Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Not So Lovely

Last night in a vain attempt to muster up some Christmas spirit I decided to go give my sister some moral support as she worked the drunken crowds at the annual "Christmas On the Island" festivities.

My sister is a bartender at a beachfront dive bar here on The Island, called The Rusty Badge, which sits a few steps from the sand and next to a weathered fishing pier and bait shack. The Island is stuck in a time warp and still has all those things that people who remember coming to Florida when they were children long for - grove stands, pelicans, greying wood pocked with an acne-splattering of barnacles, tee shirt shops that sell shark tooth necklaces and orange blossom perfume that comes in a bottle that looks like a little orange. I love The Island and its fishing boat fumes and ingrained stink of cut bait baked in the salt air and sun. I love how the old-timers, whose faces look like the hull of a teak sail boat, because sunscreen is for pussies, sit at the Rusty Badge and flirt with my sister in between Miller Hi-Lifes and arguments about local politics. If you ever want to see a bar room brawl break out between a bunch of 70 year olds just go to the Badge any night around ten. After ten they clear out because that's when the free shuttle that takes them back to their condos stops running, and all that's left are the Canadians and Europeans here on vacation.

I like to hang out at the Rusty Badge every now and then to sit at my sister's bar and enjoy some conch chowder while I listen to Herbie and Old Buddy bitch with Spiro who owns the Briny Diner next door, about how everything's gone downhill since the developers moved in and started tearing everything down. They don't like the change and neither do I, but at least the Badge is still busy and has no plans to disappear in exchange for a place where people lounge on beds under sheets of gauze lit by neon, while they drink sake-tinis. That's South Beach. My Island is a whole different world and I love it.

What I don't love is the horrendous parking situation. It's so difficult to find a damned place to park that a lot of times, unless I can park at my sister's apartment and walk half a mile, I'll avoid going. Last night I forced myself out and away from the drudgery of the research paper which continues to kick my ass. I decided I had to visit my sister and I had to see Santa Claus arrive on The Island via firetruck while the local Catholic high school's cheerleaders shouted "Have a Jesus and Mary Christmas" behind a parade of bag pipers in Santa hats. There was also fake snow and the lighting of the tree in the center of Island Square, along with the token Menorah. It was all very quaint and charming.

Maybe, I thought, maybe it would help me get into the holiday spirit.

As I drove down A1A I thought I might be feeling it. I put on some Christmas music. Earlier that afternoon they had been giving out free samples of peppermint mochas at Starbucks. It was 80 degrees, people were walking around in shorts and tank tops, but it could still be Christmas right? Yes, I thought. Yes, it's Christmas.

Because the parking situation is such I knew I wouldn't find a spot, but that was ok. I was feeling all warm and floaty. The Christmas Octopus and the Christmas Dolphins were blinking on and off in front of the Nautilus Shell Inn and someone had put a Santa hat on the mermaid statue that waves by the front desk of the Tropicana Manatee Time Share Community. I think I was even singing "Winter Wonderland." By the time I got there I was so full of the Christmas spirit that I didn't care that I wouldn't find a parking space and would have to drive in sixteen dizzying circles until I spotted someone pulling out of a space too small for the Saturn. Everything was ok. It was "Christmas On the Island" after all. I could still taste the peppermint mocha and it may have been due to the searing acid reflux caused by the lethal combination of chocolate, peppermint and espresso, but that was ok.

Christmas On the Island is a huge event and it draws several thousand people. I'm not exactly sure why because there really isn't much to it aside from what I've already described. The biggest event of the night is the fact that the Rusty Badge moves its bar outside into the street and people who get drunk inside every night are now free to get drunk outside, but to me that doesn't seem all that spectacular. What the hell do I know though?

With several thousand people in a place that has a parking issue with barely a hundred, you can imagine how difficult it would be for me to find a place to park. I almost fainted when I found a metered spot that I could just pull into. I didn't even have to parallel park. It was as if God himself had saved that parking spot for me and it was glowing with a magnificent gold halo and angels were strumming carols on harps in the air above it. It really was Christmas! This was my special Christmas miracle to show me that the spirit of Christmas was alive in my heart. I almost started to cry with the Hallmark channel, Christmas movie-ness of it all. I was so happy.

As I sat in the car in my perfect parking space and counted out enough change from my center console to feed the meter, I sighed and then I burped up a little more peppermint mocha. You know, I thought to myself, that final won't be so hard. You'll get that paper written. It doesn't matter that your classmates hate you in Fiction Workshop. It doesn't matter that they all think you're an asshole. It's ok that your parents moved across the country and left you with their dog that smells like hot garbage and it doesn't matter that you didn't get the classes you wanted for Spring, forcing you to graduate a semester later. It's a good thing that your writing keeps getting rejected because it's making you get better and stronger and who cares that you bared your soul to an editor only to get blown off and end up looking like a total, unprofessional jackass in the process. None of these things matter because it's Christmas and you got a parking space at Christmas On the Island. Everything was going to be just -


I jumped so high that I hit my knee on the steering wheel and threw all of the change I had counted into the air. Someone was tapping on my driver's side window.

The someone was an individual that my sister and I call Ugly Rita Meter Maid.

Ugly Rita Meter Maid has terrorized motorists on The Island for the past nine years since she moved down here from Northampton, Massachusetts with her then girlfriend, who has since run off with a waittress from the Raw Bar. The girlfriend and the raw bar waittress now live in Key West where they have started a womyn's meditation retreat. Ugly Rita is bitter and takes her frustration out on one of the most degenerate groups of people on the planet - Those Who Park Cars. Ugly Rita does not like people who park cars. She herself does not have a car. She rides a Segway and zooms around on the thing at all hours, zealously writing up $25 parking tickets. She works overtime, so you can see her from 8 in the morning until midnight just rolling around scribbling on her pad.

My sister and I joke that The Island should name a street after us because of all the revenue we've generated for the town from our parking tickets. We're some of Ugly Rita's favorite targets. She doesn't find it as cute as everyone else does that my sister and I drive the exact same car. She hates us because we're breeding cows who give in to the patriarchal oppression by wearing makeup. My sister and I have imagined an elaborate scenario, which I plan to include in a novel someday, where Ugly Rita gets washed away in a storm surge while riding her Segway trying to write parking tickets in a hurricane.

I rolled down my window.

"What??" I asked.

Ugly Rita took off her bike helmet and ran her hands through the short, spiky top of her mullet.

"You need to put money in the meter," said Ugly Rita, "I'm gonna hafta write you a ticket."

"I just got here," I protested, "look, I'm getting the money out now."

I pointed to the change I had thrown on the floor when she scared me.

"You're taking too long and you better cap that attitude before I give you a ticket!"

"You have got to be kidding me! I haven't even been here two minutes. I don't have an attitude. YOU have an attitude!"

"Listen here young lady, I’m not takin’ your backtalk. I got a job to do. I don’t have time to mess around and anytime I see a car in a spot and that meter flashin’ ‘expired’ I have every right to write you a twenty five dollar parkin’ ticket."

I had incurred the wrath of the Island Femi-Nazi Meter Maid for taking too long to count the change and get out of the car. This could only happen to me. I guarantee you Ugly Rita was a hall monitor in middle school. I hate people like her who are so vigilant and take their jobs so seriously, but I didn't say anything because once my husband got into an altercation with her because she wouldn't move her Segway out of the middle of the street so he could drive by and she threatened to arrest him, calling herself a "public officer" or some such nonsense. With my luck she'd call the police and I'd get hauled off before seeing Santa in his Hawaiian shirt or getting to play in the fake snow. I imagined myself calling my parents up for bail money to get me out of jail.

"What the hell trouble did you get yourself into now?" they'd ask.

"I didn't get out of the car to put money in the meter fast enough," I'd have to explain.

I got another parking ticket. When I showed it to my sister she pulled one out of her pocket along with her wine key.

"I got one this morning too."

Bah Humbug.


Moi said...

Meh, let's see if Santa brings her anything for Christmas!

secretagent412 said...

How infuriating. Parking tickets make me crazy in the first place. Getting a parking ticket while you're actually in the car? I would have been unable to help myself, and would have unleashed some hellfire.

Derry said...

So, she's the one who inspired the phrase "meaner than a meter maid with a quota."

Anonymous said...

It maybe different down there in the land of the “bubba system” of local government, but up here in MN if I was stuck in your situation I’d be down at City Hall raising a holy hell. It’s absolutely ridiculous to receive a parking ticket while sitting in your car. The meter witch has obviously over stepped her boundaries and the local officials need to be aware of the harassment she is levying on their constituents. If that doesn’t work, I’d air your concerns to the Council during the comment portion of their next Council meeting. If you wanted to turn it into one, this is the kind of situation that could prove to be a real embarrassment to the local government, if you have the desire to push it that far. In an ideal world, the first person you speak with at City Hall will realize as much and simply void the ticket, and that’ll be the end of it. I certainly wouldn’t accept having to pay $25 for someone else’s lack of reasonable judgment.

Fairfax said...

Ha! They're uber strict about parking in Northampton. A scorned meter maid from Noho riding a Segway? I can't imagine a scarier thing.

Caroline said...

"I love The Island and its fishing boat fumes..."

I just about fell to my knees and cried with relief that someone out there knows the difference between it's and its.

That indeed English grammar is still alive, albeit attached to an IV bottle but at least, still surviving.

You've just made my day.

Anonymous said...

Yes, knowing the difference between "its" and "it's" is a very good thing. However, in the phrase "local Catholic high school's cheerleader's," there is an extra apostrophe.

Just sayin'. Great story.

Chiada said...

That lady is a total witch.

Ooooh, I'd be steaming for weeks over that one. It's like the time my Hub-E got a ticket for making an illegal left turn, which was totally on accident (as if he would purposely make an illegal turn when a cop was right behind him), because his mind was befuddled with the urgent need to pee. You know how it is, especially for men, how they get all befuddled when they need to pee? And combine that with driving and things go haywire. Stupid jerk cop. A $250 ticket!!! I fumed for months over that one, writing evil hate letters in my mind to him and telling him what a horrible person he is and how he doesn't have human compassion. I'm pretty much over it now. That is I was over it until I read your blog.


Morrigoon said...

Fight it! FIGHT IT!

Lana Wood said...

Even if the final is hard, you will live, and everybody who loves you still will, and life will go on.

I hope your paper went well. I have always done mine at the eleventh hour as well. You pump out such prolific and cogent material on such a regular basis; I cannot imagine you writing a bad paper.

Seriously, do you care what a Fiction Workshop full of idiots who don't have the good sense to adore you think? Really now.

Regarding graduation. Why not go directly to the instructors and ask to be let into their classes if the issue is that classes are closed. If not, then I would appeal to the department chair for he or she to allow you to do some independent project that can count as a fulfillment of the requirements the school is not able to provide you the opportunity to fulfill in a timely manner. Then there is always the Vice President of Academic affairs.

Can’t you plead not guilty on the parking ticket? Perhaps write a letter to the mayor. Place an ad on craigslist to find the geezer lesbo a new love interest… said...

The only time I ever got a parking ticket, I realized they wrote the wrong license plate # on the citation, so I never got the actual ticket.

Subservient No More said...

Lana - paper's still not done.

I did every single thing you said. The teacher wouldn't let me in. The department has outlawed independent studies. I'm even writing a letter to the President of the university about it. And, no I don't care all that much about the people in fiction workshop.

As for my ticket, my sister is in good with the police chief. He gets free drink off duty and throws them out for us most of the time. Not always, but sometimes. This one should be easy.

Caroline, I try to make people's days

Grammar Anonymous - I'm not always great with punctuation and mostly it's due to lazy typing. That was a cut and paste error. In the previous sentence I had mentioned cheerleader's screams and then I edited it and rearranged the whole sentence leaving a typo. I try to catch them all, but, well, no one ever died from a typo. The world won't end and one day I hope to have a very good editor.

Sadi said...

Maybe 3 ghosts will visit her on Christmas Eve, jeesh!

I can picture myself sitting at that bar right now, that feels just right. It is like 5 degrees here today. Brrr!

Good luck with the paper.

Whiskeymarie said...

Maybe Gross rita could use a makeover to pretty herself up for a potential Mrs. Rita.
Let's ambush her on the street and fix that spiky 'do. A little makeup & some new clothes...

Oh hell, let's just try to get her laid. Sounds like that's really what she needs anyways. Is there such a thing as butch lesbian hookers?

Norwexile said...

Hah! I got a parking ticket in Northampton last night - still trying to decipher the scribble on the citation, but it's an angry scribble. I think they clone 'em.

Lori said...

Have you ever tried to challenge these tickets? I'm sure they're annoyed by her as well, they deal with her everyday.

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