Nice Try, World.

Even as someone who has been keenly aware of many ways in which the 9-to-5 office worker is a creature of habit (in case you’ve forgotten), these early days of my New Reality have brought with them a few reminders that there are whole parts of everyday life that are not part of the 9-to-5er’s routine. Some of these feel surprisingly foreign to navigate. Things like choosing when to shower and weekday/daytime grocery shopping.

[I recently listened to a group of people behind me in the checkout line debate whether canned ravioli is best eaten out of the can (“Doesn’t even need to be heated”) or as a topping on toast (“You should try it”). Not that this conversation couldn’t have happened outside of the weekday/daytime hours, but I like to imagine that it was representative of a new world that will be full of profound questions that I never even considered pondering.]

Yesterday afternoon, I had two appointments downtown. In pay-for-use zones, Winnipeg’s parking authority has outfitted the city with pay stations: plug the machine, get a slip to put on your dash, park until the time you’ve paid for runs out. Pretty standard stuff. Knowing that I had two stops to make, I bought two hours’ worth of parking. I did intend to drive between the two appointments, but parking credit is not restricted to the vicinity of the station at which it is purchased. (Just keep the slip on the dash.)

Heading into the second appointment, I double-checked the street signage to ensure that I was not in contravention of any of its various directives. Don’t park here during rush hour, jackass. Don’t even think about stopping to the left of this sign. Make sure you pay, you deadbeat. Having verified my compliance with all of these orders, I decided that all systems were indeed ‘go’. Incorrectly, as it turns out.

It so happens that the stop I was making was to submit my paperwork required to incorporate my new venture (as a non-profit, I might add). I emerged from the building, feeling good about this milestone. Excited to ramp up the amount of positive energy I put into the world.

And I had a…gosh-darned…parking ticket. Of course.

Turns out the thing I failed to account for was the fact that – depending on which specific part of downtown you’re in – this city has two different street-parking rates. One dollar per hour in some sections; two dollars per hour in others. (Yes, both are cheap by the standards of many other cities. That’s beside the point.) Of course, the two hours I had purchased were from (and for) a $1/hr section, and my second stop was in a $2/hr section. So, despite the complete honesty of my oversight, I was ticketed as though I hadn’t paid for parking at all.

I have two things to say about this:

Thanks, Winnipeg! Really great job creating a system that has no potential for confusion. No, really – pat yourself on the back. Sure, I have a university degree, professional credentials that required several years of education after my degree and almost 34 years of life experience in which I’ve tried my damndest to pay close attention to things that go on around me. But, hey, my bad. I mean, what could be more obvious than the small print on the actual pay station indicating that this is a $2/hr zone? No, you definitely shouldn’t put up roadside signage warning people of this. They should just know to double-check the hourly rate on the payment-taking machine. I hope you put my $30 to good use. If you’re interested, I bet it could buy enough Sharpies to add simple markings to the existing signage to prevent people from making the same mistake I did. Either way, keep up the good work.

As for you, World, don’t think I didn’t notice what you’re up to. You think that by throwing a little one-time nuisance at me, at the precise moment when I’m registering the legal entity that may enable my dream of “making a difference”, that I’ll just pack up my things and go home? As though this little sign from above will make me question my faith? Joke’s on you: I answer to no god. (Unless of course we’re defining ‘god’ as the thing responsible for when you take a slice of pizza and half the toppings from the slice beside it come with.) I applaud the effort, but it’s going to take a bit more than that. If you want to shake me in a meaningful way, pass a new law requiring anyone who works from home to wear pants. That might get my attention.

Until then… nice try, World.

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