meter cheater, 1973

A newspaper clipping from May of 1973.

A bit silly to go to lengths to avoid paying nickles for parking, I readily admit. There was a challenge, though, and it was well met.

This story was on the evening news then on the front page of the next morning’s paper. I was livid. How dare they! I wanted to storm the newspaper office and demand they tell me how they knew it was seen by a meter maid the first time it was used? I can still feel that same indignation. But, let me explain.

In 1973, my studio was underneath Jack Smith’s barbershop, beside the taxi company on South Hanover Street. I parked on the street and had paid my share of tickets. After I’d received several tickets within moments of my arrival curb side with a hand full of nickels, I noticed the flatness of the meter face. The simple graphic nature of the workings. Before I really thought about it, I’d created a little halfmoon duplicate using matboard and opaque watercolors. I thought it looked pretty good, so I put double-face tape on the back and vowed to use it the next day.

The next morning I parked my bug-eye Sprite and climbed out. I walked over to the meter and standing in front of it to shield a view from the street, I slipped the card in place. It looked okay. When I went out later in the day, there was no ticket. I left it in place and went out after 5pm. Still, no ticket. I felt very light. I reached up and popped the graphic into my palm, got in my car, and drove away. It gave me a good chuckle when I thought about it, but I shared it with no one.

I used that cardboard face for six or seven weeks, but never on rainy days. No tickets. I was pretty smug. I didn’t even mind dropping coins in on rainy days. Mostly, I took it for granted. Then one afternoon it was gone. I looked around briefly in case it fell off, but I couldn’t see it. I was fortunate that I didn’t have a ticket that afternoon- though I had a few the next couple of weeks. One evening, a bit over two weeks since I lost the cardboard halfmoon, it was on the news. The commentators had a good chuckle. Then the next morning, these pictures were on the front page of The Pottstown Mercury

Meter Cheater Gimmick Fails First Test What? My cardboard meter face? Carol Hahn barely had to look twice to notice something was wrong I beg your pardon, but…It was found pasted over the face of a meter on the South Hanover Street lot and then Police didn’t contact the owner of the car that was parked at the cheating meter because they have no proof that he or she was the one who tampered with it.

Or they were the one to steal it from that poor artist who never used the lot, always parked on the street and used tape, darn it. TAPE. Not glue. How could they?

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