The RP History Month Woman-on-the-Street Interview Series: Urban Parker

CAMBRIDGE, MA – On this spring afternoon here, defiantly sunny after yesterday’s snow showers, The RP catches up with a local woman just seen sprinting past an approaching meter maid, to move her car before the ticketing officer reached the expired meter.  The RP noticed the woman, wrapped in a green plaid winter coat and oversized maroon scarf she’d surely like to retire for lighter outerwear by now, as she broke into a run on Mass Ave towards Albany Street where the meter maid was turning from the opposite direction.  The RP reached the corner in time to witness the mysterious, graceful woman move her car one space up and drop four quarters into the new meter.  She then had this exchange with the diminuitive, stocky officer ambling up the street, pausing occasionally to tuck the dreaded orange tickets under cars’ passenger-side wipers:

Meter Maid: “Just a warning…after two hours you have to move your car.”

Mysterious Woman of Grace & Style: “I know, I just moved it!”

Maid: “I saw you run past me.”

MWGS (turned to call over her shoulder, having passed the officer on the sidewalk by now): “I know, I had to beat you to it!”

After this remarkable feat of urban athleticism, we were lucky to catch up with this woman on the street.  She asked not to be identified, given she has several unpaid parking tickets in the City of Cambridge, though she did tell us she is a doctoral student in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies & Planning.  During our conversation, her redhair glistened in the sun, while she clutched her lower back and complained of pain from running in faux-rider boots she bought last fall at a Barney’s outlet in Connecticut. 

We spoke with her briefly about her parking strategies here in the vicinity of MIT on the banks of the Charles River:

The RP: “How long have you been driving to campus instead of relying on public transportation, or better, riding a bike like a true freedom fighter would?”

MWGS: “Well, my drive time is less than half of what it would take on the multiple bus/train/train combos I’d have, and it’s arguably cheaper – to me, if not society, though I’m certainly saving people the stress of my T-induced rage – to drive and park for free on Vassar Street or at the meters around campus.  Moreover, I drive a really hot late ’90s turquoise pontiac, so I like to have a little time each day for cruisin’ in it.  I think it’s what turned my boyfriend on to me, after my communist chic wear, of course.”

The RP: “I see…but what about outstanding tickets you mentioned?  Isn’t that a demonstrable cost?”

MWGS: “I’m off to a good start in 2007, with only one or two unpaid tickets.  2006 was a pretty bad year; by some point I had five or six, and I had to skulk from meter to meter like a fugitive, and ensure that I never let the meters expire, lest the meter maids find me and have my car impounded.  That was pretty stressful, so I eventually paid $200+ in tickets and overdue fees on-line.  As my cousin Tracey would say, ‘I love the on-line.’  By now I’ve got parking at school down to a science, moving my car from place to place, with only the occasional windsprint to prevent new tickets from being issued.”

The RP: “Have you dealt with the expense of having a car in the city before?”

MWGS: “Definitely.  While it wasn’t an urban campus, when I was at Brandeis, I racked up tickets with the best of them.  My car was towed shortly before Christmas junior year, when I came out of the student center after running in for just a second to find my car no longer in the fire lane where I’d left it.  That necessitated a few weeks of quick temp work once all my money for Christmas presents went to getting my car out of Waltham’s impound lot, and after that I made sure to pay down the tickets as they piled up more frequently.  I kept a car in Manhattan for one summer during the seven years I lived there, and got 8 tickets in about the same number of weeks.  I could have ended up renting a garage space for the same price.  But since I moved back to Boston in 2004, this is the first real experience of owning a car in the city, and my ticket accumulation is dropping as I get the hang of always having quarters on hand as well as routinely gambling on the likelihood of actually having the meter maids turn up.  It’s taken me awhile to learn this lesson in part because my strategy when I was younger was to let the tickets go unpaid and arrive in the mail at my dad’s house.  Have I mentioned I’m an only child?”

The RP: “Ah, I understand now your rather cavalier attitude towards owning a car in the city.  Any parting advice to RP readers who might want mimic your urban savvy?”

MWGS: “Truthfully, I don’t recommend this strategy, especially if you have any political or public service aspirations.  It’s always embarrassing when you’re a big shot in the Department of Transportation or a presidential candidate and the media publishes a story about all the unpaid parking tickets that have caught up to you now that you’re finally in the spotlight.  It’s not exactly great for the image, though probably far better than randily cheating on your wife in office with a susceptible young woman or invading a country to avenge your father and fill the coiffers of you and your oil industry pals.”

The RP: “Uh hmm…well, thanks for speaking with us today.”

MWGS: “My pleasure.  I have to go lie on the floor of my office now and stretch my back.”


1 Response to “The RP History Month Woman-on-the-Street Interview Series: Urban Parker”

  1. April 5, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    High-larious. 🙂

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