A Kafka-esque encounter at the parking garage

Opinion: Columns

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By Roger Conner

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The machine at the parking garage near Oak Park Avenue, spat my exit ticket back as "invalid." So I backed up to let others pass to the exit. The guard came storming out of the office telling me I was blocking traffic. I couldn't understand this since I manifestly was not. I explained about the "invalid" ticket, figuring that since I owed no money, she could just wave me through. 

It turned out the traffic I was "blocking" was the non-existent persons wanting to use one of the five empty handicapped spaces. So, OK, I went and parked in a legal space. I came back and presented my invalid ticket again. Before she would touch it, she had to put on hospital gloves. (You can't be too careful when dealing octogenarians, I guess.) 

I explained what had happened. With a supercilious look, she directed me to insert it into the machine in the lobby, which I did with predictable results. 

Then, apparently suspicious that I was trying to put something over on the village of Oak Park, she went to the machine herself — again with predictable results. So she took the ticket to her computer and spent some time researching it, all this while bristling with hostility, "This is a 'back-out' ticket. You get this if you take the ticket and then do not go in the garage." I pointed out that that clearly didn't happen since I was, as she had seen, in the garage. 

Since this was going to take a while, I asked if I might sit down. After an indistinct mumble, I said meaningfully, "I was just trying to be polite." She didn't take the hint. Finally, after several more minutes of fiddling with the computer, she said, "I'll have to call my supervisor. Do you want me to call my supervisor?" 

"Yes, if that's the only way I can get home, please call your supervisor." 

So she did, assuring me that the supervisor would be there shortly. Having heard that story elsewhere, I took out my phone and continued a novel I was reading. 

After about only 10 minutes the supervisor showed up, and, only slightly less antagonistic than the guard, demanded, "How did you get this ticket?" 

"Well, I pushed the little button, and the ticket came out." After studying it for a bit, she asked me to step outside, closed the door and went into conference with the guard. Finally, about five minutes later, she said, "Pull up to the gate. I'll let you out." 

But when I pulled up to the gate, she did not let me out. Cars began to pull up behind me. I beeped softly. Then her voice came over the speaker: "Just a minute." At last the gate went up. I decided not to wait for an apology. 

I sincerely hope that no visitor to Oak Park has to deal with this hostile harridan. Village employees in similar positions should be made aware that they are the face of Oak Park to visitors, and that those visitors are helping to pay their wages.

Roger Conner is a resident of Oak Park.  

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Kevin Anderson  

Posted: August 23rd, 2017 6:43 AM

How do you get a "back out" ticket in the first place normally? There doesn't seem to be a way to inform the machine that you are in line, want a ticket, but don't want to stay. Strange story. Oak Park must be really hard up for revenue to treat a customer this way. Sorry it happened!

Ken Stucken  

Posted: August 22nd, 2017 7:39 PM

Wow, what a crazy story. I'm glad you are OK.

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