The “Unknown Vigilante”

I was surfing the web yesterday, and just happened to stumble upon this photograph:

(click to embiggen)

This was a parking lot near Georgia State University in Atlanta. It was a bit of a hike from campus, but it was always less crowded than the official university lots, and cheaper than private lots closer to the school. I parked there pretty much every weekday from 1993 to 1995.

The lot is gone now – replaced by GSU’s “Freshman Hall” – but back then the lot’s spaces were numbered, and there was a steel collection box with numbered slots (which you can see next to the tree on the left). You pulled into a space, noted your number, then put $3 in quarters or bills into the corresponding slot in the box. Simple, right?

Well, the parking company had a guy who would drive around and issue “tickets” to cars that hadn’t paid the fee. It wasn’t a real parking ticket, obviously, but it nevertheless demanded a “fine” of something like $5, in addition to the regular $3 fee. Since students needed to park there regularly, most folks would just pay the $8 and be done with it.

Every so often, though, the parking guy would go on a tear and issue “tickets” to cars whether they’d paid for parking or not. Every day for a week or so I’d walk to the lot after class and find a student cursing or crying, having gotten a ticket but insisting that they’d paid their $3. Like my lower back pain, I often thought about doing something about it… but by the time I did, the problem was gone: parking guy would stop issuing rogue tickets for a month or two.

But then the bastard gave me a ticket. Not only had I paid to park, I’d stopped at QuikTrip on the way in to get a Dr Pepper and break a $5 bill into dollar bills. Let me repeat that: I made a SPECIAL STOP to get change to pay for the parking I was now accused of not paying. I was pissed. I looked over at a cute blonde girl who was also mad that she’d also gotten a fake ticket. So I decided to do something about it.

I thought about it for a second, then opened the trunk of my car. There I found a full can of WD-40, complete with the little straw. I walked over to the collection box, and sprayed a generous squirt into each and every money slot… and there were like, 40 of them! I went back to my car and grabbed a notebook. I wrote a quick note, something like “Dear Parking Guy: Sorry about the collection box, but if you keep ripping off students, I’m going to do this every day until you stop”. For some reason, I had a roll of cellophane tape in my backpack, so I taped that sucker to the box… with, like, 30 strips of tape. That thing wasn’t going anywhere until Parking Guy came around again.

As far as I know, Parking Guy did stop… at least for the rest of my time at GSU. I never again heard a complaint about those bullshit “tickets”. It’s hard to believe one can of WD-40 could stop an illicit money-making scheme, but it appears to have worked.

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