I have lived in the city for three years now and I finally got busted.
The parking meter gods at long last found me and took me down.
In a really big way.
From day one of living here, I have been pretty diligent about paying for parking. I always pay the maximum amount it allows, look at the time it expires and will leave mid-sentence in a restaurant to run out to put more money in.
In other cities I’ve lived in, getting a parking ticket was sort of a joke. In Ann Arbor, it was five or ten bucks. In Detroit, if your car was still where you parked it and had a ticket on the window, you just sighed with relief that it didn’t get stolen.
But in Chicago, I knew it meant big bucks. Fifty big bucks. That is money that can be spent in so many better ways. Fifty big ones could equal a haircut, a cute shirt from Banana Republic, a couple cocktails or even ten cups of over-priced Starbucks coffee. I can definitely be lazy, but for that kind of wasted cash, I always made sure to pay those damn meters.
In the back of my mind, I knew there would come a day when my luck would run out.
Of course, the night it happened, I just happened to be bragging to my friend’s at my local bar about how I had made it three years without a single parking ticket.
People were amazed and in awe (ok, maybe not in awe.)
The patrons were laughing about their own stories of owing hundreds of dollars for unpaid tickets, and how it took them one week in the city to start accumulating them.
Outwardly, I laughed with them. But, inwardly, I was appalled and it made my stomach hurt imagining all those fees racking up and having that kind of stress hanging over one’s head.
Someone even talked about a friend of a friend who owed four THOUSAND dollars in parking tickets. That has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.
So, when I initially pulled up to my favorite watering hole, it was happy hour and I only planned on staying for some food, a beer and to finish up some computer work.
I paid the maximum, and noticed it was only good until six o’clock. Knowing they check meters until nine, I tucked that time frame away in my head and knew I would have to come back out if I decided to stay longer.
I sat at the bar, ordered some chili and a beer. I pulled out my computer and started the energy sucking process of entering data about my day in the field.
After an hour or so, I was starting to fade and was about to close up shop and head home.
The problem with frequenting my beloved local bar (you know who you are) where everyone knows your name (Hello, Norm!), is that eventually, a friendly face always shows up.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Two of my favorite people walked through the door (they will remain nameless to protect their innocence and shameful drinking) and thus, changed the course of my parking meter history.
The conversation flowed, the music was great and there were copious amounts of laughter.
At one point, I looked at my watched and saw that it was almost six o’clock. I leaned over and looked out the window. My car was not even a full block away. The windshield was absent of any tickets and for the first time EVER, I shrugged my shoulders and said, fuck it.
Now, this is pure and utter laziness. It wasn’t raining, snowing, or even that cold out. The car was not a mile down the road, around the corner or under a dark bridge somewhere. I could literally read my license plate.
But, I just turned back around to my friends and continued on, mentally willing the meter maids away from my car.
So, here it comes.
My right of passage to finally becoming a true Chicagoan came an hour later, in the form of a bright orange envelope flapping in the wind under my wiper.
*side note: I realize that I need to do many more things to become a true Chicagoan. Like taking the bus, the train, and rooting for the Bears (will never happen.) I am working on it.
At any rate, I approached my car laughing, mad at myself for it finally happening, but figured, fine, its fifty bucks and now you’re official.
I whined about it to my friend whom we’ll call Wasabi Fred (don’t ask) as he grabbed them off my windshield.
Yep, that’s when I realized there was more than one ticket.
At first, I assumed they came by twice and double fisted me. So, great, now a hundred fucking dollars.
But as Wasabi Fred got into the car with me, I noticed he was being oddly silent as he reviewed the tickets.
“So??? Two tickets, a hundred bucks, right??” asks me.
That’s when he gives me the pity look. That look where the mouth takes that upward, sideways cringe and the eyes turn into puddles of, shit, I’m not sure how to tell you this.
Wasabi Fred then calmly told me that the second ticket was for not having the new Chicago city sticker. And that it was two hundred dollars.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. I have always renewed the damn sticker. And when I say, always, I mean the last two years.
I saw it on the News months ago and knew that I needed to go get it and simply forgot to go do it.
TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS.
It makes me want to vomit just thinking about it.
But, here is where the story becomes amazing for me. And I didn’t notice it until this morning. As I was looking the tickets over, I started laughing as I realized how what I saw on the ticket encapsulated how really funny and ironic my life always is:
My “Officer”- aka Meter Maid- was: TLOVE
I’m sorry, but that shit is funny. It’s like P.DIDDY or ICE T or JAY-Z wrote me my tickets. I imagine TLOVE is a smooth operator. He wears dark shades and is always licking his lips, talking his game to the ladies.
TLOVE is an Officer of the City by day, but he is all party at night. I just know it.
Or….TLOVE could be a middle-aged woman who hates her job because everybody hates the Meter Maid.
Regardless, I now have to go buy the new City sticker for $100, plus the $250. Family members may be getting jars of olives for Christmas this year.
I wanted to be a little “citified” by getting ONE parking ticket, but instead I am probably contributing to a manhole cover for Michigan Avenue.
New State line sign proposed by me:
“Welcome to the City of Chicago, where, just when you are ahead in life, we drain your bank account.”
Thanks to my laziness and TLOVE, I have arrived.