Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Parking Meters, Loonies and Twoonies

All the road signs in Quebec are in French and "Pierre" the GPS Navigation voice was trying to keep up in a hybrid form of English and French with a lot of spelling thrown in. Yes, "Pierre" was spelling some of the street names to us and I don't really know why but it worked because we found ourselves in downtown Montreal and parked the car. The new parking meter system there made me feel like a country bumpkin. They don't have the traditional looking independent parking meters at each spot but instead each spot has a letter/number designation. Let's say our's was C 345. We had to take that letter/number combo to a central parking meter box for that block and enter in our space number along with the money. A man who saw us all staring at the meter box blankly stopped and tried to explain to us how it worked. All I remember is that he kept saying over and over to "Pay attention to the letter". Okay, so we needed to pay attention to the letter "C" in our combo. Not sure why but "Thanks Mr. Stranger Man. We will!"

We go on our merry way and know that in about 45 minutes we have to put more money in the computerized meter but the beauty of this new system is that we can enter in the money from any of the parking meter boxes anywhere in the city. So we don't have to go back to where our car is parked. We can just continue to walk and use a box along the way. So shopping we go. We are on St. Catherine's street in the heart of Montreal's shopping district and there are lots of trendy shops and restaurants and people everywhere. Time to put more money in the meter so FGT (First Grade Teacher) leaves the store we are in and goes out to do just that. No problem. We love this system. She comes back and we continue to walk and shop along St. Catherines. So many fun looking places to stop for lunch but we are all still trying to work off the Poutine from earlier in the day and nobody is hungry.

A couple of hours later and it is time to feed the meter again and we are very close to our time limit and because it is all computerized the city can then dispatch a meter maid/attendant directly to the offending vehicle with a ticket instead of them wandering up and down the street looking for expired meters. It is a very efficient system. So we are cutting it close and start moving up the street looking for the Parking Meter boxes. The first box only has letters for D, E, F, and G. We go to the next one and it's the same thing. The next one is A, B, D, and E. WTF??? They skipped our letter C! We run to the next one and it's the same thing. We split up with FGT on one side of the street and me on the other side of the street running from one meter box to the next calling out and using hand signals looking for the "C". DME (Digital Marketing Expert) and PRC (Public Relations Consultant) are following us and trying to keep up until PRC sees a shop with handbags, purses, and totes that she wants to stop in. NO STOPPING! We must find the letter "C"!!!

After scampering up at least five more blocks I hit a box and alleluia it has our letter "C". Of course by now we are a good 20 minutes late and we have visions of a Parking Meter Attendant with an evil laugh putting tickets under the windshield wiper blade but FGT goes ahead and puts in more "loonies" and "twoonies" (which are the Canadian coins worth $1.00 and $2.00 each) and we breathe a sigh of relief. At this point we are so close to our car and a bit shopped out so we decide it's time to head to Old Montreal to check it out before our dinner reservations. So that is what we did. If Mr. Stranger Man ever offers you parking meter advice, you need to take it. "Thanks Mr. Stranger Man! Next time we will pay attention to the letter". Oh and just so you know...there was no ticket waiting on the windshield when we got there. "Thanks Mr. Computerized Futuristic Parking Meter Guy!"

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