Last Thursday afternoon when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in London to open Sunfest, one of the city’s most popular festivals, I was pushing my way in to speak to a Western University continuing ed. PR class.
Although I had left a 45-minute buffer in my travel, the congestion downtown meant I’d need every extra minute. Finally, the building was in sight. This was no time to be picky about parking. I pulled into an Impark lot across from the entrance to Citi Plaza.
If you’re not familiar, Impark is a pricey parking company whose crimes against drivers are legendary and many reviews claim it’s also a terrible place to work.
My 5:30 talk time was bearing down. A young couple was at the payment post. Him, tall and bearded and her, in a sundress and a wheelchair. He asked in a thick accent whether there was another option for parking downtown. I told him that on Sunfest opening night, with the PM in town, probably not. Turns out they were visiting from Sweden. He hemmed and hawed over the price and I came THIS CLOSE to paying for his parking when he abruptly decided to leave. They couldn’t justify the expense.
At 5:13 I put my credit card into the Impark machine and pushed the buttons for three hours of parking time. I pressed the “print ticket” button and the screen read “add more time”. What the hell? So I added enough time to last until midnight. It still wouldn’t print. I canceled the transaction.
This happened two more times. Was it because it was close to 6 pm when the rates change? At one point the screen showed I would pay $22 and be allowed to park until the following evening, and it still claimed that wasn’t enough.
Then I noticed the sign for Parker Pete. “Got a problem? Call Parker Pete!” So I did. A polite man answered and I explained my problem. “Oh, I’m sorry Ma’am but I can only dispatch help for a flat tire or dead battery”. Really? In this day of ubiquitous cell phones and CAA memberships, that’s what you can do? He offered to give me another number to write down but it was 5:22. I said, “No thanks. I don’t have time. I guess I’ll have to get a ticket and fight it.”
At 5:23 I decided to write the hastily scribbled note above. I started to write that I tried to “get” a ticket but then I decided that “buy” a ticket was more accurate. I threw it on my dashboard and ran for the building, telling myself a parking ticket was the price I’d have to pay this night and to not to get in a twist about it. I arrived at the doors at 5:28 and never did cool down until I was done at 6:30.
The students asked great questions.
“Have you ever been asked by a supervisor to do something that conflicted with your morals?” No. But I did discover a couple of coworkers were doing shady things with company resources and I felt it was my duty to report them.
“What was the most important thing that happened on the job?” 9/11.
“Is the media the enemy of the people?” *face palm* “No, but I don’t know how we’re going to get past that claim or recover from the damage president #45 has done.
I told the students that I’d be sending around a hat at the end of class to help pay for my parking ticket. It’s a typical London experience. So, imagine my surprise when I returned and nothing had happened. No ticket. No angry parking patroller staring me down. Perhaps they had better fish to catch elsewhere on this busy evening. Or maybe, just maybe, did my poorly written explanation work?
I’ll never know. But I feel like it’s a win in a long string of losses with parking problems in downtown London, none of which can ever be solved by Parker Pete.