Are the new computerized parking kiosks designed for convenience… or insanity? Margaret Blackwood describes her really, really bad parking day.
I was standing at a parking kiosk on lower Quadra Street the other day when I was approached by a woman who looked eternally exhausted and on edge from living on the street. She was soft spoken — at first.
I was polite but didn’t comply with her wishes for spare change. I usually try to be prepared with coins to pay the toll keepers of mid-Quadra and Yates streets, and parts farther flung, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. I only had enough for parking.
So at the top of her lungs she began calling me all kinds of names. Names that I don’t, and, for the record, didn’t deserve to be called — particularly not after the day I’d just had. She’d startled me as well by approaching from the road rather than the sidewalk. From across the street, she must have seen me tapping the number of my parking space into the kiosk and adding coins, and then crossed four lanes of traffic to get over to me.
She had to have twigged on the fact that I was weaker than usual that day. I must have stood out like an easy mark, like an antelope at a watering hole; or maybe it wasn’t personal at all, maybe it was completely random.
I got away, but not before she dug in and wriggled around in my head a bit, spewing out epithets of all manner and description, the likes of which I haven’t witnessed since I had to sit through The Exorcist in 1973.
Damn, though, it angered me. I’ve always made it a policy to walk with purpose and keep moving when I go downtown. How is this possible, now that there are these parking kiosks that require you to stand still and concentrate, type numbers, pick times, wait for tickets? I could hear my mother’s voice saying that I shouldn’t have been there in the first place, that I should have known better than to have parked downtown, that I should’ve this, should’ve that, as though it were all my fault that I was approached. It brought up all sorts of pre-adolescent crap and resentment that I thought was long buried.
F@%# it, I say back to my internal mother. I have every right to stand on a city street in the middle of the day, minding my own damn business, and pay for parking, without getting accosted.
Have I mentioned how much I abominate those bloody blue parking kiosks? I can’t even read the screens without my glasses. And after my latest encounter with the divine Ms. Blair, I’m… oh, let’s say, a tad more stressed than usual.
Today, once again, I have to pay for parking. I know I shouldn’t be rummaging around in my purse for ANYthing downtown, but I need to retrieve my damned reading glasses so I can see what I’m doing.
This time, I’m standing on the corner of Blanshard and View Street. Supposed to be on high alert, supposed to be aware of my surroundings. But plainly, I’m not aware of my surroundings at all; I’m concentrating on paying for parking at a kiosk yet again.
I’m thinking, Bleep-ing crap. The F@%# -er timed out on me. What the hell was the bleep-ing parking space number, again? Back to the car I go, practically half a block away. Back to the little sign post with the parking space number on it, which I can’t see from the kiosk, because it is pointed away from the kiosk — Ten Deep Breaths.
“Okay, 8214, 8214. Don’t forget,” I say out loud, while stomping back to the kiosk for the second time. “8214.”
The sunlight is washing out the display. Now I’m muttering and swearing to myself and my hair’s all messed up and blowing in my eyes and I’m squinting at the damn screen again because I never did find my glasses.
“Okay, okay, 8214… Stupid crap!”
Godforsaken thing rejects my extra coins and I get just over 60 minutes, not the 90 I need.
“F@%#!” I shout out loud. “F@%#. I want 90, you sucker, 90!”
A grocery cart filled to the brim with personal belongings rolls into my peripheral vision. The man pushing the cart and I are the only two people on this side of the street. He does not approach me or ask for money. In fact, it is apparent that I have made him uncomfortable. He just keeps steadily and methodically walking on past me and the blue parking kiosk, minding his own business, trying not to make eye contact.
“Parking Sign” shutupyourface @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.