The other day I had a very strange thing happen to me. I told a couple friends about it but basically forgot about it until I read a story in the Sun-Times by my former colleague Rose Sobol about a restaurant owner who punched a meter-maid for giving him a parking ticket. That happened on Friday.
On Thursday, I was downtown for an appointment and arrived about a half-hour early. It was about 9 degrees out so after finding a parking spot, I waited a few minutes before walking to my appointment. I wanted to wait longer, but I was bored sitting in my car by myself. So I got out, put my credit-card in the meter box and paid for the maximum time --two hours. The lame thing about the new meter system is that you can't just add more time to it after a few minutes. For instance, under the old system --I could have put in a few quarters and paid for two hours, hung out in my car for a half-hour, and then paid a couple more quarters before leaving to turn the timer back to two-hours. This new system prints receipts that go on your dash bored, displaying what time it is valid until. You can't add more time --you'd have to pay for the whole amount all-over again. Anyway, that is not the point of this story...
I ended up being at my appointment a little longer than I expected and I walked extra fast to get back to my car. I walk fast anyway, and it was freezing, so I was really flying back! I turned the corner and saw the dreaded meter maid writing me a ticket!
"Yo! I'm leaving," I shouted as I approached the meter maid, who was bundled up and wearing a ski mask so that you could only see her eyes.
"I already wrote it..." she said.
I smirked, but wasn't that mad, since I knew I was over my time and she was just doing her job. Plus, I got a vibe that she cared more than the typical meter-maid.
"Listen," she said. "I don't want you giving that jag-off any more money than he's already getting," she added, not needing to explain that she meant Mayor Daley.
"We are having a lot of problems with the machines freezing up...I'm not supposed to tell you this, but call this number --" she said, proceeding to give me her pen as I fumbled for a piece of paper from my briefcase. Keep in mind that I forgot my gloves and hat and was pretty cold.
"Wow, you're freezing," she observed, as I struggled to write the phone number that was posted on the meter machine.
"Write down the meter number also and the address here," she advised. "Tell them the machine was frozen and it wouldn't allow you to pay."
I smiled and said thanks. I couldn't see her facial expressions, since she had that ski-mask on, but I could from her eyes that she was a warm person.
"You probably get a lot of people yelling and swearing at you, huh?" I asked.
"Oh, you wouldn't believe...Seventeen years I've been doing this, but I put two kids through college," she said.
"I know you were just doing your job, it's no problem," I said.
"Well call the number and give it a try."
"I will. I appreciate your help."
With that, there was a little pause and we just looked at each other for a moment.
"You have a Merry Christmas and take care," she said, and then proceeded to give me a hug. I hugged her back and wished her well, then got in my car and drove off.
I didn't think about or frankly care about the ticket as I drove away. I did ask myself "did I just hug a meter-maid after getting a $50 parking ticket?"
There was a time when I would have cussed out the meter-maid and ripped the ticket in half. I must admit that I'm pretty proud of myself that I handled it cool. I'm sure the meter-maid would not have offered me her insider tip had I been ranting and raving. As one of my closest friends constantly says "you get more flies with honey."
Thinking about that restaurant guy who punched the meter-maid the day after my ticket, I just shook my head and was grateful that my experience was positive. After all, the memory of what happened is really priceless so I got off cheap for $50 (that is, if my frozen meter-box story doesn't work!) I'll let you know! :)