Brother, Can You Spare 70 Dimes?


So, there I was, parked safely and securely at a meter in the Financial District on a recent rainy afternoon, ten minutes before a meeting. I knew I’d easily be able to find a vacant spot at one of the yellow loading zone meters that becomes a general parking meter at 11 AM. My favorite go-to-broken-meter-free-two-hour spot was occupied, so I took another one. I got out to feed the meter and reached for my wallet to use a credit card or SFMTA smart card, and I realized that I had left my wallet in my other coat. Damn. I scrounged under my seats and in the glove compartment for some change and came up with a surprisingly large handful of coins (along with a few long-misplaced items). As I started to feed the machine and put in the first nickel, the meter registered one minute of time. Another nickel, two minutes, a dime brought it up to four minutes. A quarter bought me only another four minutes. WTF?
My first thought was that the meter was broken and that I had lucked out with free parking for two hours. But, after doing some quick math, I soon realized that it was functioning properly and that to park for two hours, I was going to need 140 nickels or a combination of 60 nickels, 4 quarters, and 30 dimes to make $7.
I thought about asking passersby for change, but asking someone if they could spare 70 nickels for the first hour just made me chuckle to myself in the rain. What if I asked if they could spare $3.50, but on their credit card? I chuckled again to myself, realizing that society had not become that practical yet to give handouts using plastic.
Time was running out. I couldn’t be late for my meeting. Was this meeting worth a $72 ticket? Yes. But, I’d rather keep that money in my wallet (if I had my wallet). I began to get creative, but most of my frantic ideas, when played out in my rational mind, landed me in jail like it did Paul Newman in the opening scene of Cool Hand Luke.

I got ready to leave, accepting that I was going to have to eat a ticket. I locked my doors, made sure my tires were curbed properly (to avoid getting double ticketed), grabbed my phone to check the time, when a ha! I remembered…I could pay using my phone. I had blocked that option out of my mind, as there is a 45 cent surcharge to do this. But in this moment, it made economic sense. I called the number on the meter, registered in about three minutes. I called back, entered in my password, the meter number and the amount of time, and voila! I was safe from the meter police and on my way.
If you use this option, make note that the flashing red lights on the meter will not change to green, but you are still safe from a ticket. The system is synched to parking officers’ handheld devices, alerting them that the meter fee was paid even though the lights are flashing red. The system also will send you a text alerting you that your time is about to expire, and will allow you to add time if you have not used up the limit.
It’s not my preferred method. I usually prefer not to pay anything for parking, but in a pinch, paying by phone saved me from a guaranteed $72 ticket.
For more tips, tricks, and parking secrets, for you or a parking challenged loved one, click here.

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