the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Goodbye, Coin-Operated Parking Meter

On the morning I flew from JFK to Los Angeles, I noticed city workers up early in my neighborhood in Queens, drinking their coffee, already at work.  They were removing the coin-operated parking meters from the sidewalk, rooting them out from the heavy cement as if they were tiny metallic trees, both ancient and sturdy.  It was the end of an era.  The city was installing the electronic parking meters that I had seen in newer cities like Seattle and Denver.  It was a makeover I didn’t want to happen in New York, something like Robert DeNiro getting plastic surgery to look more like Justin Bieber.

A child born today will probably never see a working coin-operated parking meter, or experience the frantic search for the dropped quarter under the car seat, while the meter hungrily cries for her food like a voracious Venus flytrap.

The typewriter. The telephone booth.  And now, the coin-operated parking meter.   All gone.

It’s not as if anyone LIKED the coin-operated parking meter.   We cursed her.   We said she was a whore who demanded money for her time.  We despised her pimp, the man in the snazzy uniform who cycled around the block, waiting to trap us as we enjoyed our relaxing coffee in a cafe.

We hated the coin-operated parking meter.  We wished it dead.  And soon it will be dead. Only to be replaced by a soulless machine that spits out a wafer-thin paper ticket.  And we will miss the coin-operated parking meter

Tomorrow starts 2012.  It is a time to start fresh.  The writing staff at “Citizen of the Month” wishes every reader of this blog good health, happiness, and success.

But let’s also take a second to remember those who faltered during the past year, like the once mighty coin-operated parking meter.   If only we had said “I love you” to her when she was still alive.


  1. Ann

    Further proof of our technological pillage and plunder? I thought you mean LIKED as in fb.

    Happy New Year, Neil!

  2. Carrie

    I get it. Same thing is happening here in Austin and I have yet to approach one to see how they work.

    They’ll grow on me sooner or later and I’ll cave…but until then? I’m gonna be stubborn and a little pouty.

  3. Alison

    Look what’s happening in Lexington with those old parking meters:

    (The site is wonky for me right now; if it is for you, just scroll down to see the article.)

    Anyway, it’s a really nice way to contribute to the arts on a small scale.

  4. Jack@TheJackB

    We have more than a few in LA and I hate them.

  5. The Honourable Husband

    Technically, the machine that spits out the paper ticket is still a “coin-operated parking meter”. Sorry, I had to point that out.

    Let’s admit it. Like most technical developments, this one actually does improve our lives. With many, you can pay with a card, so the hunt for quarters and dimes is over. And it replaces a parade of unsightly machines with a single, discreet one. I like these machines.

    Just two drawbacks.

    One, they are so much cheaper to install and maintain, it will encourage cities to meter more spaces. (Which could also be a good thing, for us as a community, OTOH.)

    And two, there need to be enough of them, in convenient spots. I despise having to walk to the other end of the block, grab a ticket, and walk back to my car before I can be on my way. It can be quite a hike. My joy at finding a spot right in front of teh Starbucks in Odeonsplatz is quelled by the knowledge that I’ll need to walk seventy meters to the machine, and back.

    But then, in busy urban areas where cars are a menace, the job of the meter is not to make parking easier.

  6. sweetney

    I cannot believe you just made me wistful about a coin operated parking meter.

  7. denise

    Boulder moved to the big bad one parking pay kiosk on the block a couple of years ago. There are still a few coin fed meters around, they warm my heart. Happy New Year, Neil. May 2012 bring you great glory…

  8. Pearl

    “The writing staff at Citizen of the Month…” Ha. Love it.
    Please wish the lead writer, the editor, the copy editor, the proofreader, the design person and the publisher a very happy 2012 from me…part of the reading staff of Citizen of the Month.

    (remember, Neil, “It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve….” :O)

  9. Ca

    Why does this post make me chuckle? Sweet satisfying ironic life.

  10. Kara

    Happy New Year, Neil! I’m looking forward to another year of your witty posts.

  11. Hannah Joy Curious

    Yup, Seattle runs on plastic, meaning that people who yet have to learn to drive, like me, will never know the joy of parking quarter guzzlers, not on the West coast, not on the East coast. I wonder if Canada might still be coin-operated?

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