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Yes, machines have taken over, starting with parking meters

June 10, 2018

Parking meters are sort of like the common cold. They are here to stay, often very difficult to get rid of. There is no real cure. All you can do is treat the symptoms. Of course with a cold you can buy over-the-counter medications for those postnasal drip irritations. And then cough syrup and boxes of tissues for coughing and sneezing.

The only things you can use for parking meter symptoms are yelling, screaming, kicking, begging and threats. One way to deal with parking meters, though, if you want to avoid all the drama, is to have enough change, mostly quarters. Many of us have found ourselves short and taken to sprinting to the change machine.

And therein, my friends, you will encounter a related problem. Now you are dealing with another machine that I suspect is a second cousin, probably by marriage, to the parking meter. Last week, I found myself in such a dilemma. So I took out a dollar bill to get four quarters to feed this insatiable appetite from the parking meter. I pushed it into the slot; the machine made a noise and then shoved the dollar back out at me. I pushed it in again and it was shoved right back. I checked to make sure George Washington was facing the right way, smoothed the bill out on my pants and inserted it slowly into the opening. Again it was spit back. I then tried the other change machine next to it. No dice. I spoke to it politely, but it was like the sound of the dial tone and the operator saying, "If you'd like to make a call..."

It was only then that I read the message on the back of the change machine. It said, this machine will not accept any currency that has not been spray starched and steam ironed before it is inserted into the change slot. After all, we do not condone wrinkled or rumpled anything, including your skin. You didn't read the directions, did you? You probably are the kind of person who rips off the mattress tag that says do not remove.

A lot of you may say, well, it's your own fault, just get a parking meter app. And therein, my friends, lies another set of problems. I sat down on the bench to access an app for the meter. First, I had to fill out about 80 pages of questions on my phone. I wasn't really applying for a government job, but apparently I received top security clearance for employment with the FBI, CIA and National Security Council.

And yet at the end of this, I still could not obtain a parking meter app because it rejected my email name. After several tries, lunch and an afternoon break, it accepted my email, but rejected my password. Then it asked if I wanted to create a new password. Excellent idea. After several more tries, I decided to read the back of the meter. It said, the following passwords have already been taken: Go jump in the lake, your mother wears army boots, shove it where the sun doesn't shine, and *#!!!x4. But I was cleared though for testimony in front of any investigative government committee.

The summer used to mean all different kinds of relationships, from visitors, to renters, to hostile car drivers, to family and friends. Now we are in an era where machines will define the kind of day we endure. This is the new relationship. No talking, no pleading, no negotiations. The only answer to getting through the summer is quarters, my friends – quarters rule the day, as Elvis has left the building.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.