It's not about the house.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What Goes Around

I don't remember what day it was, but it was cold. Really cold, like two. And I was running late, and the sidewalks were a mess, and so I decided to treat myself and drive all the way to work.

I used to treat myself on days like this by driving all the way to the T station instead of walking from the beach, but now that they charge $2 each way to ride the train and $5 to park, it works out cheaper if I just feed a meter. I'm never in the city for more than six hours at a whack, so, at a dollar an hour -- even including the tank of gas -- I still come out at least a buck ahead. And no, I don't want to hear about my carbon footprint. I only do this sometimes and besides, my wittle carbon feets were fweezing! Scwew the polar bears! They can swim!

So I loaded my left-hand pocket with two dozen quarters, I rubbed my Parking Karma for good luck, and drove to town.

Oh, you don't know about the Parking Karma? Yeah. He looks like this:

He looks like that and he sits on the dash with pocket change -- and, um, apparently, like, gum or something -- and he finds parking spots for me. Dr. One Friend gave him to me for Christmas the year we met. Which was, well, let's just say George H. W. was still in office then. P.K. actually came with a sticky pad to glue him to the dashboard; I used it in the Buick I was driving then (my very first car: a 1979 Regal named Alice. He was a boy car, but he didn't mind having a girl's name because Alice Cooper is also a boy and he is very scary. My parents gave him to me for a college graduation present, although they didn't name him. I did. After the first song -- well, the first song with a name in it -- that I heard on his radio. That's how I always name my cars. Except for Chuck (TFT). Chuck is just Chuck The Fucking Truck because I hate him. But everybody else was named after a song -- Veronica, Cecilia, Francine. I don't know why they were playing "Alice's Restaurant" in May that year, but there you go). When I pulled Parking Karma off Alice's dash, however (his master cylinder gave out; I'd really rather not discuss it), the stick-pad stayed behind, so P.K. has just rolled around the dashboards of every car I've driven since, for (gulp) eighteen years.

I don't actually rub him for luck until I'm three blocks away from where I'm going. And I don't put a quarter in his hands until I really need a spot. You see how his little praying hands can hold a quarter? Yeah, you don't want to put the coin in there until the absolute last minute, because otherwise you'll just be leaking parking karma everywhere and you won't have any left for when you need it. No, best to get the quarter ready a little early (I have a lucky bicentennial one that I've been using for a while), but wait until you're actually on the block to slip it in. Then rub the belly with your thumb for luck and sing the Parking Angel song.

Oh, you don't know about the Parking Angel song? Yeah, it goes like this:

Parking Angel
How I love you
Parking Angel
How I love you
Parking Angel
The most beautiful Parking Angel in the whole entire world

And repeat, more or less to the tune of Johnny Angel by Shelley Fabares, until you find a spot. If there are other people in the car, they have to sing it, too. It is The Rule.

Do all these things correctly and you will get a parking spot, no matter where you are, I swear to god. Or at least I do. You might just wind up looking like an asshole.

So anyway, the other day (we were talking about the other day, remember?) I drove into Beacon Hill and I did all these things correctly and I got a spot right off the bat. Revisited it every two hours until it was time to go home, plugging eight more quarters into the meter every time. Those last eight kind of irked me, because I knew I wouldn't be there for two more full hours, but I always figure better safe than sorry. Four puny extra quarters is a lot cheaper than a $25 ticket for an expired meter, right? That would throw the whole parking lot/T ride equation out of whack for certain, what?

But sometimes, it happens anyway.

Sometimes, and you never can tell when or why, the meter doinks are having trouble meeting their quotas or something and they decide to enforce the stupid rule that says you're not supposed to stay there for longer than two hours even if you feed the meter. And then you get one of these:

The reason the whole shot looks so orangey is because of all the mad...

I hate this rule! Who cares if you get my quarters or somebody else's quarters!? I don't care if people want to come in the city to go shopping and they need a place to put their cars! If you can afford to shop these days you can afford a damn garage! Some of us are trying to make a living!

Needless to say, I had a little temper tantrum. I swore I wasn't going to pay the goddamn ticket. I'd already paid for my parking spot, goddamn it, and the City of Boston wasn't getting any more money out of me. I would just never-ever drive myself to work again. Ever. That'd show 'em. They would never get another of my hard-earned quarters, and they'd never be able to boot me for the unpaid ticket, either, because I would never again be in their jurisdiction. Ha ha City of Boston! I so win!

I know all about the boot, you see, because when I was little (back when Parking Karma still had glue) I never used to pay my parking tickets. I was poor, for one thing, but I also didn't so much grasp the notion that when you owed somebody money -- the city, for example, or the telephone company -- they actually expect it, like, right now. I figured as long as I was aware that I owed it, and as long as I had every intention of coughing it up, everybody would just somehow know that, and they'd be happy to wait until I got around.

Turns out that isn't true. 
That's not true, and then one day you wake up and there's no dial tone, and when you go out to your car it isn't there. Or else it is, but there's a big yellow boot-thing on the wheel.

Must've happened to me seven times in just over two years, until I found a spot in a parking lot behind the liquor store (safe, and convenient!) for $75 a month. That was a lot of money then (still is, in fact), but not as much as it was costing me to get the boot off all the time. Not to mention all the (ahem) parking fines.

So I paid the liquor man and put the car (I think it was Veronica by then) into his lot. I threw away my last batch of parking tickets and laughed at the Hub. I am winning, I thought. I am never paying these, and you will never find me!

Did you know you can't renew your registration if you have outstanding parking fines? Outstanding!

And did you also know that, if you don't pay those fines, the penalties never stop adding up? It's like the IRS. What starts out as a $5 oversight becomes a $100 boondoggle, and before you know it they won't renew your credit card because you keep maxing it out on all your parking fees (and you don't so much always pay that every month, either) and your dad has to cosign a lease for you because no landlord who looks at your credit report believes they can trust you to actually pay rent. 
That was all more than fifteen years ago, but still... You know what? On second thought? I think I'll pay that ticket.

But I'm still never driving into work again. Unless it's, like, really really cold. Or raining or something. Or a holiday. 
Or maybe if I had too much to drink the night before.


su said...

Double faced sticky tape

Khurston said...

yea, those big things with walls and ceilings and doors? that sell, like, stuff? they have this magical substance that will adhere items to other items, in exchange for a few pieces of paper if you can manage to imprint them with an image of a dead president. the paper, i mean, not the walls.

Stephanie said...

I remember the parking angel song. I do believe it was needed, because none of your lady-cars (to my memory, anyway) were very petite :)