Where Random Happens


Copyright 2011
by E.C. McMullen Jr.

It’s like this.

Parking is at a premium here in Los Angeles. Most parking garages are private, some are public/government. Some spot you 30, 60, even 120 minutes free before the clock starts charging.

I went to one of the 2 hour ones today. I’ve been there before, always at night (great area for restaurants and theaters), but this time I had biz in the area and went in the day.

Whether I’m paying or not, I always try to keep to the posted max. Most paid parking garages not only max out at a specific free time but also a specific charge (this one is $10), but I like to free up parking ASAP for the next person. These places are always crowded and besides, it’s my personal quirk.

So I get back with 15 minutes to spare. I’m well within my limit.

Long line of cars. I’m finally one car from the toll booth and I can see the problem. The guy in the booth is chatting up the women. Every biz has regulars so I’m sure this guy is remotely familiar with a fair number of the garage customers.

He is still talking.

Now there are a few things I’ve noticed about many of the garages in this town, and I know that this one is one of them: if they run your Parking card in the booth, then IF you have to pay, you have to pay.


Let’s say you are a minute or two over after waiting in a long line (like me). The Parking Attendant will usually step outside of the booth, press a button on the public meter beside your car and slide in your card. This has the effect of clearing your bill and you are on your merry.

He is still talking. In fact, he is really giggling it up with the woman in the car.  He is laughing, she is laughing, I have no idea what they are saying, but Mr. Parking Attendant is waving his hand at her (oh go on, You!) as if he is Maurice Chevalier waving off compliments from Leslie Caron.

“Ahh, you flattah me littel gell! Hon! Hon! Hon!

I look at my car clock. I’m now one minute over.

I catch my hands, finger by finger and independent of my consciousness, drumming the execution cadence on my steering wheel.



Some car behind me pulls the trigger first. HONK!

Mr. Parking Lot Booth Attendant looks up the line as if WE  are being the jerks.

I’m two minutes over.

He steps out of his booth and clears her ticket! She drives away, happy and waving.

I drive up.

He takes my ticket INSIDE  the booth and runs it.

“One dollar please,” he says matter-of-factly.

You can see my problem, right?

It’s not the dollar, which won’t even buy you anything off the 99 cent menu without a dime for the sales tax.

It’s the fact that HE KNOWS  he is charging me a dollar for the three minutes I sat there while he conversed with Ms. Charming.

He wants ME  to pay for HIS  flirting!

“I’ve been in line for the last five minutes,” I say.

“It’s the machine,” he explains, then has the nerve to add, “You had two free hours.”

I give him a momentary hard stare, but comply. There are people behind me who have places to go and it is none of THEIR  fault what this weasel did. I have a $5 in my pocket and a $20 in my wallet. So fuck it, I need change anyway. I pull out the $20 and hand it to him.

As soon as he sees the $20, he gets an odd look on his face. The kind of look a person gets when they feel the turtle stick its head out.

He opens his register and fiddles around in there and I suddenly realize what he already knows. He doesn’t have CHANGE  for a $20!

He gives me a queasy look. The kind of look someone who JUST  screwed you gets when they need to ask you a favor.

“Do you have anything smaller?” He looks like a hunter asking the bear for his arrow back.

And I’M  the bear. And I don’t barely grin. Inside I feel a Wolfish Grin trying to claw its way out onto my face.

Car horn honks.

Car Horns honk.

A portly woman appears at his booth, wearing a uniform like his. She asks him why the cars are honking, he shows her my $20 and his till.

She says something and he lifts his plastic tray out of the register, but We All KNOW  there is nothing in there to save him.

More honking. People getting bitchy.

Boss steps out and waves her hand at them for mercy. They stop. I’ve satisfied my end of the agreement. I deserve my change back.

The Boss Apparent asks, “Do you have a smaller bill?”

I answer “No.” (a DAMNABLE lie!)

“Maybe some change?” he asks. Emboldened by the presence of his boss (or perhaps afraid) he adds, “Could you look around?”

With an air of irritated smugness, like a Commie Commissar who deigns to speak to the prole, I say, “That’s the smallest bill I have.”

A car horn honks. Followed by another. Then a third. Then a voice, echoing through the concrete parking garage, “WHAT FUCK !?! COME ON!!!”

I holler back, “They don’t have change for my $20!”

My words, instead of being met with more frustrated honking and shouting, dives into immediate silence. So I can vividly imagine that everyone suddenly considers THIS  news.

No change for a twenty dollar bill? Hmmm!”

Mr. Charming Parking Lot Attendant and his Boss look at me aghast with sweaty betrayal. Why did I have to go and tell everyone THAT ?

The sign on the booth says,

No Credit or Debit Cards

No Checks

No Bills over $20

This is a rather “Tony” part of town. Nearly everyone probably has a $20. In fact, so many people paying with $20s is probably why he’s out of change.

It’s then that I allow Mr. Charming Parking Lot Attendant and his Boss Apparent my wolf smile, as I’m thinking, “No change for our Twentie$, M’sieur? Hon! Hon! Hon!

Boss wants me and my big mouth out of there and starts punching all kinds of buttons on the register. The paper tape rolls out, she hurriedly makes pen marks, this and that, (no honking – are people digging out their $20 dollar bills?) and makes Mr. Charming Parking Lot Attendant give me back my $20.

Guard arm raises, I pay NOTHING! Enemies Vanquished! Achievement Unlocked!


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