When I was a broke college student I collected my fair share of parking meter tickets on my college campus. Everyone did. We were all convinced it was one big scheme to help fund the university.
Maximum meter times almost never matched up to actual class times. And who could possibly be seen in Financial Aid or at the Student Clinic within an hour? It was impossible.
A true rubix cube of financial disaster for someone like myself.
Tickets would accumulate and lead to larger fines and eventually tow trucks with even steeper fines. Nobody could afford a towing fee, ticket, and impound fine. Most of us were living on ramen noodles and hotdogs. One episode of your car being towed could equal disaster.
Enter the parking meter fairy.
One of the hotspots for parking tickets was in front of the Financial Aid building. The meter maid would whip out her pad and pen every hour on the hour. This was a place I frequented, as I was applying for loans and grants to cover the cost of college like most Americans that can’t afford college that’s unaffordable. Ironically this is also where I racked up the most parking meter tickets.
I learned over time to risk losing my turn in line and to race outside and add more quarters to my meter. This was usually accomplished just as the meter maid was stepping out of her car with an I-gotcha’ smirk on her face.
One day I had several extra quarters and an idea. I noticed the meters around me were also low on time. So I walked right in front of the meter maid and placed quarters in each and every parking meter. She looked surprised, huffed at me, and drove off. I was filled with glee at the power I had in freeing other students from tickets that would ruin their day.
I began to carry quarters with me everywhere.
Every parking lot I parked in got the parking meter fairy treatment. Sometimes I would swing by the lots on my way somewhere and look for meters that were running low. It became a scavenger hunt for joy. How many people could I help today I’d wonder as I pulled into a parking lot.
I realize I was helping other people but the happiness it gave me was completely selfish. I wondered if anyone ever noticed, ever walked out to the car expecting to find a ticket and realized they suddenly had more time added to their meter. I wondered if anyone ever suspected the parking meter fairy.
Small idea, huge impact on my day and hopefully those of others.
Stephanie is a writer, survivor, and advocate.
You can find her on Twitter.