Last week I took a drive to . I couldn’t find any free two-hour spots along Elm Street, or on Main Street near the . So I rather than keep trolling for a spot, I decided to park in the municipal lot behind .
I grabbed a handful of quarters from my stash and went to pre-pay at the automatic parking kiosk. I dutifully entered my parking space number, inserted quarters and out popped my receipt. I paid for slightly less than two hours.
After spending time leisurely browsing at the , and splurging on Nathaniel Philbrick’s ‘Why Read Moby Dick’ (lately I have shipwrecks on my mind, but that’s another story) I popped into and grabbed a cup coffee to go. Then I walked around, took a look at .
Finally, it was time to return to my car and head home. My break had lasted long enough. I got to the lot and stopped. There was the man in uniform no one wants to see – the parking enforcer. I saw the telltale ticket fluttering against my windshield. For a minute I thought maybe I had made a mistake. Maybe I was supposed to have put my receipt under the windshield wiper (it’s been a while since I’ve parked in that lot). I approached the officer.
“Did I get a ticket? I paid for a spot – was I supposed to leave it on the window?” I asked.
“Oh, no. Let me see. Please don’t make me feel bad, tomorrow is my birthday,” the officer answered.
He studied my ticket.
“You were eight minutes over,” he said.
What? Make him feel bad for giving me a ticket? Shouldn’t I be the one feeling bad? It cost me $15 for those 8 minutes – or $1.875 a minute, to be exact. (I know, I used my calculator.)
I know the officer was simply doing his job. In fact, he was so polite and nice about everything that I found myself feeling sorry for him, and actually thanked him as he handed me my ticket.
When I got home I looked at the ticket and saw that you can supposedly pay online. That’s cool, paperless. So I logged on to the town's website, entered my ticket number and license plate number. Nothing.
Hmmmm. Okay, maybe it was too soon. I few hours later I tried again. Supposedly persistence pays off, but after getting an error message for what seemed like the zillionth time (but was really only the thirtieth time) I decided to go the old fashioned route. I took out my checkbook, and stuffed that and the ticket in the mail.
I know that at the train station if you park 5 minutes before 9 a.m. at the $4 spots you get ticketed $50.
In Fairfield, parking tickets range between $25.00 to $85.00. No online payment either, you have to mail a check in the envelope provided or by coming to the in person. Tickets must be paid within ten days of the date issued or additional penalties can result.
The town of offers a detailed explanation about parking permits and payment, but nowhere does it mention a grace period. The same goes for Darien.
I understand the need to enforce parking. I understand the concept of pay for space. But 8 minutes? Isn’t there something called a grace period? Would 10 – 15 minutes be too much? Do any towns in Fairfield County give a grace period? No. No grace.