Tuesday Afternoon at the Beach, and perplexities of parking meter-things

I am pleased to see that I have made writing my blog post a habit. I don’t feel right if I don’t write, although being late in my self-appointed deadline apparently is not yet (and may never be) part of the habit.

The reason for being late and not doing any writing at all for ten days is that I’m enjoying visitors!

“What are you going to blog about?” my sister-in-law asked me, when I told her I had to get in here and write a blog post.

“I have no idea,” I replied.

So, my sister-in-law said, “Why don’t you write about those parking meter-things at the beach yesterday.”

Ah, yes. Another run-in with mystifying legalities.

Gulf Shores public beach is a lovely place, especially on a weekday at the end of February, with temperatures hovering near eighty degrees and thin clouds. During the week, there was no crowd, traffic was light. I dropped my in-laws at the center pavilion and drove on several hundred feet to pull into a front row parking space. With a five dollar bill in one hand the dog’s leash in the other, I walked along the sidewalk to the parking kiosk machine and sign with instructions of how to pay for public parking. I read the instructions and studied the machine. I have in the past used the self-serve pay parking machines and had no problem–simply insert money and out comes a ticket stub. The face of this machine resembled an old public telephone, only with a lot more buttons, numbers and symbols. I didn’t understand what I was supposed to punch into the machine. (Taking a picture of both would have been a help to study later, but I didn’t think of it.)

I stood there some minutes, with my dog pulling on her leash, and my eyes moving from the sign of instructions to the perplexing machine and back again. I read more slowly. The sign said the payment depended on the parking space. I had not seen a number on the space when I pulled in, so I walked the dog back to look. I searched. I walked this way and that, looking at the spaces for numbers of some sort. There were none. I walked far enough one way to see another kiosk, and this one was totally covered. Could it be there was no paying in the winter months, or perhaps during the week? There was nothing to say this.

The part of the instructions on the sign that I did understand was that the machine would give a ticket stub to place on the vehicle dash. I then walked slowly and peered into windshields to see if any dash had a ticket stub. I felt as if I could be taken for some thief casing cars. I noticed a number of the cars had similar stickers affixed the corner of their windshield bearing numbers of varying colors. Perhaps these cars had permanent access to parking. I did not see any vehicle with a ticket stub.

I returned to my in-laws sitting at a table at the pavilion.

“Do you know how to work those parking meter-things?” I asked, as they had come to this beach in the past.

“We never could figure it out either,” I was told.

We chatted a moment about times before parking meter-things and concrete boardwalks with pavilions, way back to when we were children and our parents came driving the beach road and simply pulled over in a packed sand place and all the kids tumbled out and went running out onto the beach. A simpler time.

I gazed out at the bright expanse of sand, at the high rolling foamy waves. The salty breeze brought their roaring sound. This part has not changed. I turned my gaze to see a man walking past with two poles to help him keep balance along the concrete walkway, and a man coming along in a scooter. A retired couple came with matching chairs, which they sat apart from each other, one to enjoy the sun and the other the shade. I never saw them speak to each other. Another couple came with their two dogs tangled on a leash and sat their chairs close together on the spot of green grass. A mother played with her daughter at the water faucet for rinsing salty, sandy feet. I tried watering my dog from one of the faucets, only to accidentally spray her with the water and get a reaction to make us all laugh.

If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend the beach at Gulf Shores, Alabama. Especially late February, on a weekday. Drive up and get out and no sand unless you choose, but beautiful, healthy vistas easily accessible for all.

And the next time I come, I will know how to work the parking meter-things.

grace and peace,