Y'know those parking lots and garages they have in some places where you park your car, and you pay for it by going up to a big box with numbered slots on it, finding the number that corresponds to the space you parked in, and put money in?
Don't ever park there.
Or, if you have no choice and are forced to park there, remember Pay Parking Lot Rule #1: Make ABSOLUTE GODDAMN FUCKING SURE you know EXACTLY which slot you parked in, and put the money in EXACTLY the SAME slot.
See, yesterday I had jury duty. I had to get up at 7 am. (If you have to get up at 7 am or earlier every day, please spare me your sarcastic comments of the "oh you poor baby" variety. I don't normally get up that early, so doing so causes me problems. I had like four hours of sleep before then.) I noticed a little map on the back of the jury summons showing that the new Metrorail line goes right past the jury selection building, so I decided to ride it. I drove to the Medical Center to look for a place to park near the Metrorail station. I saw a sign advertising covered parking for $6.00, and hey I loves me some covered parking, so I went in. It was a parking garage next to some bank. I drove in, parked in space 48, folded up and inserted $6 into slot 48, and found my way to the Metrorail station.
So then I rode downtown, found the jury building, waited for two boring hours, got called along with a bunch of other people, went with them over to the courthouse, sat through another two boring hours of voir dire, didn't get selected, perhaps because of how much trouble I was having keeping my eyes open (I told you I had to get up unusually early!), got to leave, walked back to the Metrorail station, rode back to the Medical Center and returned to my car.
On the driver's side window, someone had stuck a piece of paper. I took it and looked at it; it was a small envelope with a payment form on one side, and based on how it had been filled out, someone was accusing me of not having paid anything, and demanding $12.00 from me: $6 parking fee, and another $6 penalty fee.
"This is bullshit," I said to the no attendant on duty. "This is total bullshit. I fucking paid you crooks when I got here."
I looked closer at the envelope. They'd written my license number, the date, and the space I was parked in, except the incompetent morons couldn't get that right: they claimed I was in space 46, not 48.
Then I looked around. Oh shit, I was in 46. I thought it was 48 because when I first got there, I saw a car parked in space 47 and an empty space to its right, in which I sort of half-noticed a 4 followed by some rounded digit. That must have been 48, right? Comes after 47? But NOOO, whoever numbered the spaces numbered them RIGHT TO LEFT (at least in that row). From left to right, it went 48 47 46. I told you I was sleepy! Sooo... what to do to sort this out? No attendant on duty, who do I talk to to straighten this out? Shouldn't be a problem. Didn't whoever checked the boxes notice the extra dosage of money in box 48? Couldn't they have put two and two together, or in this case six and negative six? Y'know what, screw it, I was sleepy, I just wanted to get home and take a nap. So I left.
That night, I talked to my friends on IRC about it, and they made me realize it could have been perfectly possible for someone to park in space 48, come back and leave, and then someone else to come and park in space 48 before the guy came and checked the boxes. There was no way to prove the extra $6 in slot 48 was mine. There was nothing for me to do but pay the fucking $12.00.
Now, okay, I know, $12 isn't the end of the world. Not like I can't afford it. But it pissed me off to think I had to pay it to someone who I honestly felt didn't deserve to take it from me. $18 total just to park once in that bank garage? Fucking expensive, that is. And it's not like I'm not used to the idea of paying to park, either. Most of the places I go here in town don't charge me, but I have had to pay for parking in recent memory. The downtown library; the hospital, when Mom had the operation, and later when Dad had health problems of his own; the garage under the Westin during Anthrocon this year (and btw, FUCK "No in/out privileges" with a BROOMSTICK if you please), and so on. And I know for a fact that I'm not some gibbering idiot who can't tell the difference between a 6 and an 8. But damned if I don't feel scammed. Like I been set up in a trap. I paid those fuckers my $6 and then they demanded $12 more from me... and there wasn't anything I could do about it. That's EXTORTION! Well, no, it's not, I guess. Could I sue the garage for it? I doubt I could make a case, and anyway it wouldn't be anywhere near worth the legal fees.
So I went back today and paid the small-time crooks their piddling extortion money. That's what it felt like. I put $12 of MY money into that stained little envelope and inserted it into a slot on the big box marked "VIOLATOR ENVELOPES" as if I were some kind of VIOLATOR or something. And it was hard to find a good parking spot in the adjoining parking lot (which was free, at least), and I was so pissed I kicked over an unused traffic cone tucked behind a barrier inside the garage, and it fell over and splashed several drops of dirty stagnant water back in my face. I just wanted to get OUT of that hellhole as fast as possible, but because of heavy traffic I couldn't even do that much. Fuck if I ever go there again.