It was a gorgeous spring afternoon and intrepid reporter and good news ambassador Jeanne Huff was just leaving Fixx, a coffee shop in Downtown Boise with her friend and former colleague Will. “Uh-oh — looks like you got a parking ticket,” Will said, laughing. “THAT’S not good news,” he joked, referring to Huff’s blog, “First, the good news.”
“Ha, ha,” Huff deadpanned, adding, “let’s see if you got one.”
They walked around the corner. No ticket. “Guess I lucked out,” Will said, hopping in his car as Huff bid him adieu.
As she walked back around the corner, scrabbling in her purse for her keys and reaching for the parking ticket, Huff began to heave a sigh of resignation. Yes, she had pumped the meter with four quarters — after pushing the 20-minute courtesy meter button — but the two old friends just yakked longer than she’d anticipated and so… “do the crime, pay the fine,” Huff muttered to herself.
But as she reached for the ticket clipped under her left windshield wiper, Huff was distracted by the low rumble of … a tow truck in the middle of the street. “Wha?”
Then, almost simultaneously, Huff spotted the bicycle cop, his bike parked against the side of the building, striding towards her.
“This your car?,” he barked at her. Rather gruffly, she thought.
“Yes,” she admitted, car keys in hand.
“You’re lucky,” called out the tow truck driver, who was standing in the middle of the street, hook in hand, Huff now noticed. “If I had actually hooked you up, you would have to pay an extra $150,” he said. Also in a pretty stern manner, Huff noted.
“Well, how much do I owe, I’ve been meaning to get down to City Hall, I know I have a few tickets…” Huff rambled, trying to do the math. Yes, she was guilty of racking up some parking tickets, she just wasn’t meter-mindful. Sometimes, she’d forget to poke the 20-minute courtesy button when she stopped to dash in for a cup of coffee or once in a while — like today — she just mismanaged her time (translation: gabbed too long). But she just didn’t see how it could have come to this!
“You owe $180 in outstanding parking tickets. Just me being here, another $50,” the tow truck guy said. “If I had hooked up, it would have been another $150.”
“Wow,” Huff said, trying to figure out her wanton parking ticket flaunting ways. “I haven’t gotten any reminders in the mail or anything,” she said, hearing her own voice beginning to quaver as she began to crumble to the reality of this rather shocking development.
Huff handed over her debit card, making a mental note to stop by the bank and deposit her unemployment check immediately after this debacle was over. That should about cover the damages, she thought, her eyes welling up with shameful tears.
“I feel bad about this,” the bicycle cop admitted.
“Would it matter at all if I told you I’ve been laid-off,” Huff pleaded, pulling out all the stops in desperation to save her bank account from this parking-ticket plunder. (It seems she wasn’t too ashamed to try to talk her way out of this in a can’t-we-all-just-pretend-this-never-happened-and-I-promise-I-will-mend-my-parking-meter-ways in a let’s-make-a-deal last-ditch effort.)
“I thought you guys wouldn’t be towing unless the bill was a little higher,” Huff said, again doing the math tally in her head.
“The limit is either $200 — or five or more tickets at least a month old,” the bike cop explained. “In your case, it was the five or more tickets.”
Huff suddenly realized why she hadn’t received any reminders. “Oh, we moved. Our ticket notices have been going to our old address, I bet,” she said, shaking her head. Finally, she came to her own reconciliation.
“Well, it’s my own fault, anyway. I should have paid them. I knew I had a few. I just didn’t know I had that many.”
Huff took her bank card back from the tow truck driver and thanked him for not towing her car. The cop — he said his name was Randy — thanked Huff for not yelling at them.
“I guess it’ll teach me a lesson,” Huff said, trying to muster a wry smile.
Huff got in her car and drove to the bank. The clock read 5:55 p.m. “Just enough time to get my check deposited — barely,” Huff thought as she loped across the sidewalk and into the bank lobby. She filled out her deposit slip in a flurry and, as she was finishing the transaction, suddenly remembered: oh, no, I didn’t hit the button!
Huff hurriedly thanked bank associate Emily and flew out the door to her car, parked next to a blinking meter.
Oh, no — another ticket?!
The moral of this story is: Always poke your courtesy parking meter button. Set a timer on your watch or cell phone when you go to a Downtown meeting and you’re “on the meter.” And, if you do get a parking ticket — march right down to City Hall, do not pass go, and pay that sucker.