Opinion » Street Talk

Miracle on Higuera Street

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I’m going to come right out and say it: Let the fairies do their job.

At a time of the year when the steady stream of Christmas carols on the radio makes you want to deck the halls out of the first person who mentions a partridge in a pear tree, any bit of genuine cheer is well worth the effort. So when a group of anonymous San Luis Obispo downtown business owners rendered themselves incognito by donning fuzzy red Santa hats and began dumping coins in downtown meters in an effort to provide free parking to their customers, I smiled and thought to myself, “Yes, Shredder, there is a Santa Claus.�

Then, as is the case with most classic holiday stories, the nickel-and-diming street fairies received a letter from Ebenezer Scrooge, who, in this performance, will be played by SLO City Attorney Jonathon Lowell. “Cease and desist!� he said. “Bah, humbug!�

Fearing for their own well being, the once-bold meter elves traded their distinctive hats for more discreet walkie-talkies, which they now use to coordinate their efforts and evade parking-enforcement officials, though even that sort of good-natured law breaking won’t always help.

Some parking spots come with limits, Jonathon pointed out, so drivers who park in those spots aren’t allowed to stay for longer than two hours downtown, anyway. In other words, if you’re at a two-hour meter, you’re breaking the law after 120 minutes no matter how many nickels you dig out of your pockets. If you want to stay downtown longer for some reason, like, I don’t know, getting all your holiday shopping done in one trip, the only solution is to move your car a spot or two away, which can be tricky if the streets are crowded and pointless if they’re not. Heaven help you if you want to catch a movie while you’re at it.

The city says that the two-hour limit keeps cars moving, but I thought the city would care more about keeping money moving, something hard to do when the Christmas shoppers that SLO somehow lured downtown with its lights and banners have to race back to their cars not to drop in another quarter, but to get in, start the engine, and hunt around for a new spot. Once they’re moving at this point, they’re gone, maybe to the Madonna Plaza where the parking is free and Christmas cheer is encouraged instead of quashed.

Now, this may be the eggnog talking, but it seems like the city’s making a big mistake with its city-code-enforced meter restrictions, especially when you consider that at the end of each year, when the city counts up all the change it pulled from its parking meters, it comes up with a chunk of change almost double what it gets from parking fines.

And this may be the hot buttered rum talking, but I was under the impression that city types always wanted more money, which shoppers seem to be happy to fork over in exchange for the right to let their car sit in one spot for longer than it takes to wait in line at Barnes and Noble.

And this may be the tequila shooters talking, but I think I deserved a lot more than what I got in the recent Tribune Reader’s Choice Awards.

I was unaware that I had won any such award until a friend, and I use the term very loosely, showed me the Dec. 18 issue of the newspaper, and I use the term very loosely. Under the “Favorite News Columnist� category, I got a silver medal, which sounds like second place, except that by whatever scale the Tribune uses, silver is actually third place. Gold, instead of first place, is second place, and first is platinum. Got it?

In case you’re wondering, Silas Lyons, who’s received more mentions in my column lately than he deserves, took platinum place. Bah, humbug!

Somebody named Phil Dirkx, which has to be a pseudonym, took gold place, which, remember, is first place in the Olympics and everywhere else besides the Tribune’s newsroom.

While I usually consider myself above such petty popularity contests, I’d be lying if I said my ego was anything less than bruised. Later that night, I found myself standing on a bridge overlooking San Luis creek downtown, considering jumping, when an angel stopped me and asked me to consider what this town would be like if I had never existed.

At least I think it was an angel, and I think that’s what he asked. It might also have been one of the many transients who wander around the mission. I’m not sure because it was dark, and the guy was wearing a knit beanie and what looked like four jackets. I’d also made an extended stop at McCarthy’s just before, so a lot of what happened that night is fairly hazy. I’m pretty sure I didn’t jump, but I could be wrong about that, too.

Anyway, the next day, after I woke up and dried off, I pulled out the Tribune again and noticed that the special issue was a Reader’s Choice. They’ve only got one reader, apparently — only one who voted, anyway — and it’s probably someone who doesn’t get out very much.

At this point, I’d make a joke about Silas’ mom, but it’s the holiday season, and I’m feeling good now, so I’ll just say Merry Christmas, and God bless us, every one.

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