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Historic Downtown Birmingham is my neighborhood, and my little bookstore and museum constitute the center of my personal universe. Most days, I live in the peaceful world by staying out of the way of gypsies, tramps, thieves, wolves and cranky people…but the one thing I can’t seem to avoid is the plethora of City Employee Attitude Provokers. These folks are scattered here and there, and they appear to pounce only when I least expect it…only when I am otherwise having a nice day.
We can take care of the elephants, but the gnats are annoying to the max.
FROM MY RED CLAY DIARY, JUST LAST WEEK:
It’s first thing in the bustling morning of the big city, and I do what I do at least three times a week—pull up to a parking space in front of the town’s only variety store, FAMILY DOLLAR, this time to pick up some trash bags and paper towers for the shop.
I check the winking metal meter and scrounge around for a nickel, which I know will provide six minutes of parking time, just enough for me to do my thing. There’s no nickel, but the dime I find will suffice—what the heck, I can spend twelve minutes looking at the gewgaws and jawing with the employees.
I stick the dime into the winking meter—and it just keeps on winking. Oops! It’s another broken machine in the traditionally broken-meter ethos of Downtown. Maybe it was dozing instead of blinking…so I stick another dime in the slot. Blinking continues. At this point, I have to decide whether to risk receiving an overtime ticket, or just dash in, hoping to beat the system. Then, I notice a Meter Maid (don’t know what her real title is) who seems new to the beat. She’s checking cars and issuing tickets and she’ll soon be coming my way. I decide to let her know about the meter, so I won’t have to worry about the fine.
“Hi, I notice that this meter isn’t taking my money.”
She snaps, “What did you put in?”
“Well, you have to put in a quarter,” she replies impatiently, which I know not to be the case—just guess she’s new to the beat and trying to seem efficient. I do not mention this fact.
“Hmm…wonder when they started requiring dimes only?” I say, searching my pocket for some quarters.
She doesn’t reply and huffs away to look at another meter.
I insert a quarter into Winky, and, sure enough, it continues to wink. No results.
“Uh, it isn’t taking quarters, either,” I say, since she’s only a few feet away.
She grimaces and snaps, “Well, how do I know you put anything in the meter? I didn’t see you put it in.”
I’m stunned but still on task—I just want to make my FAMILY DOLLAR purchases and get to the shop before opening time. The only thing I can think to do is seize the moment.
“Well, please witness this for me, I’m about to put another quarter in, but can you watch me this time?”
She freezes, can’t seem to think of any snappy comeback, and stands about two feet away looking at the meter while I place the quarter where it’s supposed to go. It doesn’t work. She WHAPS the side of the meter, hoping that will solve the problem, but the winking continues.
The Meter Maid starts to walk away, turns back for a second, waves her hand dismissively, and says, “You’re OK.” I take that to mean she won’t issue a penalty.
I make my purchase (it only takes four minutes) and am relieved that there is no ticket when I return.
I hop in my time machine and head for work, where I will spend the rest of the day laughing at the incident, marvelling at the unnecessary energy required to have just one tiny justice done on the streets, and hoping to avoid any additional encounters with City Attitude employees, at least for the rest of the day
(c) 2012 A.D. by Jim Reed