Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stop, thief!

I was a victim of crime. True story.

Yesterday I arrived downtown at a few minutes after 9 a.m. for two court appearances in the Criminal (In)justice Center. I parked on Texas Avenue just east of Austin Street. I walked over to the (space age) parking meter and took out my debit card. I punched in $2.00 for two hours of parking. The machine said it was printing my receipt.

I waited.

And I waited.

No receipt.

Then the machine said "thank you" and went back to the input screen.

I walked back to my car and wrote a note on a piece of paper that I had paid $2 at 9:10 a.m. and that the machine didn't spit out a receipt.

Fast forward to 11:20 a.m.

I walk back to my car and see a parking ticket on the windshield (luckily no boot on the wheels). I open the envelope to see what time the ticket was issued. If it was after 11:10 a.m. I would be SOL.

9:49 a.m.

That's right -- less than 40 minutes after the City of Houston stole my money, a mindless functionary of the city wrote a citation for illegal parking.

Now I have to go back to the municipal courthouse to request a hearing. Luckily I will have a statement from my bank showing that $2.00 was charged to my account that morning. The whole episode is infuriating, however, because it's not a rarity for a machine not to print a receipt. I can't count the number of times I've had to leave a note on my dash that I paid for parking but the machine didn't print out a receipt.

If the city's going to force us to pay to park on the streets, the city needs to make sure that its machines are working properly.

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