What I learned from watching “Parking Wars”
If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been lately, I’ve been to Germany, working, been very sick and watching a lot of TV. You’ll be hearing about a few of them in my upcoming articles because, regardless of their “reality show” genre, I’ve really learned some good lessons from each.
The show Parking Wars airs on A&E and centers around the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s ticketing, booting and impounding divisions. Every episode has some type of drama, and it’s usually some citizen blaming the city, God, or just anyone except themselves for not following clear rules. However, not all the rules are logical or well-known, so I can’t blame some of them for their reactions.
Here’s just a few tips I’ve learned:
Learn to Read FOOL!
I know from living in the D.C. area that finding legal parking can be tough, especially when you’re not sure if you’re allowed to park somewhere, there’s a line of cars honking behind you and you have to pee like nobody’s business (ok, I threw in that last one). But when you find a spot and there are other cars parked right around you, don’t assume you can park there! Look around for ALL signs: on parking meters, on lightposts and poles, and walk up and down the street to make sure there’s no extra surprises. Sometimes you’ll find a sign 3 cars back with an arrow saying “No parking from x to y” pointing right up where you’re parking.
Sometimes the instructions are written right on the parking meter (e.g. you’re parking after 7 on a Saturday, but it charges till 10pm, so you still have to pay my friend). Also watch out for time limits. “Meter Maids” will either mark your tires with chalk or, if they’ve upgraded to handhelds units, they’ll punch in your license plate and time you that way. At the end of 20 minutes or 2 hours or whatever, and they show up, you’re getting a ticket.
So ultimately, you need to learn to read and pay attention. But here’s my next rant…
Don’t try to blame anyone other than yourself!
If you parked in a spot, and you get a ticket, don’t blow your top, especially if the “meter maid” is standing right there. They’re doing their job. And your job was to make sure you’re parking legally. If you need a permit, have one. If there’s a time limit, get out of the spot in time (and park on the other side of the street, which most people wouldn’t know unless they watch Parking Wars or read their city parking laws). Don’t park near a fire hydrant, don’t park too close to the curb (especially don’t block wheelchair access) and so on and so on.
There are tons of rules, but ignorance of the law is not an excuse to ignore it! Just because a street doesn’t have a speed limit sign, does not mean you can go 100mph. There’s laws covering that too, and it’s YOUR responsibility as a citizen to learn them. That’s why they give you things like a driver’s exam, right? Well, when you live somewhere, you have access to go to city hall and get copies of the laws and do some reading (not that I’ve done that myself, but I don’t live IN the city).
And if you find yourself with a bunch of unpaid tickets over a length of time (like more than 6 months each), don’t be surprised if you come out one day with a boot on your wheel OR your car towed away! And don’t be surprised if you have to pay over $100 just for the towing fee. And don’t even try to remove the boot or drive away with the boot. The boot will rip your car up!
Just don’t be stupid. Learn the law, and if you’re visiting somewhere else, read everything closely and don’t trust anyone’s answer whether you can park somewhere except for the city’s parking authority. The police don’t enforce parking, so don’t bother asking them, and don’t ask shopowners either.
Don’t act like a child
When I watch Parking Wars, it amazes me the idiocy of people when they know they’re going to be on national TV. They throw tantrums like little kids, or they threaten like common thugs. Either way, they’re being recorded and they know it! FOOLS!
When you have to pay a fine, go to traffic court or go pick up your impounded car, please act like a grown-up. Respect will be given to you if you give respect first. Granted, some people just have bad days, or maybe there was a line of harsh customers before you, but act civilized and don’t get frustrated by “the system”. It’s just like calling into customer service for your bank, credit card or the cable company; if you’re nice to them, they might cut you some slack. They’re real people too, but they have jobs to keep and won’t bend the rules for one person and risk that job.
If there was no parking enforcement, you would get NOWHERE in a city!
I know there seems to be no logical reason for some of the parking rules, especially when there are 3-4 signs piled on top of each other on a pole with seemingly conflicting information, but ultimately you need to think about the bigger picture. There WAS a time before parking enforcement. And you know what happened? Traffic jams all over the place. Horses and cars and carts and buggies just piled up on each other like some 4-year-old’s Matchbox car collection thrown in a ziplock bag. Just chaos.
By telling people where they can park, when they can park there and for how long, that you can’t just stop in the street “to run into the shop for a second” and block a lane of traffic, and so on, the city has done the first step to laying down some order to the madness. The next step is enforcing it, and that’s where ticketing, towing and booting come into play. It sucks when it happens to you, but think of the greater good! You wouldn’t even be able to drive in that area if people could just park anywhere. You would find a sweet spot, then come out and see you’re double or triple parked into your spot and can’t get out. Then who’s to blame. That’s right…the city, for not having parking laws 🙂
My own history of parking violations
I have 3 incidents that come to mind in my own life, and I recognize that all 3 were my fault, even though I’m still jacked about one of them:
1. When I was dating my wife and I was visiting her in college, she had her own parking spot at her building and I parked there (her car was somewhere else). It was summer and the windows were open and I hear a tow truck backing up. I look out the window and it’s hooking up my car! (It was my newly-purchased Acura, so I was livid). How dare they tow me from HER spot!?! Well, it turns out you needed a parking badge, even if it’s your spot, because that’s all the contracted towing company looks for. I had to pay $40 just for the tow operator to let my car back down.
2. In our current house, during an upcoming ice storm, I parked on the street, away from power lines and trees, and up a bit too far onto the grass (no sidewalks on this street). I got a ticket for about $40 for parking on the curb. I was upset and still suspect one of my neighbors for calling me in, but I recognize and accept I was in the wrong. I was just trying to keep my truck safe and make it safe for other drivers as it’s on a hill.
3. Back in 2002, when a friend and I visited Ireland for 10 days, we rented a tiny little car (aren’t they all over there?). This was a Fiat Seicento. It was a smaller than small car (for 2 fat guys), but I digress. We were in Sligo city and wanted to get lunch or something, so I parked in what I thought was a legal spot. Granted, I didn’t look around for any signs, nor did I wonder why no one else was parked there. Turns out it was a bus lane. We got back and there was a 19 Euro fine on the car (luckily they didn’t tow it!). In that year, 19 Euro was more like $15 US, but we had little cash on us as we were just out of college, saddled with debt (especially me). We could have just left the country without paying, but good thing we paid because I came back with my wife for our honeymoon a year later.
So there, I’m not squeaky clean myself. I’ve learned to read, to accept responsibility, and to understand why the laws are in place (with some exceptions). And I hope you do the same.