The Danger of Intuitive Parking

I have a tough time wrapping my head around the signs that say when you can or can’t park somewhere. To me they’re all, “Blah blah blah Zone 2 even days no standing streetcleaning Tuesdays snow emergency fibblety foo callooh callay.” Instead I go with the crowd. Why read signs when I can let others do my thinking for me? I know if I can park somewhere based on if anyone else is parking there.

Friday evening I went to the Wyndham Hotel at 1400 M St. (where I’m told recently departed news legend Ed Bradley would joke with the staff by requesting the “Marion Barry Suite”). I pulled up just before five and right out front there were a handful of metered spaces available. What luck!

I was vaguely aware that there are parking spaces you need to clear out of during rush hour, and maybe it should’ve been common sense that numerous spaces that good wouldn’t be so easily available, but there were a lot of other cars parked there so, you know, safety in numbers.

I pulled into two free spaces and took the one in front. I got out and someone pulled into the one behind me, making me more confident that I was fine parking there. I went to feed the meter and saw that the space behind mine still had a bunch of time on its meter. I thought, “Oh fudge, I should’ve taken that space. Too late now.”

The guy from the car behind me, who reminded me of Ludacris, came to the meter with his change. I said, “You’re lucky, you get 43 minutes free!”

He added a single quarter, did a fist pump and said, “Hey, you had your chance!”

I said, “I know, I missed out.”

He said, “I bet you saw that and were like, ‘Oh fuck!’ ”

I said, “Yeah, I totally was!”

We had a good laugh and went on our ways.

As I was entering the Wyndham one of the hotel guys (a bellhop or valet or something) told me I couldn’t park there. “It’s five o’clock. It’s rush hour. It’s a hundred dollar ticket if you park there.”

I was skeptical of his claim but I went back and bit the bullet by reading the sign I had just parked under. I read it again. I walked down the street to a duplicate sign and, tilting my head the way my dog does when he hears squeaking sounds, read that one several times. It finally sunk in that the hotel guy was right. Amazing.

I took my car to a pay lot and when I walked back a parking officer was writing tickets for all those other cars that had made me feel safe about parking there. I found the hotel guy and gave him a well-deserved tip.

I felt sorry for the guy parked behind me. I had looked for him when I moved my car but he was long gone. Now he’s out $100. At least he saved 75 cents on his meter.

2 Comments so far

  1. Washington Cube (unregistered) on December 31st, 2006 @ 3:54 pm

    Ouch, and kuddos to you for tipping the hotel guy.

  2. Marisa (unregistered) on January 11th, 2007 @ 2:28 pm

    I thought I was the only one who saw parking signs as saying “fibblety foo callooh callay” etc.

    I am parking sign impaired. I’ve even had “the boot” on my car. As a result I avoid parking anywhere unfamiliar at almost any cost and am strongly inclined toward parking garages etc. No matter how much people assure me that “there’s a great place to park behind this-and-that building”. I don’t trust them.

    Excellent use of “callooh callay”, incedentally. One so rarely sees good use of gibberish.

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