I put a quarter in, really!

November 15, 2010

Dear Sir or Madame:

While on a week-long business trip, I made plans to meet a friend of mine in Bethesda on Tuesday November 9. I arrived at just about 6:00pm, and found parking on Norfolk Avenue. I noticed the spot I pulled into had a non-operating meter. I then saw that the spot to the left of that had a note affixed to its meter stating that it was broken and that two quarters had been inserted. Since the spot to the right of me was vacant, I pulled back. I didn’t notice anything wrong and inserted two quarters. No time registered. Not sure what to do, I looked around, saw nobody to ask, and so wrote a similar note and inserted it into the coin slot. I walked the very short distance to the restaurant on Del Ray and told the host what I had done. He explained that the town is known for issuing summonses and suggested that I move the car to be safe. So I walked back to the car, and pulled into the metered garage on Del Ray.

In the garage, I encountered three more consecutive empty spots. I got out of my car, inserted another quarter into the meter, and nothing registered. By this point, I was not happy. I looked at the first empty spot next to me and saw a small indicator that that meter was also not working! I then looked and saw no such indicator at the spot in which I was sitting. I then walked to the next spot, and that meter actually looked to be working. So, I tentatively inserted a coin, and was elated to see time register. I pulled my car into that spot, and filled the meter mostly with nickels and dimes, since I had run out of quarters from sprinkling your other meters with them.

I went into the restaurant, had dinner, and walked back to my car. It is then when I saw the ticket on my windshield. We took a number of pictures of this meter, wondering why I had received a citation, since there were 21 minutes left, before later realizing that it was from my initial parking mishap.

Because I was away from my car for less than 5 minutes when it was parked on Norfolk, I am surprised that a ticket was written so promptly. That the ticket notes my car as white (it is not; it’s gold/green) suggests that the issuer was hastily filling out the form. It also strikes me as extremely unfortunate and unfair that 5 out of the 6 meters I checked were not functioning. That I moved my car multiple times and inserted coins into a number of meters is indicative that I had zero intent of cheating, or committing any violation. That I was away on business and that I live 300 miles away means I have little recourse here but to pay the $45 fine. Fine. However, I would really like to know how many summonses were issued on 11/9 (and surrounding dates) on Norfolk Ave and in the two spots to the right of mine in the parking garage (I was at spot 7 in there). Or, I would like to know why so many meters are broken and if they are fixed. But, I suspect you’ll simply cash my check without any response.

I’m copying the Chamber of Commerce of your county and town on this letter, as I would be interested to understand if they really want visitors to your town feeling as resentful and unwelcome as the above series of events made me feel.



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