I went to Concord on Friday to pick up some new enhancements at Lowes for the folding door of our maple syrup evaporator, and smoke a cigar at Castros. I parked my car at a meter right in front of the cigar shop and popped in two quarters - good for an hour.
I was sitting on a couch inside and could actually see my car when I looked up from the magazine I was reading. I noticed that my time was almost up, pondered putting another quarter in the meter, but figured I'd be done in 10 minutes anyway. I looked down to read an interview about Ernesto Padilla, and when I looked up some sort of ninja meter maid had placed a ticket on my windshield and disappeared without me even noticing.
My meter had been expired for about 4 minutes, and I was peeved. I walked out, opened the envelope, and saw the fine: $5 if paid within a week, otherwise it goes up to $15. Now I was actually happy - genuinely happy. It made my day. NYC expired meter fees of $65 are a lot more annoying that these $5 tickets. Then I started wondering what the optimal balance of meter fares and ticket penalties would be. In other words, I was happy to pay the $5 - so happy, in fact, that next time, if I'm a few blocks away or something, I won't run over and feed the meter. The city wins if they catch me - they get a $5 ticket instead of another 25c in the meter. Of course, they won't catch me every time, etc etc etc... However, in NYC, I'll do my best to avoid the $65 tickets - they will get the extra quarters (worth only 15 minutes there, though!) but they won't get the $65 windfalls - hopefully. Anyway, parking meter game theory is somewhat interesting.