San Francisco is renowned, among other things, for parking woes. About a million people. In a square area just seven miles long on each side. All piled on top of each other.
According to a San Francisco parking expert (yes, we apparently have an “expert” on this subject), 506,000 vehicles compete for only 320,000 parking spots in San Francisco every day. Fully one-third of all downtown traffic is comprised of steering wheel-squeezing drivers in search of that elusive parking spot. Sharks agitatedly circling, waiting for something to happen.
Actually, “minnows” represents a tighter metaphor in this case. The “sharks” would actually be the SF police, MUNI police, et al who eat the minnows. I mean, who write parking tickets for the minnows. To the tune of approximately $17.5M so far this year in revenues to the City of San Francisco, if I’m reading our expert’s website’s ticker properly. San Francisco generates more than $40 million annually from parking meter receipts, and over $100 million from parking violations.
That’s big business. A big, faceless machine, Wizard of Oz-like. And it feeds on us — circling minnows.
I’m not angry about it. The City and its various agencies need cash. I happily and appreciatively consume those agencies’ services. Our family takes MUNI buses quite often. The “Dirty 30” and all the rest. I don’t fault the meter maids with their golf carts and bicycle helmets. I empathize with them.
That must be a dangerous job, dealing with irate soccer moms, gang members, and taxi cab drivers, alike. I’m surprised those meter maids don’t have a standard-issue shotgun rack installed in their golf carts. I’m not advocating that. I’m not a gun fan by any means. But if the Postal Service provides cayenne pepper spray to the mailman, doesn’t the meter maid need something too? Maybe a tazer, or one of those telescoping bully sticks. They must feel pretty vulnerable in the face of an apoplectic driver who sprints up to the maid, and the maid is already too deep into the keypad punching on her ticket device to hit “exit” and cancel the ticket now. The driver stands there trembling, clenching and unclenching his fists, the meter maid relying only on her street smarts and biting sarcasm. It could get ugly.
I have, for the most part, managed to avoid these kinds of combustible standoffs altogether. Don’t get me wrong. I have paid more than my fair share of parking tickets over the years. It’s often just the cost of doing business, a risk worth taking if a productive business meeting is lagging over the budgeted time, for example.
But I have also enjoyed sublime stretches when it seems that no matter where I park, no matter how long I park there, no matter what I do — I do not get a parking ticket. This can go on for weeks, even months, on occasion. I refer to the phenomenon of these miraculous periods as “Wonder Woman’s plane.” You know, the invisible one. As in, the meter maid and her crew cannot even see my car, because it is as invisible as Wonder Woman’s plane.
I am in the midst of a Wonder Woman’s plane period right now. I actually can’t even recall the last time I peeled that miserable little piece of paper with its $80 slap in the face from under my wiper. I would guess I’m going on three months.
Now, that kind of long period of impunity can cause problems. I get sloppy. Brazen. Cheeky. I park with swagger. When I am in the zone, as I am now, I can park anywhere. I’m tempted to slip into the “Reserved for Mayor Lee” spot in front of City Hall. I’m invisible, man. Those $300 tickets for merely pausing in the painted, rectangular bus stops? Shee-it. Not me. I’m there, but I’m not there. You dig?
Of course I know this can’t last. But as long as it does, I’m gonna ride it for all it’s worth. Speaking of which, I’ve got to run now. I have some fire hydrants to block.
Thanks for reading.