It's sort of sad, but another tradition found in many cities across this great nation is fading into the mists of time.

I'm speaking about the old-fashioned parking meters which cities employ to regulate the amount of time vehicles are allowed to remain in front of businesses or in lots; and, more often than not, to add a considerable amount of revenue to the cities' coffers. Providing the city has meter-enforcement officers who want to work.

In a recent article from the Oregonian, it was noted that the City of Portland is in the process of phasing out the old meters where you stuck your money in the slot and the little arrow popped up indicating how much time you had.

The new ones they are putting in still take your money, but now they give you a little slip of paper in return.

The story said this slip is similar to a Post-It note and indicated the time you parked at a particular location.

So now instead of an arrow which ticks down as the time on the meter expires, you now have to remember the time on a printed slip of paper so you can dash back to re-feed the meter before your time runs out.

You then stick the note to the inside of your vehicle's window which faces the curb so the parking enforcement officers can see whether you are in violation or not.

These wondrous new devices are reported to be solar-powered. Now, there is progress let me tell you!

Of course you have to remember to stick the note to the inside of your window, (not the outside because somebody will surely swipe it and use it themselves), and hope the inside of your window isn't damp so the glue on the note won't adhere.

The new system will also involve getting out of the driver's side of your vehicle, obtaining the slip and then returning to your vehicle to open the passenger-side door to attach it, (providing you aren't parked on a one-way street, in which case you can stick it on the driver's-side window).

In either case, I can foresee some problems with these back and forth trips to the vehicle, particularly if it is raining, which is one of the factors the innovators of this new system probably failed to take into consideration when they dreamed it up.

When I first began my career in law enforcement, I walked a street beat for nearly three years and I took care of nearly everything that went on in the downtown area.

My duties ranged from apprehending shoplifters, policing traffic accidents, giving directions to out-of-town tourists, police-community relations with the local business owners and parking meter enforcement.

At that time, the City of Hastings, Mich., had the gold, "bullet-head" Duncan two-hour parking meters on the downtown streets, and a penny would get you 12 minutes on the meter.

For a dime, you could "shop 'til you dropped" for a whole two hours!

During one year on the beat, I wrote a total of 24,600 parking tickets in this town of 5,500 people.

I'm sure a number of you must be thinking: "What an evil, despicable and rotten cop you must have been and people probably despised the very ground you walked on."

Which I guess was true to a certain extent, but at that time, parking fines were only a quarter and you didn't even have to go to city hall to pay them.

We had little fine boxes on street corners in the downtown area and all you had to do was stick a quarter in the ticket envelope and drop it in the box.

What you also have to take into account about meter enforcement was that the downtown business owners were always griping to the city council about how there was no parking spaces available for customers.

Think about it, if someone decided to park their vehicle in front of a store all day without some sort of penalty being imposed, there goes a potential customer's parking space. Therefore, enforcement was needed if not required.

My philosophy was, "feed it or move it"; or, as I often said, "the quickest way to a person's head is through the pocketbook."

My enforcement policy was "compassion for none and malice for all," and I wrote everyone from the chief of police, to the mayor, my fellow officers and members of my immediate family.

Like a lot of young officers when they first start out on the job, I suffered from the Wyatt Earp Syndrome, (the irrepressible urge to solve any and all crimes), for a time. When I was on the beat I thought of myself as he Bumper Morgan of Hastings, for those of you who have read the Joseph Wambaugh book.

I could do all the things the so-called "Big City" cops could do like spinning my nightstick on its leather strap and bouncing it off the sidewalk before snapping it right back into the holder on my belt. That sort of impressed the ne'er-do-wells who used to hang out in the downtown area every now and then.

I wore snub-nosed harness boots with walking heels, shod with horseshoe heel plates, and I was good for about 10 days on a set of plates.

Many times, people could find me standing in my stocking feet at the shoe shop while the cobbler hammered on a new set of plates for which he charged me a dollar.

When I wasn't walking the beat doing my thing, the city supplied me with a right-hand drive International Scout which was really handy for writing parking tickets.

All you had to do was reach out the driver's-side window and slip the ticket right under the windshield wiper of the offending vehicle. Quick and easy and you were gone before the violator had time to come running out of the store.

I cited the patrol lieutenant from the sheriff's department one time, caught him in the barber shop while he was still in the chair. He came running out of the shop on to the sidewalk in the middle of the noon-hour traffic with soap on his ears and the sheet wrapped around is neck screaming: "Get away from my car you ticket-writing little *&@#!" as I sped away.

That was a triumph, and somehow I don't expect an enforcement officer would get the same feeling feel writing someone with a Post-It note stuck on their vehicle.

But, that's progress for you.

Anyone with comments about "On My Side of the Plate" can contact Tim Adams by calling 575-0710 or by e-mail at

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