Friday, March 20, 2020

101 Things #78 - Meter Cheat

Humans possess both the imagination and the understanding that there will be a future time when which they will continue to exist. These two factors mean that we think about what we will be doing in the future and, perhaps, plan for it. Many find satisfaction in contemplating the various deeds that they will essay.

A few find equal satisfaction in declining to do those deeds. You may number me amongst the decliners and one such deed, promulgated by seems to me particularly unworthy of being contemplated. I shall therefore add

Feed an expired meter

to my own anti-bucket-list, a catalogue of non-performance objectives that goes by the name of 101 Things I Refuse To Do Before I Die.

I suppose that by "meter" is meant parking meter; it is easy to forget that not long ago there were no such things and instead everyone was familiar with the electric meter. These devices took coins and many a novel featured the impoverished protagonist having to "feed" the meter with his last shilling or face a night sitting in the dark.

Pic: BoomBoxDeluxe, on YouTube

Pay as you go meters are still widely used but the feeding with coins is being replaced by electronic credit card payments. A curiosity of the old meter design was that some of the dials that recorded electricity use read backwards, as can be made out on the rightmost of the dials in the left hand panel of this picture. This could easily result in false readings, and still does to this day. But I digress.

I expect that the really exciting, memorable and epic bucket-list item intended by ChoosingFigs (do they eat any other form of fruit?) is to stick a coin into one of these:

Pic: The AA

Now there are still some points to clarify. Must there be a vehicle parked on the meter bay? Must it be your vehicle or is the idea that you help out a stranger? But the cruncher is this - do you do it knowing that traffic wardens are around or only when the feeding may be done with impunity?

I think that feeding the meter on a empty bay is a tad pointless, although of course it permits a passing motorist to have a freebie (a sort of Monopoly moment, if you will). Equally it is hard to see why you should be proud of bailing out an offender, someone who has wilfully abused the parking rules and who in any case will never know why their meter appeared to be faulty.  No, if this is going to be something you can boast about to the lads down the pub then it has to be your vehicle and there has to be a risk, i.e. your car is parked on a meter that has moved into the red, the man in the high-vis jacket and cap is making his way down the street and his little book of tickets is in his hand.

Casually, you saunter out and look around nonchalantly. Nobody would think that you were eyeing up the warden out of the corner of your eye. You admire the fashions in the charity shop window, check the temperature displayed outside the chemists. The warden turns his head to inspect a vehicle nearby. Now is your chance! The coin is ready in your hand. You swing around, deftly insert it and are moving away whistling even as the warden glances about suspiciously. He has left it too late. Your vehicle is parked legitimately and there is no shred of proof as to your misdeed. Well done!

The mood of euphoria will not last. Was it worth it? What, after all, have you achieved?  Are you really going to go home and tick this one off your bucket-list? Will you lie awake gazing contentedly up at the ceiling going over the events of the day? - the selection of parking bay in the first place, the hanging around waiting for the first period of time to expire, the surveillance until the warden appeared round the corner, the practised flick of the wrist that inserted the coin - so many rich memories, right down to when you finally drove off leaving a devil-may-care ten minutes of time left for all comers.

I cannot, no matter how hard I try (which is not a lot, to be frank) see any of this as worth commemorating. In fact it is hardly even worth mentioning it in casual conversation. Would it really go like this?

"Morning, Sam. Guess what? I fed an expired parking meter yesterday and got away with it!"
 "You didn't!"
"I ruddy well did"
"Never! You old dog, you. Oh well, can't stop, I'm just off to run a double marathon and then I'm taking the Orient Express to Istanbul and coming back by balloon but the moment I touch down I'm going to be calling you to hear more about your wonderful exploits"

I don't see it going it this way. I think this is one little infringement that can safely be ignored.


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