Last week, I watched as two city workers uprooted a few old parking meters. For years, these citadels of curbside spaces had collected coins and kept track of time as it expired. They were mainstays.
Unceremoniously, the two men cut the meter’s pole nearly flush with the sidewalk. They’d push it back and forth to snap the final shred of metal from its base, then they’d lean it up against a shoulder and chuck it up into the truck. One of the men would climb in behind it, while the other hopped into the truck’s cab and they’d drive a little more than a car’s length to the next meter and did the same, then onto the next and so on.
Two city blocks later, each stump was capped and roped off with yellow tape. A temporary sign read “No parking” and the tape, the kind used by the police to mark off crime scenes was knotted tightly.
And so the last of the fully coin operated parking meters, first introduced in 1935, were taken out of commission. It happened without fanfare, no bells were tolled, no military taps were played and no mourners gathered in black to wave goodbye to the Park-O-Meter era.
The notion of a city with “Free parking”, that coveted safe haven on a Monopoly game board, was swiftly removed; as the old poles were retrofitted with new hi-tech meters that seemed to have sprouted overnight. They’re no taller, but stand a little prouder than their predecessors.
These new meters accept all manner of payment, as well as coins. They’re solar powered, wireless, and I’m almost certain that they’ll alert a nearby meter maid of a pending infraction, and worse… they’ll self-generate a virtual ticket that can be e-mailed!
Parking meters are one of society’s greatest motivators. Capable of getting people in and out of stores at break-neck speeds because time does expire. Oh, I’ve known meters. But not like these.