by Kerry Joyce
illustration by Kevin Banks
Our story picks up from last issue wherein our intrepid hero, Garrett Parker, was struck, as if by a bolt of lightning, with a brilliant, nay, ingenious plan to wreak a symbolic revenge on the loathsome, human tentacles that are employees of the Boston Traffic Department.
January 20. St. Agnes Eve. 1994. That was my mantra for weeks, and the day I chose for my revenge against the Boston Traffic Department and their meter fiends. During medieval times, it was believed that virgins would dream of their future husbands on this day. But there were no virgins in the Boston Traffic Department. Combined, they had screwed just about every motorist in town.
Clinton had been president exactly one year, and this was of great import, according to the newspapers searching desperately for an angle, a lead-in, anything but real information.
The cold was the real story. I looked on as a monosyllabic tow truck driver pulled a 1978 Dodge Dart, of the Pre-Iaccocan period, out from under a small land glacier. One build up in increments of a foot and more by a dozen plows on a dozen stormy nights.
It was record freezing all right and there was nothing any president, pope, prince, potentate, principality, parking ticket technician, no, nor any other force know to man beginning with the letter “p” or any other letter could do about it.
It was perfect. I estimated the booting, towing, and retrieving of my humble wheels had cost me about three hundred bucks, in time, money and aggravation. To even the score, I wanted to prevent the Boston Traffic Department from writing twenty parking tickets (about three hundred dollars worth) or at least make them spend a few more hours in the cold hunting down “violators.”
I first reconnoitered the downtown area. The meter fiends, I discovered, were deployed from vans, each with a cute maroon silhouette of the Boston skyline painted on the side.
The vermin then divided, like the amoeba that they are, into two parts. The right flank worked Boylston Street while the left took Comm. Ave. and busied themselves writing up the cars of outsiders parked in the “Residents Only” spaces.
Then, just after noon, the two flanks converged. They would descend upon Newbury Street in a pincer movement, and engorge themselves on the lunch crowd’s street parked vehicles.
Lunch on Newbury Street takes a minimum of an hour and fifteen minutes. The meters are one hour maximum. Duck soup.
It was here I would strike I decided.
At 12:30 PM I began. My front pants pockets bulged foolishly with four rolls of quarters. I basked in the inexplicably admiring glances of a few lunch time escapees from The Katie Gibbs Secretarial School and then went to work. I took a deep breath and quickly began feeding quarters into the overdue meters of imperfect strangers on Newbury Street.
Things proceeded smoothly for the first half hour. I felt the icy stares from a couple of meter fiends (m.f.’s) though they pretended not to notice me. “They’re dying to write their quota of tickets and head on out. But it won’t be so easy. Bwuh huh huh ha ha ha heh heh heh.” I laughed diabolically to myself.
A couple drivers on the upscale side of the street noticed what I was doing on their behalf but feigned indifference. But people on that end of Newbury Street would act bored even if you snuck up and gave them an enema right there on the sidewalk. I wasn’t doing this for them anyway. This was about revenge, not charity.
“Ginger Honey, I’ll be over at Brooks,” a Houston native the size of a small oil derrick informed one of his insignificant others in front of Giorgio Armani.
“Hey pal, what are you doing?” A guy in a parking lot asked me as I toiled in the city vineyards.
“He’s tampering with city property, that’s what,” said a broad shouldered woman in a faux police uniform. She identified herself as a Boston Traffic Department Supervisor.
“Yeah, you shouldn’t be doing that,” the parking lot attendant added, putting in his two bits.
“Oh, this must be one of those great partnerships between business and government you always hear about around election time.” I shot back at the two unindicted co-conspirators before me. “Those cars belong to friends of mine.”
“Well, it’s against the law and tampering to fool with a meter unless you own the car parked in front of it.” the supervisor lectured.
“So call a cop.”
“I will,” She huffed, looking at the parking lot attendant and ignoring me. Hot air steamed from her crooked mouth.
After a few rousing choruses of “We shall overcome, Buttface!” I was back to work. “It’s the weather,” I told myself as my hand shook slightly while feeding in all those quarters.
I proceeded down Newbury Street towards Mass. Ave. past the Hellenic Chronicle newspaper. “God, Kinch, if you and I could only work together we could do something for the island. Hellenise it,” I called to a nondescript man hurrying into The Chronicle with a smile and a clutch of sun splashed vacation brochures.
“You’re a sick pup,” a man walking a pair of boxers said as he passed by. People had been telling me this quite regularly since K through 8 and for the first time I began to wonder if maybe they didn’t have a point. Deciding in the negative, I pressed on.
I began thinking that I might get arrested over this and felt a little nervous. “I should have just ignored that supervisor,” I told myself. “Arrested. How embarrassing that would be. I should be doing something more swashbuckling, like rescuing whales from the nets of Japanese fishing trawlers. This is so pedestrian.”
My moment of self doubt, however, was quickly arrested by a policeman who asked: “What are you doing?” I was growing tired of this line of questioning. Everyone who began this way knew exactly what I was doing, and didn’t like it.
Acting quickly, I put one hand over my mouth, which was dying to say, “What the hell does it look like?” and with the other I fished out a Bible tract I had found in a phone booth nearby. Then with a look of honest derangement said: “Officer, have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Personal Savior?” The cop mumbled something about being a Catholic and ambled off.
Praise the Lord.
It took one hour and forty five minutes for my act of defiance to run out of quarters. I was ignored by most everyone with the notable exception of some indignant panhandlers. “Why are you throwing away quarters on rich people instead of helping us?” They demanded. “No man is free,” I explained, “when any are oppressed.” I gave them two quarters apiece in hopes the two street philosophers would stop laughing. It didn’t work.
Making my final deposit, I looked up at the sky, it had a rosy cast and a chorus of angels could be heard faintly yet distinctly overhead. This well deserved reverie lasted an eternal moment. I’m sure I would have achieved total consciousness right there on Newbury Street. But I forgot my wallet and it was too cold. The index finger of my meter feeding hand was numb.
Time, space and dimension had folded itself neatly into an all encompassing totality, and me with it. “If I hurry I can beat the rush hour traffic out of here.” I thought to myself, “Sure hope I didn’t get a ticket.”
I had settled the score with the Boston Traffic Department.
No quarter asked. None given.