Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Actual Conversation With a Manager at Transportation Services

I don't have a campus parking permit this year. They cost something like $200 a semester and since I am only on campus two days a week it's cheaper to just pay for parking each time I'm on campus than it is to buy the permit.  Plus I only use the parking garage on days when it is raining or I am running late. The rest of the time I park at a golf course across the street from campus and walk to my building from there since parking at the golf course is free and apparently there's a touch of cheapskate in me when it comes to paying for parking.
Here's the problem: every single time I park in the parking garage, I use the university's pay-by-phone parking system to pay for the 2-3 hours of parking that I need. And about 75% of the time, when I return to the garage after my class I have a parking ticket for an expired meter.  It's INFURIATING. I then have to take the time to get the ticket dismissed, either through Transportation Service's appeals website or by just driving down to the Transportation Services office and talking to someone there.  This is what I did yesterday, when I had the following conversation:

Me: I got this ticket in the parking garage even though I had paid for an hour and a half of parking.
Manager: [Looks something up on the computer, sees that I did, in fact, pay, says she will dismiss the ticket.]
Me: I get a ticket almost every time I use the pay-by-phone system in that garage. This is the fifth or sixth ticket I've gotten this semester.
Manager: Have you tried just using your debit card at the pay station outside the garage?
Me: I have used it in the past, but the whole point of the pay-by-phone system is that it saves me time. I can pay as I'm walking into my class rather than spending two or three minutes waiting for the pay station to process my payment.
Manager: But it really doesn't save you any time if you keep having to come down here to dispute tickets.
Me: [inwardly seething and trying to talk myself out of going all hormonal pregnant bitch on her] Right, it doesn't. That's exactly the problem.  You really need to have the pay-by-phone system fixed so that it actually does what it is supposed to do.
Manager: You should just use the pay station.
Me: Thank god this semester is over next week.

I realize that she has a point, which is probably why the whole interaction made me so irrationally angry. Why do I keep futilely using the pay-by-phone system when I know that more than half of the time it's going to result in a parking ticket that I'm going to have to take time in person or over the internet to dispute?  I suppose it's because I JUST WANT THE DAMN THING TO ACTUALLY WORK CORRECTLY AND DO WHAT IT IS SUPPOSED TO DO. That, and, as I said above, I only park in the garage when it is raining or when I am running late to the class I teach, and in neither of those cases do I want to spend 2 or 3 minutes standing at a parking kiosk outside. I'd much rather just dial the automated system and pay as I walk into my building.  [And yes, it really does take 2 to 3 minutes for payments to process at the kiosk. The whole electronic parking meter system on campus is as slow as molasses.] Sadly, in the moment it always seems like a better decision to spend 20 minutes disputing the parking ticket after class than it does to make myself late to my own class by using the pay station meter.  Could I leave my house 5 minutes earlier and avoid the whole dilemma? Yes, but that would be rational and me+rational don't go hand-in-hand these days.

Back to the dissertation. Actually, back to class prep. I'm finishing up everything for my class today so that all I have to do for the next week is grade their final exams.  I've enjoyed my class this semester but I can't wait for January's glorious fellowship and my ability to just grow this baby and dissertate for a couple of months.  Incidentally, it's looking more and more likely that the dissertation will not be finished before the baby arrives, but that's a dilemma for another post another time.

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