Can SFO Parking Meter Maids Lie About Tickets?

Meter maids need to keep cars moving at the airport, even if that means pretending to write a ticket.

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Parking in a crosswalk is only a $90 fine, so if the meter maids tell you you a different number, it's just to encourage you to keep moving.

    Q: I pulled up at SFO airport this morning, it was a total zoo, three cars deep at the curb. I stopped just for 20 seconds partially on a pedestrian crossing, just to let my son get his stuff out. Saw a meter maid writing me up. Talked to her, she said she was writing me a $332 ticket, and then had me move back out of the crossing. Then she walked away, without any effort to give me the ticket. No idea if she was just staging the ticket-writing process to make sure that I was obedient in moving out of the crossing, or whether I can expect a ticket in the mail, even though no effort was made to give it to me. So the actual question is? Are tickets enforceable even if the meter maid made no effort to actually deliver it in person, as in this case?

    A: I've had very similar experiences to the one you described. If I were a betting man...and I am, I would bet the farm (and borrow some land from my neighbor's farm to wager) that this was just a scare tactic on her part. $332 seems like a fictitious number to me. Parking in a crosswalk is only a $90 fine. If a parking officer is writing a ticket up, say for a meter violation, and you get in and drive away before they can hand it to you, the citation is still valid, and you will receive it in the mail. However, you weren't even parked, and she didn't even attempt to get your VIN from your dashboard, so I really think that you are okay.

    In their defense, airport parking officers have the ridiculous job of keeping an enormous amount of traffic stopping in an organized fashion, and of getting it moving again quickly, all day long. And, 99% of the drivers that they are trying to corral are not thinking clearly and are driving under the influence of co-occurring levels of emotional stress: seeing a relative after 30 years, someone dear is moving away, someone is moving here, they're picking up their mail order bride, holiday stress, generalized airport parking anxiety, etc.

    I think the airport parking managers have learned that kind and gentle reminders of the rules of the road don't resonate quickly with most drivers at the airport, so, they resort to a threat of a several hundred-dollar fine to get their attention. Whistles work too. There is a parking officer at the Oakland airport who has been there for years with whom many of you may have had a run in, who loves to blow his whistle. He must blow his whistle literally 100 times a minute. He has cheek muscles larger than Dizzy Gillespie's.

    He never says anything, he just comes right up to your window, repeatedly blows his whistle in your face, and simultaneously pretends to write you up, until you move.

    Unfortunately, these harsh methods seems to be the preferred tactic. I wonder how Miss Manners would advise us to handle the situation? I think she'd actually wind up receiving a ticket, while she was firmly but courteously informing the officer that the message could have been delivered much less rudely. But you my friend I believe are in the clear and will not be receiving a ticket. They just want to keep the traffic moving. Don't worry about it.

    David La Bua is author of Finding the Sweet Spot.