Unclassified Info: Turning against the tyranny of the meters

According to a recent Gallup and Healthways poll, anger in Glendale is on the rise and comparable to residents in Pittsburg. That fact rather astounded me, considering that when compared to Pittsburg, we live in the land of milk and honey.

Granted, due to the rains, the last couple of months have not been the prototypical picture of California dreamin’. I myself spent part of Sunday vacuuming water out of the entryway of our house. And while that may have been annoying, it wasn’t enough to make me as mad as say, having to live in Pittsburg would.

And when I think about the devastation in Japan, a little water in my foyer shouldn’t be enough to raise my ire at all. I was grateful that I could wander into Home Depot, purchase a sump pump and voilà —problem solved.

So what is it that has so many of us angry? Do we all have vindictive siblings and ex-wives? What binds us in our common loathing of life in our otherwise suburban Southern California bliss? Could one of those things be the new automated parking meters?

I’m wondering if life was less stressful in the salad days of our youth when meters accepted pennies, nickels and dimes instead of AMEX platinum cards. Did we feel less bitterness and futility when we could park our cars using loose change found in between the seats, instead of having to hope and pray that our credit rating was sufficient to satiate these new parking meters from hell?

The pollsters don’t say. But I suspect this is the case. How many times have you seen a fellow Glendalian swiping a credit card over and over and over in the futile hope that the meter will read it. I can only imagine the misery in having to do that in a torrential downpour. It’s hard enough with people standing behind you, sighing in exasperation as though the fact that your card can’t be read is some kind of insidious plot to make them late. I can neither confirm nor deny whether that is true, although it wouldn’t surprise me.

But perhaps the most annoying thing about the new meters is that they take away one of the simple pleasures of life — discovering the spot you just parked in has a little time left on the meter.

I know I sound like some old codger reminiscing about the good old days, but does anyone remember the time when you could actually pull into a parking spot and discover the meter had 15 minutes left? Didn’t that brighten your day just a bit? Didn’t you feel, even for a fleeting moment, that the parking gods had smiled upon you?

And where is that good feeling? Gone. Replaced by the frustration that regardless where you park, you will have to feed the meter.

And what really infuriates me is the knowledge that the city is double-billing those of us that park in spaces where there may be time left from the previous person. Those pay kiosks are computerized. How hard would it have been to program the meters to let you know how much time remained from the previous car?

After all, the system is sophisticated enough to let the meter maids know which spot has time left on it. Why can’t they provide us the same courtesy?

Think about it. Wouldn’t you be happier if, before you were forced to pay, the kiosk coughed up that relevant information? It would not be hard at all. But no, the kiosk just stares at you like a sidewalk version of the HAL 9000 computer in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Lifeless. Killing us all, 25-cents at a time.

Well, to quote a famous fictional newsman, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” The poll that just identified us as angrier every day is my rallying cry. We need to put some happiness back in our lives and I’m calling for a grass roots effort to do it.

I propose we start by waging full-scale war on these joyless, computerized parking kiosks.

If you see a stranger waiting for your parking spot and you know you’ve got time left on the meter, simply tell them how much time you’ve got left. If you can pass along your receipt as proof, so much the better.

The computerized meters may be programmed to take our money like rigged slot machines, but they are still dumb machines, until the city installs motion detectors and ray guns to combat this revolution against parking tyranny.

This is the chance for we, the angry masses, to put a few cents worth of happiness back into our own happy meters.

Let other motorists know how much time is actually left on your meter when you leave. After all, you paid for the time, so you — not the city —should be able to decide who gets to be the beneficiary of your hard earned parking money.

GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at gh@garyhuerta.com.

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