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Since You Never Asked: 'Paying the Parking Meter with My Thumbs'

Chris Boswell

Despite is relatively small size, downtown Milwaukee can sometimes have large city-style issues with on-street parking.  At the same time, there have been some parking innovations worth mentioning.

Resident Lake Effect curmudgeon Jonathan West has some thoughts about one of them:

Since you never asked…

…the act of downloading an app on your smart phone that lets you pay a parking meter without actually touching the dirty fee pole is the single greatest thing you will ever do in your life.  No seriously. Stop learning Mandarin or working on your bid to be the youngest US Senator ever.  Those middling pursuits are mere trifles when you think of what you could be doing this very moment. Get the app, and get it now.

Some inventions that are intended to improve the way we all live simply and sadly fall short of the mark.  A few years back, I started to notice parking meters were popping up that made it possible for you to make a payment at a special box for the privilege of leaving your car in a two hour zone. My first thought was, “Seriously, stand down sliced bread…this is way better.” But then reality sunk in as I found myself standing behind a 187-year-old man who couldn’t quite get the hang of why this new fangled parking payment machine wouldn’t take his traveler’s check. As cold, wet rain poured on both our heads, an approaching meter maid began to circle my unprotected car like a competitive eating champ about to break a 10-day juice fast.  I have negative opinions about technological advances that force me to stand in any line other than one where I’m given a bag filled with thousand dollar bills and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.  Somehow, the infuriating process of paying for parking had just gotten worse. I would have cried as I stood behind that old-timer at the meter getting drenched and wet, but I sort of thought it would have thrown him off his pins. That could have been real bad because God knows how long it would have taken him to recover as he stood screaming at the nonresponsive meter, “Tarnation, we never had these problems with buggie whips!”

After that, I simply suffered angrily, hoarding quarters and dimes and seeking out meters that didn’t look like the end stop of a bread line. Then one day as I pulled my car into a spot and looked for the pay station, I noticed a lady nearby who looked liked she was beating the odds. She had parked her sedan near a meter, walked past the payment machine with some “I-know-something-you-don’t-know” swagger, and tapped a couple of times on her phone as she looked back smiling at her car. I noticed that the meter I was approaching had a new little sticker affixed to it that beckoned me to DOWNLOAD THIS APP, an invitation you would understand I am unable to refuse if you take a look at how many free flashlights I have on my iPhone. I read the instructions on the sticker, downloaded the app, entered my credit card information as requested, and moments later I was paying for my parking just the way it should be done—through magical beams of air with upcharge fees for virtual processing.  Pretty hot, right?

Gone are the days of ole when I didn’t pay for years of parking for lack of proper change and then challenged the tickets I got from that act of lazy defiance in traffic court because some pre-law friend of mine thought it was a good idea. I’ll never forget shrinking eight inches as my name was called before the judge and half of the police force rose to testify about how I deserved to pay those tickets and possibly be forced to wear a sandwich board around my neck that said, “This guy is a jerk. Don’t be a jerk. Feed the meter.”  I am a new man. The number of tickets I have received since downloading that magic app has gone down by something like 80,000 percent. My money is now going to all the right places--paying the massive credit card debt that I’ve racked up as I diddle with new parking app like it's the greatest game of Candy Crush ever.

Contributor Jonathan West is a writer, actor, and currently the Pfister Narrator at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.