I entered the number. And fed my card into the slot. And punched in how many minutes I needed to keep my car safe from people who give you tickets. Except guess what! The machine rejected my number, my card and my minutes. The machine wasn't working. And also guess what! I was now running late.
Oh, what to do, what to do?
Should I start the process all over again in case I was the one who'd screwed up somehow?
Yes. That's what I did. That's exactly what I did. I went through the same process.
Three. More. Times.
OK, fine! I finally shouted at the pay station. I get it. You're not working. So what happens next? Do I get a pass because you're not working? But what if you magically start working again while I'm in the library at my meeting? Will I get a ticket? Even though I tried to pay for parking three times? Tell me what I'm supposed to do here!
In the end, this is what I did. I hoofed it back to my car (pretty much wishing I'd worn different shoes), found a pen and some paper, and wrote a really long letter to Those-Who-Hand-Out-Parking-Tickets, which I planned to leave on my windshield, begging for clemency. In fact, I felt exactly like Portia giving her mercy speech in "The Merchant of Venice," which Mrs. Overlade made us memorize in the 10th grade. "The quality of mercy!!! is not strained!!! It droppeth!!! as the gentle rain!!! from heaven!!! Upon the place beneath!!!"
That's how Portia's mercy speech went, only without so many exclamation marks.
Anyway, when I was halfway through writing my own mercy speech (I was really late for my meeting by this time), something inside me snapped. Snap! Snap! Snap!
Why was I doing this? Why was I the one explaining myself? Shouldn't someone be explaining themselves to me about the reasons why we have this incredibly annoying parking-meter system in our fair city?
And that was the moment when I declared my secret war. Here's how it works. I park. And if I think I can get away with, sometimes I don't pay! Awesome, right? I get out of my car and walk away. But before I do, I look at the pay station and say, "This is all your fault. You took a humble law-abiding citizen like me I was so law-abiding, btw, that I was invited to try out for Girls State when I was in high school, and the committee might have selected me to go if I hadn't accidentally forgotten the words to the Pledge of Allegiance during the audition, which can happen when a roomful of really scary older women with patriotic expressions on their faces are looking at you and turned me into a common criminal. So tinkerty-tonk!"
Yep. That's me now. A member of the criminal classes. Bad to the bone. Lawless. Like Pee-Wee Herman once said to Dottie, I'm a rebel and a loner and you don't want to get mixed up with me.
As long as we have those meters downtown.
Ann Cannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/anncannontrib.