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Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2014

Time for a change!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

(Photo)
Dick Wolfsie
I admit I'm not very good with gadgets. I can't even switch my leaf vacuum into a leaf blower, and my microwave is stuck on the popcorn setting. I'm also having a heck of a time with the new parking meters that require credit cards. I told a police officer in downtown Indy the other day that I couldn't figure out how to get the blasted machine to accept my VISA. "Join the club," he said. I'd like to. I hope they accept cash.

I miss the old parking meters. I miss fumbling for change in my pockets in a torrential rain; I miss going to a newsstand and buying a pack of gum with a twenty-dollar bill, just to get some coins. But if you love nostalgia like I do, don't despair. With a little poor planning you can still get one of those quaint little orange tickets on your windshield.

When I was a kid in New York you could park for 10 minutes for a penny. Of course, you couldn't find a space, but at least it was affordable. My father still complained about parking being too expensive. He once told me that on the morning of March 5, 1947, it cost him 16 cents to park while my mother was giving birth to me. Okay fine, but did he have to take it out of my first allowance?

The first working parking meters were installed in July of 1935 in Oklahoma. The first parking meters that didn't work were shipped to Cleveland in l936 and are still there with burlap bags over them. In the 1930s, the meters in Chicago couldn't generate any profit. Most of the people who could afford to own cars in the Windy City were bank robbers or jewelry-store thieves and the longest they ever parked anywhere was three to five minutes.

By the way, those original parking meters in Oklahoma angered some of the town winos who inserted a penny and were annoyed they didn't get a gumball. Of course, the local women were happy because when they read the meter, they thought they had lost about 40 pounds.

Some people have challenged the constitutionality of paid parking, claiming that streets are public property and that nowhere in our founding fathers' documents were parking meters ever mentioned. That's a very conservative point of view. The liberals want directions in Braille on the meters. Can we find a happy medium here?

Instead of these user-unfriendly meter boxes, why can't they make a card you could carry on your keychain? After exiting your car, flash it in front of the scanner and when you return, it would calculate your time in the spot and reset to zero. Your credit card would then be charged. No freeloader could use your remaining time. And here's a gift idea: You could purchase pre-paid cards. Suppose you have a relationship that is getting a little too serious. Why not give each other some space? How thoughtful-- and subtle.

Finally, parking meter pricing should be tied to how expensive your car is. For example, if you drive a $150,000 Lexus, the fee to park downtown should be $25.00 an hour. But if you have, let's say, a 2004 burgundy Hyundai Tucson with a dent in the right passenger door, a dime a minute seems fair, just to pick an example totally at random.

It may be quite a few years before the traditional parking meters come back in use. While I wait, I'm going to eat healthy and exercise. I plan on buying myself some time.