I’m just back from UGA. The visit cost me $40. Here’s the deal.
I drive into the parking lot for the music school, hoping to use one of the visitor spaces I remember seeing the last time we attended a concert at Hugh Hodgson. Yep. There they are. Spaces marked with the word “Visitors” framed in light green paint. Excellent!
Then I see the box. It’s low-tech. There’s a slot near the top, and there’s a repository for envelopes near the bottom. I walk up to the box. A sign informs me that there’s a flat fee of $5.00 to park. I’m to put my money into one of the provided envelopes, then put the envelope into the slot. So I reach into my pocket for some cash. I have four ones, two quarters, and some twenties. That’s it. So I reluctantly say adieu to the visitor spaces and head for my old standby, the pay lot near the Ramsey Center.
I drive into the lot, being careful to note my space number: 161. Then I walk over the machine where you pay for time. Hmmm. There’s a big black cover over the machine. And there’s a sign that says “If this machine is not working, call Parking Services.” I figure the machine is broken. But I have no time to call parking services and make arrangements. I’m going to be late for my appointment. (I’m taking pictures of the UGA jazz band to help promote the upcoming Lionel Hampton tribute.) So I head up to the music school, making the assumption that if the machine is broken, I can park in the lot without being penalized. Wrong!
There’s a $40 ticket on my windshield when I get back to the car. Figuring this is some kind of mistake, I drive over to parking services. The lady at the service desk asks what she can do for me. I explain that there was a black cover over the machine and a sign suggesting to me that the machine must be broken. Then she says no, the lot’s been converted to a permit-only lot, and there’s a sign at the entrance to the lot making this clear. Then I say I had no reason to look at the sign at the entrance to the lot, because I’ve been parking here for years and the spaces have numbers on them and the machine is there, but covered up with a sign suggesting it’s status is “broken,” not “irrelevant.” She stands her ground. So I mumble something about this being the thanks I get for trying to help the university, and I flip my Visa card onto her counter to show my dissatisfaction with the state of affairs.
She then accuses me of throwing the card at her, and she refuses to talk to me. She won’t take my money. We sit there silently for a minute or two or three, and then I demand to see the manager.
So out comes the manager, I guess. I didn’t catch his name. I try to be civil, and I pull it off for a moment or two. I tell him why I think I shouldn’t have to pay the ticket. He says it’s a valid ticket. He suggests that I appeal it if I think there are extenuating circumstances.
Right. I’m supposed to go through some appellate process when it ought to be obvious to these people that they’ve neglected their responsibility to long-time users of the lot to make very clear that its status has changed from pay lot to permit lot.
Then he tells me that I could have parked in the deck. It’s a pay lot. (I was still operating under the assumption that IT was the permit lot and the pay lot was the pay lot.)
So I insist on paying. Then I insist again. And again. And he slowly processes my Visa card. As soon as I have my receipt, I’m out the door.
For the past few years, I’ve been in the habit of writing a check to the university for music school scholarships. This year that check will be at least $40 dollars less. The parking services enforcers have effected a transfer from music scholarships to their operating budget. Good for them.