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Sayonara, my pretties. (Image: Britt Thorson / Seattle Refined)

Saying Goodbye to Those Lovably Pesky Parking Stickers

It's been a rough decade for the publishing industry in the digital age. Bookstores are decreasing, newspapers are shuttering, and now parking stickers are getting the old heave-ho.

Is nothing sacred? That's where I do most of my reading.

Like many cities, Seattle is switching to a pay-by-plate system and phasing out those lovably pesky parking stickers that you stick to the window and then forgot are there when you roll it down, so it gets stuck inside that little space, eating away at your window's motor.

The new heartless pay-by-plate system allows you to simply enter your vehicle's license plate number (DAZZLE99) and pay for a designated amount of time, with the ability to add more minutes remotely without having to go back to the car. But it doesn't allow drivers to take their unused time to another spot, in case you're one of those annoying couples who likes to get dessert somewhere else.

SDOT expects to convert all 1,700 pay stations by December 2018. You may find me standing by the last one they get to in tears, because I'm going to miss the sticky little guys.

Is this another sign of the publishing industry’s decline? No? Well I’m going to make that argument anyway. The parking stickers were something tangible you could hold in your hand like a book or newspaper or piece of bark. They let a fella know that he's been somewhere. Every sticker crumpled on the floor of the car told a story.

That one that says 2:47 p.m.? That's the time I got a burrito at 2:27 pm. What a great 20 minutes that was. And who can forget 8:00 pm, when I neurotically purchased five minutes of time in case a parking cop somehow showed in that short window before 8:00 pm when parking is free? What beautiful memories. I don't understand why the clerk at Kinkos laughed at me for laminating them.

The sticker often took on a life of its own after being used. Sometimes it hung around the window for weeks as a reminder of your lazy inability to reach across the seat and pull it off. At certain moments, there were so many stickers on my window that when I put a fresh one on, I drew a circle around it so the parking cop knew which was today's.

Other times the parking sticker adorably tried to escape and rode the window down into that mysterious gap, working its way through the innards of your car, until one day you saw it hop out of the exhaust pipe in the shape of a little paper airplane and fly to freedom. “Godspeed 3:45 pm!” you yelled. “I'll never forget you!”

When I first moved to Seattle, learning where to put the sticker was a bit of a process. Initially I'd just slap it on the parking cop walking by and yell, “Beige Honda, 6:32 pm!” Later I learned it had to go on the car itself, and somewhere visible, as opposed to underneath the hood or inside the glove box. They usually want it on the window facing the curb. But what if its reverse-in parking! There was so much to learn.

And now that I've finally perfected my parking sticker game, they're all being eliminated. They say you conveniently won't have to walk back to your car with pay-by-plate, but I liked having to walk back to my car. A thing isn't beautiful because it lasts, if I may quote "Avengers: Age of Ultron".

Having to go back set limits on me. It meant I couldn't spend hours trying on pants that didn't fit, or meandering in a bookstore not buying anything, or taking too long to rob a bank before the cops showed up. The pressure to go back to the car led to an efficient use of my time. Sure I got tons of tickets, but that's neither here nor there.

Being able to pay remotely is too much power for one man to have. There's no telling what I might do. All of the sudden I'll turn into one of those people who takes forever to finish a meal at a restaurant and asks the waiter about the art on the walls. One day, I may even be gone so long that I'll come back to find all the buildings torn down, my friends and family dead, and the world I once knew long gone. Is that what you want, Seattle Department of Transportation?

What I'm trying to say is: I'm going to miss the cute little parking stickers. I'll miss the way they left sticker detritus all over the windows, and the way they'd sometimes shoot out of the machine onto the ground.

Come December, all that will be left of them are the old ones crumpled on the car floor, and you'll wistfully gaze down at 7:29 pm and think, “I remember that day. That's the time I got a parking ticket at 7:30pm.”

You really should pay that.