I’m not very tall. At the height of my career (yuk, yuk) I was about 5-foot-4. Since then I’ve shrunk, as we all do, so first thing in the morning of a good day, I’m almost 5-foot-3, but by evening, closer to 5-foot-2. (Notice all the qualifying adjectives?) I have one of those pinchy gadgets that reaches things up high in the kitchen cupboards, and a grand-daughter who climbs on the step stool to dust the gee-gaws on the top shelves for me, but I’ve never considered myself vertically challenged until I tried to feed a parking meter in Anchorage.
First, a little back story. Our time in Anchorage in the past few years has been pretty much confined to the south side. Our friends live on the hillside; most of our shopping is done at Costco. Any medical stuff is at Providence. We turn east on Tudor to get to the Glenn to go north, and my little sister lives in the Rogers Park area, which is the nearest to downtown and parking meters our car has traveled in many years. But No. 1 Son and his Beloved were in town for the Miners’ Conference in early November, and they suggested we come on up and spend a couple of days. Because it’s closer than driving to Healy, and his birthday was that week, we agreed. We’d go out for dinner, see the sister, and spend some time at the conference.
When we first came to Alaska we lived for two years at Healy, and after that points north, so we know several miners, besides being acquainted with Son’s friends. The conference offers a great chance to reacquaint with people we don’t see often. And visiting the vendors at any convention is always fun. You are bombarded with lots of miscellaneous junk: pens, flashlights, note pads, coffee cups. The miners also offer neat machinery to look at, brass coins polished to look like gold and at this one, FREE BEER (“After all, they’re miners,” said the barkeep).
But first we had to get there: The conference was held at the Denai’na center in downtown Anchorage, and the kids were staying at the Marriott, nearly next door, at the far end of Seventh Avenue. Piece of cake, we thought. And as a matter of fact, we drove right to it. But downtown Anchorage is not how we remember. The easily accessed parking lots are now reserved parking for city and other government employees. OK, we’d use the parking garage that was right there, but as we approached, we saw an open spot on the street, just a block from where we wanted to be so we pulled right in.
I remember parking meters as metal monsters that you pumped dimes into, turned a knob and the needle in a bubble gave you ten minutes, another dime, another ten minutes, until you had enough time to do your errands. I do remember that sometime in the past quarters became the coin of choice, but my interaction with parking meters has been really limited in the past several years because I try not to drive any place I might have to park near one. This one was welded at the hip to a buddy, and had a bright orange flat head.
Another digression: Hubby and I have a tacit agreement that everything mechanical he takes care of, and anything electronic (except the TV remote) I get to fiddle with. This came about many years ago when I took a class on how to program the Apple II. And to this point that division of labor has worked out.
That marvel of modern parking technology offered us no handle to turn, no place to view how many minutes, and no easily accessible instructions. After walking around it a few times, we discovered it takes credit cards (doesn’t everything?) and by standing on tip-toe, I could see a small flat window where the minutes would be displayed, maybe. The first problem was that I was just tall enough that every time I breathed, the window clouded over and every time I cleared it, I also swiped a button canceling every thing we gained (or at least I hope so, because we shoved that card in more than once). Finally, after a frustrating battle of wills with the machine ahead 5 to 0, I resorted to another piece of modern technology, the cell phone, and called No. 1 Son, waiting a block away, pled old age, and asked him to come rescue us.
I was gratified to watch him have to try more than once to get the meter to work, even looking down on it. Of course, it allowed us only two hours, so we knew we’d have to return and battle it again. That part hasn’t changed. But we made it to the free beer despite the reality check.
However, I left downtown Anchorage with two handicaps I’d never noticed before: I’m old and I’m short. You can understand why I stay away from there.
Virginia Walters lives in Kenai. Email her at email@example.com.