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State of Mind: Adventures in Parkingland

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On a recent visit to Montpelier (I live in the suburbs), I came to appreciate how much the city is concerned for my health. 

On that particular day, all of the parking places for Sarducci’s were filled, and I had to use public parking. I found a spot along Stone Cutters Way just past where Sarducci’s parking ends. It was then I realized that the city had my best interests at heart. Those spaces do not have meters. I would need to purchase a parking permit from a kiosk and put it on my dashboard. I could almost see the kiosk on the horizon to the east. 

It was during my walk to and from the kiosk that I realized the city had placed the kiosk there so I would work off calories before I ate lunch. I calculated that by the time I made the roundtrip I would probably have expended enough calories to allow me to have a pizza margherita and a nice glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo without guilt. 

As an added bonus, as I was returning to my car with the permit, I noticed the parking meter attendant was already standing in front of my car preparing a parking ticket. I picked up my pace to almost a jog, which is something I haven’t done since the Bush administration. It almost felt good to move that fast, once I got over my throbbing knee and the hacking cough from using my lungs at that capacity once again.

I showed the attendant the permit and placed it on my dash. I suggested that perhaps the city could place another kiosk closer to Sarducci’s, since the public parking spaces tend to fill up from west to east along the one-way section of Stone Cutters Way. 

The meter attendant countered that I could have used the “app.”

If you are not aware of it, the city has an agreement with a company called ParkMobile. You can download their app onto your smartphone, assuming you have a smartphone, and use it to purchase time at meters and parking spaces throughout Montpelier.

I did not have that app on my smartphone. That is because I usually have a small supply of quarters in my car to feed the meters for short stays. Also, several years ago the city installed smart meters, which allow you to use a credit or debit card to purchase parking time. But as mentioned earlier, there are no meters on Stone Cutters Way — you need to purchase a permit from the kiosk. It also is problematic for me, because for some reason, my debit card works everywhere else in the world, but not in the meters or kiosks in Montpelier. I always have to use another card.

The next time I went to Montpelier for lunch, I was prepared. I had downloaded the ParkMobile app to my phone and had set up an account. And once again I had to use a public parking space. I confidently launched the app. 

Perhaps it is because I am fumble-fisted, but the first thing it did was ask me to “scan the QR code.” It did not say where this QR code was located. I could not find one. 

I retreated to plan B, which was to enter the zone number for the parking area. These numbers are on the meters, signs, and kiosks. I entered the number in the field. Then I stared at the screen. There was no “Enter” button. 

Fortunately, my dear spouse was with me. She often intercedes on my behalf when I lose patience. She grabbed my phone before I threw it in the Winooski and began stabbing at the buttons. Suddenly the phone responded and produced a new window. I asked her what button she pushed. She said the “Search” button. “Of course!” I thought, “Very intuitive.”

The phone then wanted my user ID and password. I had forgotten my password. 

Defeated, I made the long walk to the kiosk again, then back to my car. Hey, another pizza and glass of wine worth of calories!

The third time I tried to use the app to park for lunch, I entered the zone number, my user ID, my password, and pressed “Send.” Nothing happened. I pressed “Send” again. I pressed “Send” at least four more times but could not get confirmation I had paid for my parking spot. I then noticed I was in an area of “No Service” for my cell phone company. Once again I made the long walk to the kiosk.

The latest wrinkle in this game came just a day or two back. I needed to pick up a refill at Kinney Drugs on Main Street. I pulled into the lot behind City Hall and found a spot near the back door to Kinney’s. Since I only anticipated a short stay, I grabbed a quarter from the center console and jumped out. Imagine my surprise when I found the coin slot for the meter taped over and a sign on it saying only the ParkMobile app could be used to pay for the meter. I realized instantly this was just the city’s way of helping me test the effectiveness of my blood pressure medicine.

The more I try to park in Montpelier, the healthier I become.