The $20 check was written and in an envelope beside me on the passenger’s seat of my Subaru. I was peeling out the driveway when my husband came walking up from the train station, home from work early. A mild-mannered man, he looked preternaturally gleeful.
“Well, I did it,” he gloated as we drew even with each other.
“Got to get this check in the mail. I’ll be right back!” I called and sped off to the post office with a 5:00 pm pick-up, still rattled by an earlier outing.
I had driven to Ardmore to have lunch with a friend who was going to tell me all I needed to know about updating my website. Then I would go pick up a pair of running shoes I had ordered. It was a sparkling June day, before the heat and humidity of a Philadelphia summer had kicked in, and I was looking forward to the outing. I parked in my usual lot off Cricket Avenue, loaded the meter with enough quarters to get two hours, and headed to the restaurant, the one where you can get a burger and fries. I waited by the register. And waited. And waited. I finally thought to look at my phone, and there was a text message: she wasn’t going to be able to make it because she had to pick up her daughter, whose car had broken down. Okay. At least I could get my new shoes. To the running store I went – where they brought me a box with the wrong shoes in it. “Oh, we are so sorry. We’ll reorder for you. They’ll be here before the end of the week!”
No bacon burger. No website wisdom. No new Nikes.
I trudged back to the parking lot. As I approached my car, I could see the meter flashing a red EXPIRED flag. But I had put in many quarters! It should have had more than an hour left on it! In fact, it should have had exactly the amount of time that was left on the other meter on the shared pole, where there hadn’t been and still wasn’t a car…
I had filled the wrong meter.
It was then that I turned and saw the Lower Merion Township parking ticket tucked under my windshield wiper. The ticket had been written five minutes after I had parked the car. The fine was noted in nice big, bold print: $20. I stewed all the way home. There was no way to fight it, of course. It was my own fault for not being careful about the double meter thing. On top of that, when I got home and read the fine print on the ticket, I saw that the Lower Merion Township office had to have the money in 48 hours or “additional fines could be imposed.” I didn’t feel like driving another 25-mile round trip to Ardmore any time soon. I had to get that check in the mail pronto.
Once back from the post office, I poured a cup of tea and sat down to hear Jon’s story:
Jon: I got her.
Kathy: Got who?
Jon: The woman who gets off the train when I do. She always walks up our street ahead of me and gets in a car in front of the Holts’ house. I’ve suspected she was parking there all day, but couldn’t be sure. This morning, I had to take the 7:53 instead of the 7:14. I saw her park her car. As I passed her, I pointed out the two-hour parking sign, just as a friendly gesture of course, in case she hadn’t seen it. She snapped, “Oh, I know. Who cares?” So at lunchtime, I called the township office and asked if they could put an official warning notice on the car. But they don’t do warnings! And when I walked by the car right now, I saw she had a ticket! Hah!
(Aforementioned mild-mannered husband, not one to take revenge or revel over another’s misfortunes, had been driven mad by people using our little one-block street next to the SEPTA station as a parking lot.)
Jon: Now she’ll have to pay a fine.
Kathy: Could you see the amount on the ticket?
Jon: Yes! $20!