Tonight I am picking up our dinner at a local smokehouse. I called in the order - two tri tips with mop sauce, barbecue beans and honey cornbread that you just want to be all alone with. The restaurant is on a street packed with all sorts of eateries. It's always a bear to find parking here. All the spaces are metered, either street side or in parking lots, and they're full at dinner time on Friday night.
As I inch into the short intersection with my big car, traffic is so heavy the light turns red before I can complete my left turn. Honks blast at me from behind, in front and the side. The man's face in my rear view mirror is all scrunched up. I leave the kind words he mouths behind as I squeeze between cars and into the parking lot.
As I look for a spot, my shoulders tense. I am already late getting home. I crack the window for fresh air and the sweet aroma from the restaurant's smoker curls in to greet me like an old friend. All this logistical aggravation will melt away with my first bite of tri tip. After 10 minutes of idling in the parking lot, a man walks my way in my rear view. He passes my driver's side and glances over. He is an older gentleman, a little bent with years. He smiles and points to a sedan to my right. Happy day. I'm in.
I back up a bit and flick my blinker on to lay claim. People around here take parking spots very seriously. As the man approaches his car, another vehicle enters the lot from the driveway in front of me and slowly approaches. Here we go, it's on, I say to myself. The jeep shines its lights into my windshield. Very clever, he's a blinder. I'm about to launch my SUV brights at him when he exits the jeep holding something.
Under the glow of the streetlight, his uniform becomes clear. He is a parking control officer. The meters here run until 9 p.m. and a quarter only buys 15 minutes. He quickly walks to the meter blinking a little red light next to the man who's leaving, checks it and goes to the read the car's back license plate. What a shame. Someone's weekend begins with a $50 parking ticket.
The man I'm waiting for closes his car door again. He approaches the parking officer and motions to the meter. The officer shrugs his shoulders. The man nods. He extends his arm and shakes the officer's hand. He walks to the stranger's expired meter, reaches into his pocket and fills it with coins. Spontaneously, I lower my window and shout, "You're awesome!" He waves at me, smiling, and gets back into his car. As he pulls out, I read his license plate frame, "Matthew 7:12".