Yesterday, my tandem bike stoker (and life partner of the past 25 years) and I headed to the Big City by automobile to run a few errands and check out the bike-path/walking trails around Capitol Lake.
Since the day had started cold and threatened to turn wet, we parked at metered parking on the downtown side of the lake, rather than out on the parkway on the far side of the lake. Standing in the cold breeze from the lake and looking at the rain-laden clouds sweeping in from the Coast, and, with the closed-for-repairs causeway less than 500 meters down the shore, I thumbed enough of our dwindling supply of nickels into the meter for what seemed to be a generous 40 minutes of brisk walking.
As we moved into the lee side of the hill on which Washington’s Capitol campus sits, the wind didn’t seem so cold, and we noted a switchback trail leading to the Capitol, so we diverted. In the 30 years since I first came to Washington State, I had never been to the Capitol itself, so it seemed like a good idea at the time to check it out. After reaching the top and strolling past the domed seat of government, we noted that we only had eight minutes to get back to the car before the meter expired.
It wasn’t far as the raven flies, but ravens don’t walk down switchbacks, and the eight minutes expired by the time we reached the lake shore, where we noted, in the distance, the flashing red light of the Parking Enforcement vehicle as it moved down the street–away from our car. One more nickel would have saved us: the time stamp on the $15.00 parking infraction was three minutes after the meter expired. Officer Lisa must have sat in front of the car waiting for the LCD to flash all zips. The car next to us also had a ticket, so it was obviously a good place to just hang out and watch the meters tick.
Needless to say, the afternoon gloom intensified inside the car as well as out on the drive home. Parking meters are evil: you can’t add more time unless you are physically there, and they don’t record how long the meter has been expired, or know if the same car has been in the spot for more than the 3-hour limit. In some municipalities, the parking enforcement folks make more than one pass to check for deliberate violators. Obviously, there is no “grace period” in Olympia, especially during the legislative session when parking space is at a premium.
So, the moral of this story is: be generous with your supply of nickels at the meter–if you return on time, pass your good fortune on to the next car, or consider it a tip to the city for having a convenient spot for you to have parked in. Or, bring your bike and park the car in a free lot outside the city core. Next time, we will.