Today, I experienced some parking lot karma. It was strange but beautiful. This story begins badly but ends well, I assure you.
I was at the University of Calgary to meet up with a friend and visit the museum. I got there just in time, and pulled up to the gate at the parking lot to get my pass.
As usual, there was no parking lot attendant (nobody can afford one in this hot economy), and the sign directed everyone to use the automated payment machine. I stuck my credit card in. Nothing happened. I hit a button. It asked me to wait. It said “Transaction Completed” but then didn’t print anything out.
I tried the other machine. It told me my card was unreadable. I don’t think it tried very hard. I went back to the first machine. I hit a button first this time. Nothing happened. I stuck my credit card all the way in this time. I guess I didn’t hit the sweet spot the first time. But again, it said “Transaction Completed” and didn’t print anything out.
Repeat this cycle a few more times. Not sure how many. Different combinations of card entry and button-pushing. It’s quite possible that the machine billed my card 5 or 6 times. It’s also possible that it failed to do anything at all.
I tried calling the HELP line. It was an automated system that told me the staff was gone for the weekend, but if I wanted any information on hours of service or lot locations, I could proceed to hit some buttons, and a friendly tape recorder would tell me everything that I didn’t need to hear just then. I knew the hours of service: none at all. I knew the lot location: I was standing in one.
The next guy pulled in. Similar troubles. Except his card got stuck in the machine and the machine wouldn’t give it back for a while. (I later saw him retrieve it somehow.)
Yes, I realize this story is getting long, but I promise it has a happy ending.
Anyway, I pulled into the lot, and wrote a note to put on my dashboard, about how the machines didn’t work, there was no lot attendant or working phone line, and would the Enforcer please call my cell phone before issuing a ticket? (You can bet, that if they can’t afford any staff to assist customers, they can always afford a guy to write up violations.)
Then I decided to give the Machines one last chance. I tried both Machines again. They both failed me again.
As I stood there wondering how I would ever come to the end of this long and sordid saga of pain and heartbreak, the Karma drove up. It was a guy leaving the lot.
“You want a ticket?” he asked, and waved a validated pass out the window. It was good until evening, but it was only 2:00 and he was leaving.
“Sure,” I responded. “The machines aren’t working.”
“Ya, I know,” he said. “We had to get this from the other lot.”
And so Craig Martin found his parking pass after all, and he placed it lovingly on his dash, and he went to the museum exhibit and lived happily ever after.
Ah, and now you’re wondering, how is this “karma”? What did Craig ever do to deserve this saving grace from a stranger?
The truth is, I did the same thing for someone else a week ago, on New Year’s Eve. (Hold your applause to the end, please.) I parked at a downtown lot that used to be $3 for an evening (before the Boom); it’s now $10 for the evening. And when I was done there, around 10:00pm, I took the ticket (good overnight) and put it back into the dispenser for the next patron to use, free of charge. It didn’t cost me a cent, but it saved someone else $10. Take that, Imperial Parking bastards.
And it was perfectly legal. Why do the parking police not try to stop this terrible behaviour of providing free parking to other patrons? Because they don’t expect it. Why would someone do something that does not profit them? Would a human being perform a selfless act for strangers without expecting anything in return? In the mindset of a parking lot owner, the answer is definitely “no.”
Okay, maybe I’m a little cynical about the Imperial Forces (aka, Impark). They’re just trying to make a buck. We’re all in business to make money. The market allows $10 to park, so they take it. So be it. It is the will of Allah.
But (hehe) it is the will of Craig that grace should prevail from time to time. And so I would encourage everyone, when you are done parking and you have a validated pass that is still good for several hours hence, put it back for someone else to use.
And so let us all share and be happy.