I miss parking meters. I liked seeing them stand in formation, up and down Forbes Avenue in Oakland, like soldiers paying respect to oncoming traffic.
I'm old enough to remember when one dime could buy you enough minutes to devour an order of french fries at The Original, tour the Nationality Rooms and check out a book at the Carnegie Library.
And what was better than circling the block several times, nabbing a spot and discovering there was still time on the meter?
Or a meter that had a small piece of paper folded into the coin slot with the message "meter broken." Don't bother feeding it. A free pass!
Sure, the price on those meters crept up over the years and carrying around those quarters was a nuisance.
But I still prefer that to what I discovered in Oakland this past week: the dreaded parking kiosk, with the ubiquitous keyboard and instructions which are meant to be idiot-proof ... but aren't quite.
I came to the Pitt campus this semester as a new student with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a wonderful program of stimulating classes for adults age 50 on up.
I revel in the hustle and bustle of the young students as they scurry across campus. And although I envy them for their flawless skin and boundless energy, I wouldn't trade places for the world.
They are burdened with tests and deadlines, requirements and resume building. On the other end of the age spectrum, the older students of the Osher school are on campus for the sheer love of learning. If it had been this much fun to go to college the first time, none of us would have ever left.
But as with students everywhere, the first week of school can be a little unnerving. At orientation, I was warned that parking would be a challenge. So I left myself plenty of time to get to campus and park. At 12:25 p.m. I eased into a spot on a side street, walked to the corner and found a parking kiosk a half block down on Forbes.
After inserting my credit card and punching in my license plate number, the message on the screen read, "Your credit card has been blacklisted." Blacklisted?
I remembered my history from the McCarthy era of the 1950s and wondered if my credit card had refused to name names. I called the help line, and they let me know that since they don't accept American Express, I should try a different card. I did and successfully purchased three hours of time for $6. I patted myself on the back.
My class that afternoon was fabulous. The instructor is a wonderful storyteller with the gift for making her subject matter come alive. The sun was shining as I walked back to my car, making a quick stop for an order of fries to go. My mood quickly plummeted when I turned the corner and spotted the ticket on my windshield.
It was issued at 12:27 p.m., which corresponds to the time my credit card was being blacklisted. Surely the powers that be would listen to reason. I called the help line and was informed that I can contest the ticket. Great. I've spent $6 on parking, been ticketed for $30 and now the Parking Authority is giving me the opportunity to spend an afternoon in traffic court.
On my drive in, Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changing" played on my radio.
I know Dylan wasn't referring to parking kiosks when he wrote the song, but the message still applies. I'm going to need to surrender to the fact that parking meters are never returning to the streets of Oakland, security lines are growing longer at the airport and my computer has the potential to crash at the most inopportune times.
As I crumpled the ticket into my purse, turned on my ignition and began my commute back to the South Hills another song came on my radio: "As Time Goes By." The lyrics made me think about how so many of life's pleasures are iconic and never change.
I take solace in the enjoyment of all that Oakland has to offer. It is as much a thrill now to sit in a classroom and be exposed to new worlds as it was back in the '70s when I was a college student.
And I appreciate the fries from The Original, which were as sublime on this year's first day of class as they were when my husband and I moved to Pittsburgh 30 years ago. Salty. Greasy. Delicious.
"The fundamental things apply, as time goes by ..." For this, I am grateful.
Debby Tepper Glick of Mt. Lebanon, a writer and homemaker, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The PG Portfolio welcomes "Local Dispatch" submissions and other reader essays. Send your writing to email@example.com; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255.