She was gone only a few minutes. Ten, 15 at the most. Popped into the Book Emporium on Queen Street and when she came back out, there it was. The dreaded white paper, folded neater than army linens, tucked snugly under the driver side wiper of her olive green Subaru Forester.
She wasn’t upset. Well, upset with herself maybe. She always feeds the meter. She keeps quarters and loonies – and dimes come April 1, when the meters go up – in the little tray under the trash.
“Today I was preoccupied,” Helen MacPherson said as she plucked the parking ticket from her windshield. “I just forgot.”
But she wasn’t upset. Upset with herself maybe. Because she knows, like any Charlottetown driver knows, we have the best parking enforcement officers on the planet.
How good are they? I’ll tell you how good. Damn good. Last Thursday I followed one of them. He gave out 12 tickets in less than an hour.
It started with the red Sierra truck parked in front of Currie’s Shoe Repair on Queen Street. Not even the Leafs vanity plate could garner him any sympathy. Ticket No. 1.
The officer walked up Kent and turned right on University. A black Mercedes outside Hearts and Flowers was ticket No. 2.
He turned right on Grafton and what did he see? A Hyundai Santa Fe parked outside Luna in a space clearly marker No Parking. No. 3 was a no-brainer.
He completed the block by turning right at Cows and nailing a grey Dodge Caravan in front of Shoppers.
No. 5 was MacPherson’s Subaru, parked on Kent by the big black bell beside City Hall. No. 6 was a blue Rav 50 feet further outside the Charlottetown Hotel.
He turn right on Pownal and that’s where he found the motherlode. Meters flashing their red EXPIRED signs up one side of the street and down the other. Of the 11 cars parked on Pownal between Kent and Fitzroy, six got ticketed.
As he doubled back up Kent, I couldn’t watch anymore. I ran ahead of him and put a quarter into an expired meter as he reached for his ticket book. (You’re welcome, dark grey Corrolla outside Handan’s Café.)
We chatted for minute. His name is Tom, and he wasn’t the surly, ruthless ogre that would have fit better with this story. Quite the opposite. Pleasant. Beautiful day, isn’t it.
He loves his job, not handing out tickets, but meeting people. Not all are super friendly, especially those who just got ticketed. He hears all kinds of excuses – “I was only gone a minute” is the most common – but bottom line, he’s got a job to do and he does it well.
And with integrity.
For example, if he walks by a meter with only one minute left on it, he doesn’t dillydally and watch it expire as I suspected they all do.
But they don’t fall for your tricks. My friend Tracy once tried sticking an old ticket on her windshield, thinking surely she wouldn’t get dinged twice. Wrong.
Beating the meter man is like a game at The Guardian, where employees park at the meters along Prince Street. At about 1:30 p.m. word spreads like a hot news tip that he is approaching and everyone jumps up from their cubicles and rushes to beat him to their car.
I got ticketed last Thursday too, just down from the Golden Wok on Grafton. Like Helen in the Subaru I paid it right away because if you pay within seven days, it’s only $5. That’s nothing. The poor suckers in Moncton have to pay $45, and in Halifax it’s $25 – $20 if paid within a week.
But, then again, their parking enforcement officers probably don’t work nearly as hard as ours.