One of the newest maxims out there is: Touch Not the Parking Meter. Last week I became acquainted with this updated method of doing business with the city.
(Quick tip: Never do business with the city. They’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Same goes for government in general.)
I had an urgent Happy Hour meeting scheduled with friends and it required me to drive to the appointed place and then park my car on a street that charged for that privilege.
We carry change in the car for those odd amounts the US dollar requires at drive thru restaurants. The change is in a prescription bottle, and apparently, this form of money is so un-revered now, that even parking attendants can’t be bothered to steal it. For that matter, possible fun prescriptions don’t seem to be of interest to them, either. What is happening to the younger generation?
Like a good Girl Scout, I exited my car, prepared with a handful of “spare” change to pay the meter. After searching for said meter, I realized that the unobtrusive sign on a post near my car WAS the parking meter.
The sign was divided in half. On one side it said, Text this number to pay. On the other side it said, Take a photo or scan this with your phone to pay.
“This” was a square composed of black and white dots and lines and squares, that ubiquitous icon we are beginning to see everywhere:
If you’ll notice, in order to “pay” for that parking spot, you have to have a smartypants phone. Not having a phone on your person at all times makes you ill suited for this brave new world.
Soon–sooner than you had ever hoped for–your driver’s license and all your credit cards will be stored on your phone, like all your contacts and beloved pictures and videos are now. Should you lose your phone, for even an instant, break it, drop it in a public toilet, or have it stolen and then run over by your mugger, there is an app on it (not that it will do you any good), that will help you hang yourself in despair. This app is only good for a one time use.
I digress. Clutching my handful of sweaty quarters in one hand, I tried texting that number that was posted on this parking meter of death with the other. Nothing happened when I texted it, except that I now have a text to a mysterious number on my phone.
There was no reply to the text, no emoji sent in response, expressing condolences or congratulations, depending on the mood of the recipient–who, I imagine–are 20 somethings from Nigeria, waiting for a better clue as to who I am and if I can be easily suckered into things.
Then I tried taking a picture of that square full of black lines and dots as per instructions. My shadow kept obscuring the square, and I didn’t know what having a picture of it would prove, anyway. Will it be something I have to scroll by before I can see the picture of my breakfast from that morning?
I considered throwing my handful of sweaty quarters at this little obelisk of fortune. But that would relieve my feelings for only a moment. After that, I would be forced to pick up these now useless round artifacts of the Great and Awesome United States Economy or be charged with littering.
I also considered touching this touchless parking meter hard, with a rock, but there were bound to be witnesses. There always are, even if they don’t show themselves up front. And I couldn’t find a rock.
At the bottom of the sign, a dire warning was writ in medium font: Do not leave your vehicle without paying tribute to the gods of parking, or your car will be towed to a city run chop shop and you will never see it again.
I began to look frantically around for help. If none appeared, I would be forced to return home sans a Happy Hour margarita sloshing in my belly, which would make me unhappy. Plus, I would be compelled to remain home forever in case I never figured out how to park for future meetings of the Margarita Club.
Finally, a security guard appeared and when I explained as how I am old–too old to learn new tricks like this–he began to explain how the Parking Obelisk works. Then he noticed the cane I had leaned against the car and told me that the handicapped park for free. At last, an upside.
(This is a digression for the clueless, who think gimping through an airport, or anywhere else, is somehow noble. Let me set you straight. It is not noble. Besides using a rollator or a cane, request wheelchair service. You will be escorted personally through the many miles of O’Hare, through security–where handsome, strong men will pat you down–and then you will be taken right to your gate, along with your luggage. When it is time to get on the airplane, you will be one of the chosen few allowed to board first. Yank that bulkhead seat right out from under those selfish, breeding parents. There’s nothing like the feeling of satisfaction that follows. You have earned it, bubbalah. What have those parents done? Nothing that a billion other people haven’t.)
They–whoever “they” are–claim that these new parking meters will keep us all healthier because there’s no need to touch them, but that’s a lie. “They” never cared whether we were healthy or not, they just want to mess us up mentally and emotionally so that we will be glad to exit the world and thus stop being confused. And we will no longer be voting. There’s your bottom line.
I have a plan to get even with “them.” We will need several thousand VCRs and rotary dial phones. When we have stockpiled these items, we will lock people under 30 in a room with devices from the 80s, and tell them to have “fun.”
Their assignment–should they wish to be out of the room and home in time for dinner–will be to program a VCR to record a show that will be on in two days. Due to pressing business in Cleveland, they will not be home to see it.
This will drive them mad, which is only fair because the VCR drove me mad back in the day. I never learned how to program it.
These “forward thinkers” locked in the room will be allowed one phone call, but will not know how to work a rotary dial. They won’t even know any phone numbers by heart, not even the number to 911, which might be helpful at this point, seeing as how a bunch of old people have locked them in a room. Dialing in the name “Ethan, my dude,” doesn’t work on rotary dial phones. Haha. Suck on that.
After I was released from the custody of my car, I ventured forth into the restaurant. All seemed well until it was time to pay. Actually, all will seem well in a restaurant until it is time to look at a menu.
Restaurant personnel may be able to spare you one measly menu for your party of five, but if you really want to see what they have to offer, but you can’t because Jane has the one available menu, you must once more retrieve your smartass phone from your bag and peruse the virtual menu–you guessed it–online. That is where it is now located.
God forbid the satellites should ever be knocked askew. Would they remember what they have on their menu?
“I think the cabbage is there on the counter for you to make slaw, Chef.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not so sure. Let’s wait until the military restores the satellites so we can look at our menu.”
After we were well and truly happy from Happy Hour, it was time to pay that pesky piper, who is now probably in the form of a robot. All the kids love robots and the piper is programmed to lead them merrily into the woods.
Did we receive a paper bill? Not at all. There was a device sitting on the table, which we assumed was one of those little jukeboxes from back in the day. Perhaps Chubby Checker would sing and make us even happier.
This device tells you what you owe for what you ate and drank, and lets you pay for it. You can see all the items your party ordered and decide whether to pay as one, or divvy it up according to who ate what.
At last, the waiters don’t have to listen to, “Can you put that on separate checks?”
My intrepid friend picked the device up and examined it closely. She turned it over as if it was a small alien and she was looking for its gender. We managed to figure out my bill, but needed to push the button that said, “Summon the server,” in order to figure out their bills.
The server came over and explained how itemizing with the tiny alien works, but when it came time to pay, we kept tapping a credit card on the front of the screen, because that’s what it seemed to be telling us to do.
Instructional pictures have long been the bugaboo of the Differently Aged.
By now, Your Elders are used to putting gas in the car, or paying with a card in stores. You hardly ever see a checkbook anymore, those harbingers of long wait times in lines. It’s rare to even see one of us root in a bag for change.
But the pictures confuse us. This is what comes of making a fuss over every drawing your kid or grandkid brings home from school, and ensconcing it on the fridge. These kids grow up, get jobs, and draw stupid instructional pictures thinking they’re works of art.
A device shows a card with the stripe facing outward, but it really means: Put the stripe in the other way.
Sometimes. Sometimes it means something else.
This device wanted us to put our cards in the back of it–where it has a slot meant for cards–stripe down and chip first. Dosey do.
To top off our modern week, the MOTH and I went to a restaurant the other day. We were sitting at a table–tables and chairs are still de rigueur and have not been updated to an app on a phone–when a piece of the restaurant furniture went gliding by our table, intent on making a break for freedom.
Enough oppression and pigeonholing me, it seemed to say. I can be so much more than what I was designed to be.
I pointed out the escaping furniture to our server, but she didn’t seem alarmed, nor did she run to tackle it. She let it go, assuring us it would be back. When it saw how rough the world was out there, it would be back. We assumed it had been offered a better job, in which case, she might want to hop aboard and go along with it.
I didn’t mind runaway furniture so much, but when the dish ran away with the spoon, I objected. I cannot eat noodles with a smartphone.