Thursday, November 25, 2004

Meter Maid Madness

Louis, our token gay waiter, dreams of opening his own restaurant someday. Fairly fluent in French, an excellent cook in his own right, a superb waiter with over twenty years experience in the business, he has a better chance than most.

Money, however, is a problem. To supplement his income Louis got a second job.

He’s a meter maid.

Well he prefers the term “Parking Authority Enforcement Agent” but I’ll stick with meter maid. He’s gay so he won’t mind.

Parking where I work is a big problem. Yuppies think nothing of sliding their suburban assault vehicles into handicapped or no parking zones while they run into Starbucks or get takeout. The area is a target rich ticket environment.

The meter maids are, of course, hated.

Louis LOVES his new job. He’s got the uniform, the badge, the handheld ticket computer, and a major league power trip. He gets a hard on whenever he tickets some rich snob’s Jag.

One day a customer stiffs Louis on a tip. He calmly pulls out his cell phone, calls one of his meter maid buddies, and the guy gets a fifteen dollar ticket. Cheapskate’s meter is expired.

I see this and pull Louis into the back.

“Remember on TV when Bobby Brady became a safety monitor at school?” I ask.

“Yeah” he says smiling. He knows where this is going.

“Well you’re turning into him. Don’t get customers ticketed while you’re working here. Wait till your actually working as a meter maid.”

“Parking Authority Enforcement Agent.” he corrects automatically.

“Whatever Serpico." I reply. Message sent.

Louis is cool. He stops playing parking stormtrooper at work.

In a few months Louis becomes the most feared parking agent in town. The mere sight of him walking around in uniform sends people scrambling for quarters to feed their meters. He’s the High Plains Drifter of meter maids.

One day I am walking into work and Louis, official Parking Authority golf cart and all, is happily putting a boot on some scofflaw’s car.

“Having fun?” I ask.

“Oh yes” he replies with a great big smile. “This guy has like $500 in unpaid tickets.”

“You know I think you like this job a little too much.” I joke

“Well I is the long arm of the law.”

“Be careful sheriff, you don’t want to become the first meter maid killed in the line of duty.”

Louis laughs. It’s a running gag between us.

“I mean what would they do for your funeral procession?” I elaborate. “Strap your casket to the golf cart here? A procession of golf carts and meter maids? Bagpipes?” We both laugh at my macabre little imagery.

It turn out my words were prophetic.

A few days ago Louis is writing a ticket for an SUV hulking in a no parking zone outside Starbucks. A tie dye wearing aging sellout yuppie hipster comes running out, moccachino in hand, screaming,

“Hey you fucking faggot! You cocksucker! You give me a ticket and I’ll kick your ass.”

I told Louis he should have said, “I am. You’re right. I’ll call the cops.”

Instead Louis is professional, tells the guy he’s in a loading zone, and he can fight the ticket in court.

“You fucking asshole motherfucker piece of shit!” the man say tossing his $5 cup of java into the street and getting in his truck. “Fuck you.” I’ll bet this guy was the ONLY guy who didn’t get laid at Woodstock.

Raging Hippie then proceeds to try and run down Louis with his car.

Louis leaps out of the way. He’s pushed up against another parked car, gets clipped by the side mirror, and tumbles into the street where he’s almost squashed by oncoming traffic.

Although unhurt Louis goes to the hospital as per regulations. The cops are called. Hippie is in jail charged with assualt with a deadly weapon.

Later Louis is working in the bistro telling me the whole story. He is visibly shaken.

“Am I not the voice of prophecy?” I ask.

Louis smiles. He’s coming out of his funk. “You warned me.” he acknowledges.

“So this job isn’t all fun and games.” I say.

“No I guess not” he says shaking his head.

“Well it’s gonna be a slow night and you’re a psych casualty so go home.”

“Thanks.” he replies gratefully. He calls his boyfriend for a ride, buys a bottle of wine, and goes home to recuperate with some show tunes and alcohol.

Louis is an excellent waiter and a pleasure to work with. He will get over his brush with death and resume torturing people with his ticket machine. One day, when he has his own place, we’ll laugh all about this.

Being a meter maid is like a being a waiter. It’s a thankless job and people treat you like shit. Louis gets it from both ends.

I go back to work taking comfort in the fact that being waiter is safer. No one has tried to kill me.

At least not yet.

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