream on four wheels. I see you shaking your heads out there, quietly and perhaps a little self-righteously glad it wasn’t you. But wait…there’s more!!! One minute. 60 seconds. Yup. This ticket was issued a mere minute after the meter expired. “Read my lips…” you say. “EXPIRED.” That is the law. Well, yes, yes it is. Technically it is—and my friend was in violation. That being said, the officer was sitting in a car, right there, just waiting for those little lights to start blinking. Once again, in all fairness, the argument can be made that it is a violation and that is their job. Fair assessment. It is...and it is. But really…at 60 seconds, the traffic officer had to have even seen her approach her car…quarters in hand.

I realize there are parking issues all over the city. Some areas, though, have more space for cars, a preponderance of valets to restaurants, and perhaps parking enforcement that has, maybe, just a little compassion. Imagine what would happen, for example, if every business tacked on a $50 surcharge. That’s what it cost my friend…for being one to three minutes late. If her stride were longer, perhaps she would have made it. Yes…I know…I know…there has to be a limit. Once the meter expires, it expires. Is the city so strapped for funds that they have to swoop down on every vehicle the very moment of expiration to gain $25? This is not a traffic safety hazard. I have to wonder what the profit margin is between paying someone to stalk parked cars and the revenue brought in per hour per ticket per vehicle? Someone should do a study. I, for one, am curious.

On one hand, I get it. On the other, three minutes of parking isn’t a felony. There are, in fact, plenty of those going on around that might benefit from more people stalking with as great a concentration in the interest of prevention. In the meantime, I’m taking a cab.