Parking Ticket Geek Arrested…Almost

Feeding Someone Else’s Parking Meter Almost Sends Geek To Jail

“Uh-oh”, I muttered to myself as the three CPD squad cars approached.

As the cars screeched to a halt just in front of me, their blue lights still flashing,  I was rethinking my bravado of just minutes before and started trying to remember the phone numbers of any one of my lawyer friends.

Ten minutes ago, I told her to do it.

Ten minutes ago, I said, “go ahead and call the police.”

Was I ready to go to jail for this “cause?”

I knew in my gut I was right. There was no ordinance in the Chicago municipal code that made it illegal to feed someone else’s parking meter. It was just a big fat urban myth. Right?

And that’s what I had been doing. Feeding the parking meters of complete strangers.

I saw the Parking Enforcement Aide (PEA) on the street where I had parked. As she made her way down the block, I quickly jammed my hand into my pants pocket, fumbling for quarters amidst the pennies, nickels, dimes and the other crap that collects in my pockets like so much flotsam and jetsam.

Walking briskly down the street, I plunked two bits into one expired meter and than another, adding a crucial 15 minutes of life to each one and robbing the PEA of two more tickets on this north side street.

“You can’t do that!,” she barked at me. “It’s illegal to feed someone else’s meter.”

“I don’t believe that’s true,” I calmly replied.

“Yes it is!!! And I could call the police on you,” she threatened with a yell, her face reddening.

“Go ahead,” I said, looking back at her in a feeble, pitiful and laughable Eastwood-esque posturing. “Go ahead and call the police…I’ll wait right here.”

She called my bluff and called the police on her radio. I exhaled nervously, mentally committing to staying put and not embracing all my instincts screaming at me to “run, run, RUN!!!.”

It was actually more like a battle between fear of being arrested and having to explain to my overly patient wife why I was in jail, pride and my knowledge of the municipal code. My pride, calmed by my miniscule legal knowledge won the day.

While I waited, I asked her for her name and badge number.

“You’ll get it when the police get here,” she growled back.

Ten minutes later, the three squad cars pulled up.

“What’s going on here?” asked the first officer out of his car.

“Well officer, I’m putting quarters in these parking meters and it’s making her mad,” I said in even tones, pointing to the PEA.

“He’s following me down the street and feeding other people’s meters and harassing me,” the PEA shrieked at the three officers who showed up.

After five to ten minutes of questions, being patted down, emptying my pockets, explanations, and being scolded, the three police officers told me to essentially…take a walk.

The cops, actually seemed more pissed off at the PEA, who from what I could tell, had radioed in a call of a city employee in distress or being attacked or something like that. Obviously, the police officers had better things to do than referee a sidewalk legal debate between a pissed off PEA and some self-styled doofus Robin Hood trying to keep a few cars from being ticketed.

A reader named Vincent had relayed a similar experience just a few days before, explaining, “I didn’t want a car whose meter had run out to get stuck with a $50 surprise, so I just stuck a quarter in the meter. She asked me if this was my car and when I said ‘No”, the meter maid (PEA) said it was illegal to do that. Is this true?”

I promised to look into it, but now that I had just had a similar experience, I was really curious. I just had to know.

Was I actually correct? Was it legal or illegal to feed someone else’s parking meter? I was on a mission.

My first call was to Jennifer Hoyle, at Chicago’s Department of Law.

“It is not illegal to feed someone else’s parking meter,” explained Hoyle after a day of researching for me. “There is no city ordinance prohibiting that. Although there is a time limit (two hours) of how long a vehicle may stay at a meter.”

Aha!

But why are PEA’s I’ve come across so adamantly convinced it is illegal to feed someone else’s meter?

So I made a call over to Dept. of Revenue Street Operations at Ashland & Diversey to talk to a manager to get some answers, and of course, report on the PEA who had tried to sent to the big house.

I was expecting to talk to someone cold, brusque and dismissive. Instead, the DOR supervisor was actually quite charming, pleasant and apologetic, after I related my story.

“You’re absolutely right,” she said. “It’s your prerogative to feed the meter. It’s not against the law. It just makes our (PEA’s) jobs more difficult.

I eventually got the PEA’s name and badge number, but not from the PEA, but from a person who received one of her tickets, and passed it on to this supervisor.

Originally, I had planned to go public with the PEA’s name and info. But after talking to her kind and affable supervisor, who assured me she would talk to the PEA and explain to the other PEA’s that it was absolutely legal for people to feed someone else’s meter, I thought better of it.

STAY TUNED: The Expired Meter is in the planning stages of a parking meter Good Samaritan program, that helps feed expired meters when PEA’s are lurking.

If you have a good name for us, send it to: info@theexpiredmeter.com

26 Responses to Parking Ticket Geek Arrested…Almost

  1. KC says:

    Parking Ticket Geek–You are a saint among men

  2. You may put as much money in to a “complete stranger’s” parking meter, but there is a limit to how long that a motorist may park in a specific space. Typically, these parking space duration of use limits are posted on the parking meter.

    When someone uses more than the allotted time, either on their own initiative or through the generosity of another stranger, other motorists may not use that space. Meters invite motorists to share this parking privilege with one another.

  3. Jay says:

    Great story, thanks for sharing. I’d be interested to hear Ticketmaster’s opinions on the matter, from his side of the battlefield.

  4. Illinois Patriot says:

    What you should do, is turn the tables, and sue the PEA for harassment. Of coarse you have opened up a whole can of worms! Now I have to go looking around for expired meters just in front of PEA’s just to piss off the PEA.

  5. ipark says:

    i heart PTG

  6. joe says:

    Funny APRIL FOOLS JOKE,,,,,

    shame there isn’t a law against feeding the meters, would be nice to see you driving downtown and being booked.

  7. joe says:

    Illinois Patriot, you are in idoit. peolpe that always mentions suing someone. You must have a very boring life

  8. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Joe-

    Sorry, it’s just coincidence that it’s April 1. This is a true story.

  9. George P. Burdell says:

    I too was wondering if this is an April Fool’s joke. Had to check the comments to find out it isn’t :)

  10. Mike says:

    Write a letter to everyone about that PEA’s behavior. Seriously. Those quarters you fed used to go to the city’s coffer and now it’s to a private company. In your letter, obviously mention her name and number, and also comment on the good police work by CPD. They don’t get enough positive attention. This metmer maid should be suspended at least a day or two at least for her bogus radio call for help. Geez, she could have went and got a cup of coffee to wait you out. Chicago calls itself “The City that Works.” Yeah the city that works at screwing it’s citizens.

  11. Illinois Patriot says:

    Joe, anything you want to get off your chest??? Any family issues? PTG was harrased, he has a legit case.

  12. Markian Zadony says:

    Dude… Publish the PEA’s name & badge number. Make it public. You’ll probably get constitutional protections. To add, Chicago Dept. of Revenue isn’t going to give you any better treatment–and as long as they don’t know your license plate # then you won’t have to be worried about getting ticketed in a harassing manner (like that guy you wrote about).

  13. I think that this post is just amazing. You have my sincere admiration for actually following up with your situation, besides what you did to start with. The problem is that most of us never follow up with issues like dealing with the meter ticket folks. I think most of us assume that calling 311 or whatever won’t get us anywhere. I’m enjoying thoroughly following your adventures, and there are plenty of us, my wife and myself included, that think highly of you for being so bold. Go Geek!

  14. Joe the Pizza Driver says:

    I deliver pizza during lunchtime downtown as a side job and I always help feed the meters if i see someone coming.

    A few of us delivery guys know what it is like to be delayed from coming back to your car cause someone wasn’t ready to take their pizzas from your while delivering. A 5 minute delivery can turn into 20 minutes easy! Leaving us with a parking ticket as we come back. So I usually dump a quarter or two into the machines! I have gotten many dirty looks over this!

  15. Ticketmaster says:

    Hello Jay,

    I can’t say who was right and who was wrong. We only heard one side. Our supervisors do regulary remind us to be calm and professional with dealing with the public and avoid confrontation if at all possible.

    As far as the debate on whether or not a vehicle can be ticketed on a broken meter is something easier to answer. When the majority of us started, we were instructed during training that it was illegal to park on a broken meter, however we were also instructed NOT to issue citation to vehicles on broken meters. Then sometime later, the Parking Manager sent out orders TO issue citations to vehicles on a broken meter. That only lasted about 3 weeks because an Alderman tired of recieving complaints notified Revenue to stop issuing those citations because they were re-writing the ordinance. This was about 6 years ago. Ever since then, it has been our practice never to issue a ticket to a vehicle for a broken meter violation.

    Hello Educated Fool,

    Revenue treats all 311 complaints as though it is a capital case. Any broken meter called into 311 is moved to the head of the line for meter repairs. Any complaints against an employee, and that employee has to do a ton of paperwork just to explain what happened.

  16. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    You see, this is why I like Ticketmaster so much. He’s very fair and even handed. He’s right. You are only getting my point of view. It’s up to the reader to read it, and come to your own conclusions.

    But, just to clear things up, here’s a tiny bit more background.

    I know none of you know me personally. But I like to think that I’m a very calm and polite person. One thing I strongly believe in is being kind, polite and respectful to everyone. I do not get off on being a jerk.

    I do not like confrontations and was NOT looking for one from this PEA. I was not trying to make her angry. I just didn’t want two people getting $50 tickets. I guess I would hope someone may look out for my car sometime and do me the same sort of favor.

    The PEA did come up to me after she saw me walk down the street and feed the meters. I did not raise my voice to her, nor argue with her except to say I believed she was wrong when she said it was illegal to feed the meter.

    She approached me, and when she said she was calling the police, I stepped back from the street and toward the closest building, away from her so there was no confusion of any physical proximity while we waited for the police. I did not speak another word to her from the point she called the police and I asked her for her name and badge (which she did refuse to give to me).

    When the police arrived. I only spoke to them and not the PEA.

    I’m not going to reveal her name because I have faith that her superior will deal with this situation properly.

    I have friends, who work for the city, who feel I should file a complaint against her with the city’s Inspector General.

    Despite the fact she called the cops on me for doing something essentially legal, I have no plans to file any formal complaint.

    My hope is her manager talks to her and she understands the law correctly.

  17. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Ticketmaster-

    Do you ever come across goofs like me that feed other people’s meters when you’re working? If so, how do you handle it?

  18. Greg says:

    Ticketmaster -

    If you have been instructed to not ticket cars parked at broken meters, who do you think has been writing the tickets? PEAs who were unclear on the regulations, cops, or CPM folks?

  19. DoR Employee says:

    Greg Says:

    Ticketmaster -

    If you have been instructed to not ticket cars parked at broken meters, who do you think has been writing the tickets? PEAs who were unclear on the regulations, cops, or CPM folks?

    Greg…I have Seen CPD write Tickets For Expired Meters on Cars that are displaying Handicap Placards/Plates.

    I have Seen CPD drop 2 Rush Hour Tickets on 1 car within 5 minutes of the other.

    I have seen tickets written by CPD for Cars Parked Outside of a Metered Space……….when there was NO Meter.

    PEA’s know what we can and can’t write. But we are not lawyers.

    We have been told to Finish the Ticket if the Person that drops the quarter isn’t the Car Owner/Operator. And then use our comments to state that a “Coin dropped while Issuing by Non-Owner.”

    You can drop the quarter…but by our Department Directives, you are not allowed to interfere with us while we are issuing, as that IS illegal.
    But correct, paying for someone’s meter Isn’t Against the city muni code or state law.

    And ticketmaster is Right.

    6 years ago it was a different department.

    These days its a darn social club.

    I miss the old days.

  20. Charles says:

    Hi,

    I read your story a few days, and I was delighted to learn that I wasn’t the only
    one helping others when their meteres had expired. I can’t recall which newspaper I
    read your story in, but it was sometime this week. In the past I have walked down
    streets with handful of quartes in my pockets and just feed them because I have felt
    it’s a shame that the city tickets people for expired meteres. So, I took it upon
    myself to lend a helping hand whenever I saw expired meteres to just pour quarters
    so they wouldn’t get a ticket. Trust me, I’ve had my share of tickets, and I even
    lost my car because I had too many tickets on my plate number. Even when I told them
    I wasn’t working, they ( Dept of Rev) said pay up. What I can’t understand is even
    after I lost my car to the city for unpaid tickets. The city still wants me to pay
    for the tickets plus the late fees. Now, I see why this is the greatest city in the
    world. They are a money generating city. I really do
    think it’s pathetic that the city charges these ridiclous amounts for tickets. And
    to top it off they give you tickets for the same thing the next following day. If
    you ask me, I really believe handling out tickets is for gaining revenue and
    nothing more than that. As much as they it’s not true, I bet their’s a quota for
    the ticket givers that walk the lines. It’s all about REVENUE. They really don’t
    care about your story. Keep feeding those meters, I know I will.

    -me

  21. [...] The Geek joins the morning team of Big John & Cisco on WIND 560 AM to talk about the Geek’s recent run in with the law. [...]

  22. Brie says:

    I think it was polite of you to feed the meter! There have been times where I have put in money in a meter for less than two hours and I have not made it back in time or at one point my meter just ran out and I would have gotten a ticket. 15 min is not along time to kindly give to someone. Even 10 min would suffice, if after that they get a ticket that is on them, cause they should keep track of time.

    so feeding the meter for someone else is not going to hurt anyones pocket ! be kind!

  23. [...] sounds oddly reminiscent of a run in this writer had with a Parking Enforcement Aide last [...]

  24. Doug Rosbury says:

    Bless your heart for your kind gestures. You have a heart of gold and
    your wife is such a lucky lady. Please write me an email. —Doug

  25. Jamie says:

    I found this story very interesting. I actually work as a “meter maid” myself. Well, the small city in Maine where I work doesn’t have meters, but I’m still the lady that enforces the parking ordinances. We also have 2 hour parking, which I enforce the old fashioned way…by walking rounds with a stick of chalk, leaving a small mark on the tire tread of every vehicle. I come around again two hours later to see which cars haven’t moved.

    Anyway, I have to say that the lady in your story certainly overreacted and gives us nicer meter maids a bad name. Although it’s basically my job to write parking tickets, I still try to be decent and nice about it. I smile and say good morning to every person I pass. I leave notes on cars if I notice that a tire looks soft or if there’s fluid leaking, or if their registration is about to expire. I carry stickers for kids and biscuits for dogs. I’m always available to give directions or a recommendation for lunch. I’ve helped frazzled mothers carry things to their cars, held doors open for people with their arms full, helped elderly folks cross the road, and returned stray shopping carts to their respective storefronts.

    While I’m tough on my “repeat offenders”, when someone seems to have sincerely lost track of time or had a meeting run late, I’ll let an overtime violation slide with an understanding smile. I also make sure not to do my rounds exactly 2 hours apart…I give people at least ten or fifteen extra minutes to finish up business. Yes, I issue tickets, but I make sure to be reasonable about it. Sure, I could be one of those ticket Nazis that never leaves a second of wiggle room…but what’s the point?

  26. Starr says:

    Kudos to you and your good Samaritan acts! The same sentiments to Jaime from Maine, if only more could have your perspective on things! I’m from New Orleans and numerous times a week I rely on street parking which requires a pocket full of change! I too have gone around and put leftover coins into expired meters. Mind you, I have never done so in the path of the “meter maids”. As Jaime states, life happens and sometimes it takes a little longer than expected to complete our tasks. Random acts of kindness (& the tales of them) go a long way.

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