The Smugness of Meter Maids

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They trip around town with their hazard lights blinking and their electronic notepads. They lurk and wait and watch minutes tick away, hoping for expired meters, for street cleaning Tuesdays and tires that aren't curbed, for hazard lights in drop-off zones that flash for five minutes two seconds, three seconds, four...

And I wonder what kind of person decides to take these jobs. Like hall monitors that police schoolyards and other novice disciplinarians. I wonder what kinds of people delight in other's absent-mindedness, misfortune and mistakes. Bullies, they must be. The kind of bully that wears a uniform to justify his need to bust...

Or not. Maybe there's no delight at all. No complex. Maybe it's just work. A job with a paycheck, decent 401k package and benefits.

"Do not park here between the hours of 10-12."

"Permit only after 6pm."

"Curb your tires OR ELSE!"

Out of order, the meter blinks, and when it does, I wonder what will happen when it's fixed and I'm still parked here. Will I get ticketed? Yes? No? Either way would be right. Either way would be wrong.

"Some things ARE Black and white," they say, but not even parking meters are that simple.

I write myself a ticket, then, place it on my windshield. Because the only thing different between the officer and the driver is the flashing light on the roof. We're all illegally parked. We're all speeding on the highway, changing lanes at intersections, bumpers occasionally in the red. We're all pretending we don't notice what hypocrites we are, standing tall in our masturbative meanderings, cursing and shaking our fists at the same faces we will fawn all over tomorrow unless told otherwise by moss-gathering stones with smiley faced emoticons and avatars in support of whatever cause is trendy this month. We are lizards chasing tails that fall off and grow back and fall off and grow back again and we have no idea how ridiculous we look.

We are passengers even as drivers, surrounded by windows and everyone is watching. So how can anyone possibly claim authority? Has hypocrisy become so mundane it isn't even acknowledged?

Somehow in our rush to blow whistles on the ignorant and uninformed, the perverted and perverse, we have forgotten that bullying "the bully" is still bullying. That it has always been against the law to shoot the bad guy. That blame is symbiotic with guilt. That fighting mean with mean is what we scold our children for doing and yet, here we are, pressing our faces against the glass, neener neener.

We are uniform in our need to finger-point and call out and differentiate "good" from "bad" forgetting that not everyone is right handed. Or rather, not everyone is left.
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We all carry in our pockets the same change, if only we could find it within ourselves to fill each other's meters. Instead we feel relief when the ticket on the windshield is not on our car, a missed opportunity to empathize, to step out of our shadows for two seconds. Instead we congratulate ourselves for our meanness because "some people deserve to be hated." But hate is just an entitled way of being afraid.

Growing up, my mother always said, when you point your finger at someone, three fingers point back at you... Yes. And just like tickets get handed out one at a time, it is the parking enforcer who collects the greatest debt.

There's change in our pockets.

There's change.

Meanwhile, the meter maid holds court, waiting for the 00:00 to blink, so she can scribble our mishaps onto her pad, so she can justly do her job.

"Don't run in the hallway!"

"Don't forget to feed your meter."

"Curb your wheels."

But it's impossible not to run when you're being chased, and all of us, at some point, lose track of time, forget to read the directions.



Wendy Woolf | 11:30 AM

OK...I am totally going to fill people's expired meters from now on. Thank you, dear daughter, for teaching me to be a better person. xxxoooo

TexasBobbi | 11:33 AM

This is a great post.

Grumble Girl | 11:41 AM

Them crooked vultures. More reasons why I don't drive. (But I do secretly feed meters sometimes... I really do!)

Unknown | 11:49 AM

We're all meter maids sometimes, aren't we? And yet we think they are the scourge of the earth. I love this post.

Amanda | 11:52 AM

Your posts like this one are some of my favorites.

Somehow though this reminded me of a Jackass sketch where one of the dudes was a "Meter Fairy" and he got in trouble for feeding people's meters. What started off as funny made me furious once he was reprimanded, punished, made to feel like a jerk. How is helping somebody out cause for punishment?!

Sarai | 12:03 PM

I loved what your mom said about filling expired meters from now on.

This post really spoke to me and I hope I can do some self-examination and fill some empty meters myself instead of being quick to scribble a ticket.

Loved this post.

Glenda | 12:10 PM

Beautifully written!

Andygirl | 12:12 PM

loved this.

when I lived in LA, I had the parking battle. and hated it.

now that I live in Portland, I wish there were more meter maids. someone to tell people not to park like maniacs, making my life more difficult.

I guess it's all about balance.

Roxanne | 12:25 PM

Maybe it's just where I live, but you can get in trouble for putting coins in someone else's meter.

Jessica | 12:42 PM

I am so very, very tempted to print this out for my English classes as a lesson on metaphors and life.

Cassie | 1:13 PM

My most faveorite post you have ever written.

Ewokmama | 1:32 PM

Here in SF it's illegal to put change in someone else's meter. How crazy is that???


Why oh why would it be illegal to put change in someone else's meter? Where's the crime?!

(And just for fun, my word verification was "metersed.")

Unknown | 4:23 PM

I was a metermaid once. Well, sort of. It was for my campus police in college. So I strolled the campus checking permits and issuing citations for various rule violations. I have to say that I was a very poor metermaid in terms of bringing in revenue. I looked for every excuse not to give a ticket. But sometimes you are just out of excuses, even when you're a metermaid.

kfoxman | 4:56 PM

brilliant writing. posts like this are why i love your blog!

jessica | 5:12 PM

i've often thought the same thing!!!!!!!!!! on the one hand it seems that no person with any sense of compassion or personality could ever be a meter maid. on the other hand, maybe if we followed the rules a little better they wouldn't be so bad. it is really our fault when we get tickets. unless of course your 8 months pregnant and have to drop off your laundry but there's no where to park and you only stop by the no standing sign for 2 minutes!! then, it's totally not my fault and he should've had a heart! yes, i can read the sign but sometimes it's okay.... nevermind, they suck.

jessica | 5:56 PM

i mean *you're*

Kim | 6:05 PM

Someone who worked in a shop in Hollywood said that they have sensors on the new meters. Their computer systems know when a car is parked at a meter that is expired. I don't know if this is true. But it would make sense why you get a ticket within 5 minutes of it running out.

Also, the new meters in the city that are 8am - 8pm even on Sundays! It's just all sorts of wrong.

Polly | 9:42 PM

is this, like, a metaphor or something? :)

Anonymous | 8:58 AM

There were sisters in Anchorage who used to fill everyone's meters. I *think* she got in trouble with the Anchorage Police, and got fined a bunch for it. When one of they died it made big news and loads of folks showed up for the funeral...


(ED: this post isn't LITERALLY about meter maids. Or physically filling stranger's meters, although I'm not opposed to the idea and think we should all do more filling of strange meters, illegal or not.)

For the record, yes, it is illegal. Stupidly, but I've never been busted for filling anyone's meter. And again, that wasn't really the point of this post.


Anonymous | 11:02 AM

We get that it's a metaphor - I think we're just sharing personal takes on "meter maids" in general on top of understanding your meaning/slant - would we rather be the tutu wearing joyful fairies or the frowning meter maids?


...and I totally appreciate your takes. Totally, totally.

Anonymous | 12:45 PM

One thing I'm not appreciating? All the typos in my comment.

Jessica | 12:47 PM

Aw, I happen to know a really nice meter maid. The fines help pay for city services.

That being said, this was a good post.

My Bottle's Up! | 5:58 AM

yes and thank you.

Erin | 6:06 AM

i love this post. Thank you for sharing so boldly.

Jennifer | 6:55 PM

As always, your way with words gets me.

Secondly, this reminds me of "Signs" by Five Man Electric Band. <3

S. | 11:34 AM

An excellent piece of writing and a post that leaves much to think about.

SkittleSkattle | 2:35 PM

What does it mean to "curb your tires?" Me, not being of the city-folk kind (although I live in the PHX metro area), we don't have such crazy laws.

jessica | 4:06 PM

did someone judge you today? or did you judge another? just curious.


skittle - curbing your tires is when you must turn your tires toward the curb on an incline.

jessica - yes. always, yes. every day, yes. forever and ever, yes, yes, yes. that's the point of whole my post. x


*my whole post.

Samantha G. | 1:06 AM

Around my town, all the meters are switching over to those non-coin operated meters that use credit cards.

We still have parking people writing tickets of course, but no longer the guys and gals walking the streets pulling the coins out.

They don't even have to handle the cash must be a huge payroll savings for them. Could be wiped out by the credit card fees though, who knows...

Kirdy | 9:19 AM

Being from Minnesota, our meters only take quarters, which leads to endless head banging on the meter and much annoyance by nearby businesses where people ask for a quarter in exchange for 2 dimes and a nickel.

I think people forget that meter maids are just doing a job, much like maids who clean your house. I don't know that any 'maid' likes their job more than another, but it allows them to park their cars and feed their meters as well.

sweetsalty kate | 9:48 AM

Geez. What have you got against meter maids?

(beautifully said)

jessica | 2:59 PM

I cant comment on alice so I comment here: i met a holocaust survivor at the gyn! she was "aunt helga" and she was hilarious! we talked about everything (it was a long wait!) and she even said she wanted to take britney spears home with her to set her straight!!!! can you imagine meeting someone like that and chatting about britney freakin' spears???? it was great. i'll never forget.

Circus Daily | 12:49 PM

Oh man, in Calgary...they don't even have to stop and get out of their cars. They drive around in this van looking thing with laser cameras pointed every which direction. It's all electronic. If your time is up...the lil' laser van upon driving by will scan your plate, then 2 weeks later...BAMM a ticket.

The worst of the worst...some things should just not be paperless.