Category Archives: Parking

Handicapped Parking Spaces…A Rant

Last year, I got a temporary handicapped parking permit for two months because I had broken my ankle. At first I was wearing a cast, then a pneumatic boot. I was hobbling to the door of the grocery store with a walker, then using one of their motorized carts, putting the walker in its basket. At work, I was using a wheelchair.
When the permit ran out, I wasn’t quite all good yet. I was wearing this Rube Goldberg cloth ankle brace, but I was better. Still, with no handicapped permit allowing me to park closest to the store, I was still not walking well and sad that I didn’t get my previous privileges.
Then I said to myself, who in the hell do you think you are? At least you can walk. Your handicap was temporary. You should be thanking your lucky stars. Attitude adjustment time.
My father was in a wheelchair from the time he was 35, and I can remember boiling anger at people who parked in handicapped spaces for convenience. I’d say that’s much less common now, because the fines are higher for it and people are more likely to report you.
It is not always obvious when someone has a disability, so if someone seems perfectly healthy to you but is parked in a handicapped space, lighten up. The only issue is if they have a permit. Those permits are issued by the state and can only be issued at the request of a doctor, who has to give a reason.
There is a loophole, almost. You can be perfectly healthy and use Grandma’s permit when Grandma isn’t using it. But. The permits are numbered, and trackable, and it’s against the law to “loan” them to other people. So if someone (like me, say) sees you run and skip out of a handicapped parking space, both you and Grandma are in a lot of trouble. Because I’ll go write down the permit number and call the police.
This whole rant is due to the fact that on Friday, a vendor of ours parked in a handicapped space inside the garage, and got a ticket. In my city, that’s a $250 fine. She came back in the office waving it around, asking what she could do. To make a long story short, my answer was, pay it. She claimed she had parked in handicapped spaces before and never gotten a ticket. So, if you did something wrong in the past but didn’t get caught, that means you can keep it up? And I guess the big sign in front of you saying “$250 fine” didn’t apply to you?
In any case, even if I could have done something about her ticket, I would not have. She came to the wrong person.

A Day in the Life Of Fakename

This day would be Friday, April 25th, 2014. Nothing special about this day, other than I happened to inhabit it.
First, I made my first ever trip to Whole Foods, because 1) it was the only grocery store between the hair salon where I got my hair cut and my workplace, and 2) I was having a food emergency, namely, I was starving. Had I not been in such a rush, I could do a whole Grocery Voyeurism post on the customers of this establishment, and I may have to go back, just in order to do a more detailed job of reporting. At a glance, I can say that the customers were of the Birkenstock-wearing, cloth bag-carrying variety. It isn’t nice to make fun of people, but some people just lend themselves too well to stereotyping, so I can’t help myself.
I also made a flying trip to the library on this day, since besides having a food emergency, I had a book emergency (didn’t have one). When I arrived, there was a guy standing at the ground level elevator. This elevator only goes up one level, and is there mostly to accommodate the handicapped. Because our library has delusions of grandeur and thinks it’s the U.S. Supreme Court. There are a gazillion steps leading to the entrance, which I think are supposed to remind you of the power and majesty within. So I take the elevator too.
About the time I arrived at the elevator, the guy standing there started to walk away. I said, “Isn’t it working?” And he replied, “I don’t know, I don’t know how to operate it”. This was like an immediate stab to the heart for me. I said, “Here, you only have to push this button”. Inside the elevator, he told me I’d come along at just the right time, and didn’t it look like it was going to rain? And lest you think badly of this guy, I realized later this was not one simple push button. It was an entire panel with another button to call for assistance, and another area for firefighter operation which you usually only see inside an elevator. And the button to actually call the elevator was not labeled.
I seem to have some sort of karma involving the library elevators. Once I was there and a woman got trapped and was screaming hysterically. Once she was freed, my flying trip was delayed by about 20 minutes while I sat at a table with her and pretty much cooed and talked nonsense, and said things like “You’re going to be okay”. I knew she was okay when she pulled out her cell phone and asked someone to come and get her. Good idea. No way was she driving.
At the end of my day, I had a truck towed from a parking space, because it was blocking the car next to it. In case you too ever manage parking, when you have a vehicle towed, the customer does not call you up and say, “Thank you so much for towing my vehicle. I now see that I behaved badly and I’ve learned my lesson.” Especially not at 4:00 P.M. on a Friday afternoon.
After making a couple of other feeble excuses, the guy finally said that he was there first. This made it a physics problem. I asked if he could explain to me how the customer he blocked managed to wedge herself in beside him so as to block herself?
Then I came home, read my book at the picnic table, drank some wine, played with the dog and the kitten, and watched the birds. The End.

Parking 103

Also this week, I had an experience I’ve never had.  Customer pays with a credit card, then refuses to sign the authorization slip.  What?  Because  if he doesn’t sign, we have no authority to charge the card.  Except we already have, and I can’t undo it until at least the next day.

So the cashier enlists my help, and I say to the customer (a big, hefty-looking Bob Marley-ish character), okay that’s fine.  You don’t have to sign, but in that case you have to pay cash to leave.  He says, well, in that case, are you going to give me a refund on the card?  I said yes.  Tomorrow.  Naturally, he refuses.

So calculating the risks versus the rewards, I said, you know, never mind–and raised the gate.  It wasn’t worth arguing over $2.00.  I said, Now you are free to exit.  He said, I’m not leaving until you give me my receipt.  I said, I can’t give you a receipt, because technically, you haven’t paid.  He says, You can’t refuse to give me my receipt.  That was the tipping point for me.  When I went from Customer Service mode to Ninja mode.

I said, You need to leave.  He said, I’m not leaving until I get that receipt.  I said, Oh yes you are.  If you don’t leave this minute, I’m calling the police.  He said, What?  What?  Bitch, I’M calling the police unless you give me that receipt.  I said, Good idea!  Go ahead.  Then I’ll have them ask you why you won’t sign this authorization.  That seemed to shine a new light on the situation.  (Only later did it occur to me that the card is probably stolen.  Somehow he thinks that using a stolen credit card is okay unless you actually sign for it, which would be like….double fraud? More traceable fraud? It’s true what they say–criminals really are idiots.)

In the end, he contented himself by saying, You don’t know who I am!  What is your name?  And then left.

The security guard came in about 30 minutes later, and was alarmed when I told him the story.  He said, Where I come from, “You don’t know who I am” means, “I’m sending my people to get you.”  Well now that you mention it, me too.  I must have come from the same place.  It’s just that it didn’t occur to me in the heat of the moment.

I was ready to come through the window at this guy.  All 5’2′ and 114 pounds of me.  Which would have been completely nuts.  So I still have a modicum of control.  But I long ago decided that if you threaten me or try to hurt me, I will fight you tooth and nail until you have to kill me.  Mostly because passivity doesn’t work–you just get hurt worse.

So my attitude may someday kill me, but it will be worth it.

Parking 102

Since I already did one post about parking, this is Lesson 102.

The Legislature is in session now, which is somewhat unusual.  Normally they meet in March and April, but this year it’s January and February.  Because every 10 years they have to deal with the issue of re-districting, based on the census.

We don’t ever see the Legislators themselves, or their top aides, because they are allocated parking spaces in the State garages across from the Capitol.  But we see the more expendable members of their staffs, the media, and chiefly, the lobbyists.

At the beginning of this year’s Session I was making small talk with one of the lobbyists who came in to renew his parking and asked if he thought the Session would go ahead and extend through April anyway–since I figured they would take up re-districting and the budget first, which would then leave them no time to get through the minor (but still ultra-critical) issues.  You know, issues like whether or not it should be illegal to spit on the street.  He said, for sure it will extend one way or another–probably through a Special Session or two–but you have things backwards.  They will take up the minor issues first and put the important issues–the ones they are required by law to address–until last.  Doing the important stuff first makes entirely too much sense.  (So if you think I’m cynical, you oughta meet this guy.)

Cynicism is the perfect segue into parking.  There is simply no better way to see the stupidity, craziness, sense of entitlement, and outright ignorance of some members of the human race than to be up close and personal with parking.  Fortunately, those people are not in the majority, but at times it’s hard to remember that since the crazies so overshadow the reasonable examples of the species.

Every year we look forward to the Legislative session.  It’s somewhat exciting because it’s busy, and we make a lot of money then.  It used to take me about a week to ask, How soon are they going home?  Now it only takes me a day.

Every year I threaten to make a recording we can just play in response to the typical customer meltdowns.  But there is always that unique person who surprises you.  It never gets any more fun than when the garage fills up and we have to start denying entrance to daily parkers.

Thus last week we got one of those typical meltdowns, which went like this:

Customer:  (Presses the intercom button at the entrance.) I understand the garage is full, but where else can I park?

(Imaginary) Recording:  I’m sorry.  The only thing we can recommend is that you try to find a metered space on the street.  (Left out of the recording:  And good luck with that.  When this garage is full–all 945 spaces–you won’t find a metered space within 3 miles.  My recommendation is to drive 3 miles north, park in the parking lot of the mall, and take a cab.)  By the way, there is a guy who works somewhere downtown who does exactly that.  He parks in the mall parking lot then takes a Segway to work.

Customer:  I get that the garage is full and that I have to look for a metered space, but where?  I’m not from here.  I don’t know where to look.

We don’t have a recording for that.  I said, to myself, not on the intercom, Give me just a minute to put on my X-Ray vision glasses and turn on the Citywide Parking Meter Space Finder.  Aha!  There is one space on Adams Street between College and Park Avenue.  Oh wait!  Somebody else just took that one.  Dang!

Could you just do what every other driver does, even in an unfamiliar area?  Maybe especially in an unfamiliar area?  Namely, drive around and frigging look for a parking space.

Did I mention I’m a cynic?

News From the Tiny World of Parking

Recently I learned that one of my oldest and most important friends ever, from Memphis, has been reading my blog, and I was so pleased!  She said she especially likes my posts about work, so here is another one from work for you, Karen! 

It’s a little hard to explain.  You know how people in different lines of work all have a sort of special language?  Acronyms and shortcuts that are instantly recognizable to people in the same line of work, but mysterious to outsiders?  Well, while it’s a little less complicated than, say, being a nurse (which Karen is) or a computer expert (like Fakesister is, although she may dispute that), or a government employee (like reader pt was and reader spencercourt is), parking is really no different.   If I were talking to a fellow parking person, I would simply describe my problem as “The ticket spitter has the wrong time on it”, and they would instantly understand the problem and its implications.

So to begin our Parking 101 lesson, here is the scenario.  In order to enter the parking garage, unless you have a monthly parking access card, you have to pull a ticket from the ticket dispenser, which we call a “spitter”.  Even the manufacturer calls it a spitter, which, when you think about it, is very descriptive of what it does. 

Each spitter has three mechanisms by which it “tells time”.  In this case, the tickets are barcoded and the time it’s dispensed is encoded in the bar code.  At the exit, the ticket is scanned (it’s just like the grocery store!)  The “cash register”, which we refer to as the “fee computer” does exactly that.  It calculates the time spent in the garage from entry to exit, and displays the appropriate fee due.  That time is controlled by a central computer, which operates all the devices: the ticket spitters, the fee computers, the gates, and the card readers.  Every morning at about 3:00 A.M., the computer performs an automatic function which sends the time to all the devices.  This is just about foolproof–unless the time on the central computer is wrong 🙂  There’s the first thing that can go wrong…but it very rarely happens. 

The other two time-telling components are completely independent of the bar code and each other.  One is a clock face on the front of the spitter, which serves no other purpose than to tell the customer what time it is when they enter, so they can mentally calculate how long they are there.  You may think, Who notices that?  But people do.  I can’t tell you how many arguments I’ve had with customers who say the clock time is different from their watch time.  Hello?  For all I know, your watch is set to GMT.  Now if you tell me the time is different from your cell phone, then I’ll get excited. 

The other is a mechanical stamp, which stamps the date and time it’s dispensed on the front of the ticket. In terms of how much you have to pay, this is far more critical than the clock face.  Because….

If the ticket won’t scan for some reason at the exit, then the cashier must enter the time manually into the fee computer in order to process it.  This can happen for a variety of reasons (the computer is down, or the bar code is garbled).  Imagine that.  A computer system malfunctioning. Who knew? 

Then it can be absolutely disastrous if the wrong time is stamped on the ticket, especially around 6:00 P.M. every day, when the rate changes from the “regular” rate, which can be as much as $6.00 per day, to a flat rate of $1.00 per entry.  So if the “real” time is 6:01 when the customer enters, and the cashier has to manually enter the time, and the ticket stamp says 5:59…you see the problem.  The times must match exactly. 

So, the date is Thursday, September 29th.  For the entire week, my evening (3-11 P.M.)  cashier informs me that the times are wrong on three of the four ticket spitters, and he’s been leaving notes in vain for the the Assistant Manager, the bookkeeper,and the maintenace person.  I was like, Why didn’t you tell me sooner?  Oh, never mind, don’t answer that.  We are big on chain of command around here.  Everyone would like to resolve problems before they get to me. 

Friday, September 3oth:  I say to the Assistant Manager and the bookkeeper, Go fix this!  Now! 

Monday, October 3rd. The cashier informs me that the times are still wrong, and now the date is too.  This is because the time stamp mechanism automatically advances to the next day, but it does not advance to the next month.  And it “thinks” that all months have 31 days.  Therefore, on Saturday, October 1st, it thought it was September 31st. So on Monday, October 3rd, the tickets said September 2nd.   So I sent the bookkeeper and the Assistant Manager out again. That evening,the cashier said, okay the date is right, but the time is still wrong…it’s 12 hours ahead.  I was just disgusted!  But, I thought, no amount of my being disgusted and rolling my eyes is working. I have to come up with some way to get this across. 

After a good night’s sleep, I said to them, the date was wrong because you weren’t looking at it.  You were only looking at the time. So I showed them this video.  I even told them, something strange happens in the middle…and neither one of them saw it.  Oh, the joys of being a manager!