12:06:58 am on
Tuesday 16 Jul 2024

Parking Meter Number 2
David Simmonds

Parking meter in Picton, Wellington County, Ontario. (Source: Quinte News)

I have bone to pick, with a parking meter. In particular, with parking meter number two, in the Market Lane lot, in Picton. The meters are a recent addition to what used to be free parking space, but I’m not arguing with Wellington County regarding the right to charge for parking.

The parking meter didn’t play by the rules.

What upsets me is the fact that meter number two has not been playing by the rules. The other day, I had a couple of errands to run in Picton. I elected to pay for one hour of parking.

Sounds straightforward, but it is not. The time at which I was parking was 2:01 pm. I know that because the news had just started on my car radio. My watch, the watch my wife wore that day and the car clock reported it was 2:01 pm.

Yet, parking meter number two indicated I was buying my ticket at 1:41, so it gave me an expiry time of 2:41. It gave me parking permission for only forty minutes instead of the sixty minutes I had duly paid for. I had sinister visions of a bylaw enforcement officer standing around the corner waiting to take advantage of the fact that I might have gone away thinking I had a full hour to play with.

There was a secondary problem. As prompted by the machine, I deposited a loonie to pay for the hour, but the receipt told me I had paid 50 cents, in the form of a 50-cent coin, whatever that is. If I had paid only 50 cents, the meter should have given me parking until 2:31 pm, on my watch, or 2:11 pm, on its watch.

This made my blood boil. I don’t imagine it takes an advanced degree in artificial intelligence to program a parking meter to tell the right time and recognize the right coinage. Maybe, it does.

What’s so wrong about demanding precision in our parking meters? We wouldn’t tolerate the traffic lights, at the five corners in Picton, malfunctioning by even twenty seconds, never mind twenty minutes. Chaos would ensue. Same thing with the Wellington traffic light; although we might not notice the twenty seconds, we wouldn’t tolerate that one malfunctioning for more than twenty minutes.

Machines don’t re-act, drat.

The annoying thing about machines: you can’t get a reaction out of them. They should come equipped with an appropriately sized punching bag, to ensure that users don’t suffer bone damage while expressing their exasperation by hitting metal. Ouch.

I did my civic duty and reported the problem. I would love to be able to tell you I met an unending circle of voicemail messages and bureaucratic inaction. Sadly, this was not so.

The operator, at Shire Hall, took my inquiry seriously and referred me to the bylaw department. An officer there gave me a call back in ten minutes, with a cheery assurance someone would look into the problem. The officer added a, “Thank you,” for drawing the problem to her attention.

Again and sadly, I must reject the theory that the faulty parking meter is just the tip of a vast conspiracy to raise municipal funds by stealth. By my calculation, it would take some 89.7 years to retire our municipal debt using the extra revenue from the unwitting users of meter number two. By that time, some other curious soul would surely have twigged to the swindle or someone within the inner circle of the conspiracy would have cracked under the strain of keeping the secret.

Besides, if the meters were deliberately rigged and the news ever came out, all hell would break loose. People would start ignoring all meters. Judges would refuse to levy parking fines.

People would wonder whether their municipal tax bills were gamed a little and put off paying. Wineries would start opening in Havelock rather than Hillier. Bachelorette parties would migrate to Desoronto.

The local economy would collapse. The County would take on a new incarnation as a redoubt for survivalists who rejected all form of government authority. On the brighter side, housing would become affordable, if only by virtue of being unsellable, thereby achieving one of our local policy objectives.

Alas, only a faulty machine.

No, it doesn’t hold water. There’s no Kafka-like bureaucracy or vast conspiracy, in the County, only a single faulty machine. Too bad, it would have made a great story. The only story here is what could have been such important errands that I would choose to spend an hour in Picton on a hot summer afternoon and I’m not telling.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

More by David Simmonds:
Tell a Friend

Click above to tell a friend about this article.