Within the next six months, the entire City of Chicago is transitioning from metered to Pay Box Parking. Fortunately, Chicagoans are not being expected to weather such a transition alone. As in the pages of comic books and in the plot lines of action movies, a team has been assembled.
We are called the Pay Box Team and we are here, there and everywhere a new Pay Box is being installed. You may have seen us, clad in oversized neon sweatshirts, explaining this new parking process. “Just add your money-quarters, dollar coins or credit card,” we advise. “Print your receipt and then place that receipt on the driver’s side dash.”
More importantly, however, we have seen you. Pay Boxin’ it (that’s our insider’s term) has unexpectedly facilitated a neighborhood-by-neighborhood meet-and-greet with the citizens of Chicago. Each day has been a pleasure, an adventure, or, at the very least, an interesting conversation.
Day two, in River North. Today we are stationed on North Wells between Locust and Walton, smack dab in the middle of the Moody Bible Institute. There is no better place for a Pay Boxer.
Moodies (as we’ll call them), teeming with WWJD-energy, gladly accept all street literature (our Pay Box flyers included) with a smile. They stop, listen, nod and offer genuine “thank you”s after hearing that “Pay boxes are how Chicagoans will pay for parking from here on out.”
High schoolers, too, wind their way through this zone. While not quite as receptive as the Moodies, they also stop, listen and nod. “I’ll tell my mom,” they respond after our spiel.
Day four—Old Town. “We are transitioning to Pay Boxes today, so you should use them instead of the meters,” I say as two elderly women exit their Cadillac. “Well, we are handicapped, so we don’t have to pay,” they explain. “Great! That’s great! Just great!” I respond, with tragically misapplied enthusiasm.
Day six, Columbia College. Finally, after hours of observing Columbia students attempt to appear as if they actually enjoy/are addicted to smoking, an older man grabs my attention, appropriately responding to my sweatshirt which demands that everyone “Ask Me How To Use the Pay Box.” “What is the advantage of these boxes?” he inquires.
My speech begins and eventually concludes, “Plus, they are all over Europe.”
“I’d like to go there,” he says. “A lot of people in my building have been. Maybe one of these days, I’ll ask if they need a traveling partner.” A pause.
“A couple of flight attendants from my building have been around the world. So much knowledge you get from doing that. I mean, we miss a lot, you know? Can’t just sit here reading the papers all day, can we? We have to work and a lot just passes us by.” Another pause. “It’s a thought, ain’t it,” he says. (Meaghan Strickland)