The $36 salad

Do you ever have days when the only smart thing to do seems to be turn right around and go home, crawl into bed, and wait until the cloud passes by?

Me too.  Yesterday was one of those.  But since I’m all growed up, with responsibilities and all, I can’t do the whole head under the covers thing.  So I went to work, got through the day and came home, thought it wasn’t a good day.  I did some stuff at work that day that wasn’t cool; snippy emails, excessive complaining, etc.  Not my best effort.

This morning, I woke up with a little more cheer and as the morning wore on, I could feel the cloud lifting.  Lunch time rolled around, and I faced a dilemma.

See, it’s been cold around here lately.  Low 30’s, which in a place where none of the buildings have insulation, is chilly indeed.  My corner office, with it’s lovely views, is also drafty as hell and so I’ve been cold for about three days, unable to warm up even with the space heater pointed at my feet.

I needed to get lunch, and I needed vegetables.  Chipotle is my go-to for such situations, since I can get a salad with fresh ingredients and a decent calorie count if I avoid the corn and sour cream.   It’s a 3 minute walk from my office.  I neverrarely drive there.

But it was cold.  And I was wearing a skirt and shoes that make my back hurt and well, it was cold.  My gut was telling me I was being lazy, all those “lose weight now” articles bouncing around my head – “Walk everywhere, and drop 10 pounds in 30 days!” – but I was cold.  So I decided to drive.

When I arrived in the Chipotle parking lot, all the designated parking spaces were taken.  There were dozens of empty spaces, but they were pay parking spaces, with bright red signs warning that “Booting is enforced.”  I weighed my options, decided I would only be in the restaurant for a few minutes, and parked.  And didn’t pay.  And said to myself – surely I won’t get busted.  It’s just 5 minutes.

I can imagine you know where this is leading.

5 minutes later, I came out of Chipotle, my $6 salad in hand, and noticed what looked like a knit cap near my car.  No, I thought.  Surely not.  Surely it’s just someone walking by.  I hit the lock button to warn them off.  The hat didn’t move.

No, I thought again.  You’ve gotta be kidding me.  Surely they didn’t ticket me for 5 minutes of unpaid parking.

Turns out I was right.  They didn’t ticket me.  They BOOTED my car.

When I saw the boot, I couldn’t help myself.  I looked at the guy with the hat, and said incredulously, “Are you KIDDING me?”

“No, ma’am.  You have to pay in this lot.”

“You booted my car.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

At this point, adding insult to injury, a couple in a pickup pulls up and asks innocently “Hey, can you park here for Chipotle?”

“No!”  I shouted.  “No, absolutely not.  I was in there for 5 minutes and they just booted my car.”  They drove off, no doubt frightened by my wild eyes and slightly hysterical voice. Hat Guy was silent this whole time, and I had a brief moment where I wondered if I would have to call someone else to get the boot off, even though the guy had literally clamped it on seconds before.

I started at the bright yellow sticker on my window, the one telling me that I was responsible for any damage to the car if I tried to drive it. Then I spoke to Hat Guy:

“Well, I’m here…what do I do to get it off?”

“We take cash, debit or credit.  It’s $30 and I can take it off for you after you pay.”

Without a word, I went for my credit card.  I felt angry tears welling up, but tamped them down, handed over the card and drivers license and signed his copy of the receipt.  Off came the boot.  I avoided all eye contact as this went on, because I didn’t trust myself not to say something downright bitchy.

“You have a nice day, ma’am.”  I swear Hat Guy actually said this to me.  And I responded, by rote, “Thanks, you too.”  Then I drove away, stunned, angry, and wondering what I’d done to deserve getting caught for such a small transgression.  I guess it was karma for the uncool stuff I’d done the day before.  If you believe in such things.

Allow me to be perfectly clear.  I broke the rules.  I didn’t pay.  I got caught.  There is no blame that can be assigned to anyone but me.

But I still cannot get over that they BOOTED my car for 5 minutes of unpaid parking.  I have since learned that the rules of the city forbid them from ticketing in a private lot, so they have to boot if they want to enforce the rules.  But they BOOTED my car for 5 MINUTES OF UNPAID PARKING!

Suffice to say I will never park in that lot again, and I will advise everyone I know never to part in that lot again.  Oooh, I’m sure they’re scared, those parking enforcement people.

If there’s a bright side to this, I guess it’s that I’m not a parking enforcement person, who has to make a living by booting cars in the freezing weather.

And I suppose you could say I had a really nice, expensive lunch.  A $36 salad from Chipotle.  Livin’ large, I tell ya.

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