Providence parking meter madness
By TESSA ROY
“This is going to sound like a strange request, but I’m not sure what to do at this point,” I said over the phone to a Providence Police officer last Tuesday night.
As we spoke, I recalled some bizarre things that have happened to me during the short time in which I’ve been a journalist. I’ve been stuck in a historical graveyard with a broken camera in the pouring rain, nearly kicked out of an airport, and forced to interview a drunk man who was aggressively hitting on me in the Boston Common. But Tuesday topped my list of nutty reporting experiences.
A few hours prior, I arrived at the State House for the first session of Rhode Island’s General Assembly. I huddled under my umbrella, safe from the rain as I inserted my debit card into the parking meter.
Then, my card got stuck…really stuck.
My cold, numb fingers worked unsuccessfully to pry it out. I wondered how crazy I looked as I fought with the meter, my already broken umbrella turned inside-out from the wind and the rain pelting my face.
I soon had no choice but to leave the card if I didn’t want to be late. So I left, feeling incredibly stupid.
“Glad I did my hair today,” I grumbled as I speed-walked, noticing that my shoulder length curls had wilted from the rain.
I stumbled into the State House, still very flustered, only to be met with another obstacle seconds later.
“TESSA!!!” I heard a woman yell. Once I realized she was someone I knew, I returned the hug she immediately enveloped me in and tried to muster a greeting. Then, like the whirlwind of a human she is, she turned around and started introducing me to the man she’d been talking to, excitedly telling him what a “great young reporter” I am. I shook the man’s hand, mumbled something about having to get to the session, and bolted.
I scurried to the House Chamber, hoping he wasn’t someone important. But much to my chagrin, I later discovered he was, in fact, a rather important member of a U.S. senator’s staff. Oops.
I finally relaxed when I got to the Chamber. I spoke with Barry Tedder from Representative Camille Vella-Wilkinson’s campaign and then ran into Representative Evan Shanley, who excitedly introduced me to his newborn son, Maxwell. I forgot about my card abandoned on the streets of Providence as the session went on. It wasn’t until after I’d pulled a few legislators aside for some post-session comments that I remembered.
“I have to go dig my debit card out of a parking meter,” I texted one of my Beacon colleagues. If it was still there – I expected it would be stolen and that I’d have to cancel it.
Thankfully, the card was still there. I started wrestling the meter, again to no avail. Tedder even tried to help – I held my umbrella over his head, which proved difficult as he’s at least a foot taller than me, as he battled the meter. We tried using my small pocket tool to wedge it out, but the tool broke. After finding a couple numbers to try (there didn’t seem to be one on the meter), I thanked and apologized for his help and told him I’d manage. As I couldn’t reach anyone else, and since State House security could only recommend I call my bank, my last resort was calling the Providence Police. They sounded unsurprised by my debacle.
“Yeah, that happens a lot. Usually by the time we send someone out, people have gotten the card out,” the person on the phone told me.
I emphasized that I’d exhausted my efforts; this thing was not coming out. They agreed to send someone, and two officers showed up a while later.
“It’s not you, it’s the meter,” one said as I began apologizing. He stuck another card below mine and pulled. My card didn’t budge.
“This trick usually gets them right out. But this one, I don’t know,” he laughed.
I called my dad to let him know what was happening; both of us struggled to breathe as we laughed. This would certainly only happen to me.
The officers eventually managed to free my card after about 20 minutes. Elated, I thanked them profusely and cranked the heat in my car as I began my journey home. As soon as I got home, I jumped into a hot shower, which I’m not sure I’d ever been so thankful for – I was freezing and totally drenched.
I can’t say I have any solutions; I’ve heard the meters are fairly new. For now, all I can say is thank goodness for the Providence Police. I recommend keeping quarters on you if you need to park in the city; you might spend two hours in the rain, inconvenience the police, or embarrass yourself in front of a senator’s staff member if you don’t.