Gumball Parking Meters

In Distinct Poplar, the parking meters are all part bubble gumball machines. This was a plan by the city commission for parking, and the hopeful answer to Distinct Poplar’s extreme lack of quality parking.

Distinct Poplar has a parking problem? Yes, it’s the worst—more about that later.

The way parking meters used to work, was based on a coin retrieval method. The old meters were long metal poles that stretched well above six feet. Atop them were the meter-heads, with an oversized dial switch, a time read-out, and a slot in which spare change would be deposited. When parking ones car, tall people stood on their tip-toes to insert their coins, and short people got on top of their cars to do the same. You put your coins in the slot, you turn the giant dial counter clockwise, and the time read-out drones on about how many minutes you have paid for. “Thirty-Six and three quarters minutes”, the disinterested nasally voice would say. Like a computerized voice had a great grandmother, that crackled and popped and wound out every word to it’s slowest speaking syllable.

Why were the meters placed so high? Great question, the city used to have this issue with dishonest vehicle owners and something called “the coin retrieval method”. In which clever vehicle owners, would tie a string around a finger and then around the coin before inserting it into the slot. After hearing the coin find it’s way to the bottom of the meter, the dishonest owner would flick their wrist up in the air, just like this, and then pop the coin out for another use. See the problem? Free parking!

So the idea was to make the parking meters so tall on their metal poles, that nefarious free-parking enthusiasts wouldn’t be able to flick up their wrists. See thats the trick, it’s all in how you flick up the wrist, like so. If the the meters were up too high, and people were made to stretch and squirm up high, just to insert their coins- then it stood reason that the problem would be solved, right? Wrong.

People started carrying stilts with them, everywhere they went. You would see cars speeding about downtown with a full set of circus stilts attached to the hood of their car. And some folks didn’t tie them down well enough. Which was a disaster, because driving in Distinct Poplar is for maniacs. So it seemed that every so often, you’d see a car split and run, dive a corner, or weave-bob in between lanes and sure enough those circus stilts would come firing off like a bazooka. Impossibly long and spiral colored in red and white, like candy canes. Like giant candy canes firing through the air at one another. Like some sort of secret candy war was taking place. And what about each of these individuals, the silt keepers? They would have an arm outstretched and hung up to hold them into place, just in case the tie-wires weren’t enough. And it never was.

Whats that? Why the giant over-sized dials on the parking meters? Again great question. So it seems that the city parking commission decided to out-do the stilt wearing, nefarious, free parking enthusiasts, by installing super big dials on all the super tall parking meters. You see the dials used to be about this big, basically the size of your thumb. After you pay with your coin, you just give it a counter clock-wise turn. That means you go this way, instead of this way, like on the face of a clock. What they don’t have proper clock faces at school no more? Yeah they do, stop messing around.


Impossibly long and spiral colored in red and white, like candy canes. Like giant candy canes firing through the air at one another. Like some sort of secret candy war...

Anyways, the city parking commission figured that nobody on stilts would be able to turn the dial, if the dial was impossibly big and impossibly difficult to turn. See, even though stilts became a great work-around to the tall meter problem, that don’t mean people actually learned how to use them correctly. Stilts were all the rage, but you’d see trendy citizens falling about all over the place just trying to make the things work. Most people couldn’t get more than two steps forward on those things. And yet somehow, everyone said they could remember way back to before stilts became cool, and they had been “stilting” for years. With their fancy backwards hatsand circle sunglasses—falling every which way just trying to get down the street. I tell you what, it was like the city had become trapped inside a candy striped forest, and somebody kept yelling “TIMBER!”… It was me.

See people figured that part out too, those giant dials I mean. They had special cords that they made, like climbing ropes with a series of knots. And much like the coin retrieval method they tied one end to them and one end to the dial. That way when they fell off their stilts, and they most certainly would, they could just give a yank and manipulate the dial with their own force. Problem solved yet again. Imagine them, starting from their stilt perch, jumping through the air, yanking the cord of knots and using their own weight to make the ominous dial turn the ominous crank. The sound of which was deafening to the ear, as each fissured metal finger snapped into place. SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! Thats how the gears sounded. I’m telling you.

The city parking commission was dumbfounded by the work around, and yeah people were carrying around a supply kit just to get a parking spot, but they were doing it for free and the city was losing money. The city was starting to pile up with cars too, because there aint no room for nobody in this stinking city to park normally. Now add the fact that people are parking for free, and sticking to their spot and staking their claim, The city’s got no money normally too, and so now without that sweet parking meter revenue stream, the city parking commission aint got no power to make people move. Folks start taking advantage of it, and start parking wherever they want. Imagine the cars atop cars, atop cars, atop cars. Like staircases of oddly place vehicles ascending towards the city’s muck-raked towers and blotted gray sky. Each car set every which way to squeeze the best possible spot. Even if that spot was impossibly difficult to get in and out of. It was still a free spot!

So some egghead down at city parking commission decided that another change was necessary, but this change would add value to the system, instead of adding another difficult step to overcome. They’d add the opportunity to get something for your parking time. Something useful and something sweet like candy. Thats how we got the gum ball parking meters. They took the meters down off their impossibly long poles and they removed the giant oversized dial back in favor of the original. Then they added gum balls to the equation.

The way it works is, you put your coin in the metal slot and turn the dial on the crank… counter clockwise. The parking meter then gives you a gumball from it’s giant glass head of pink, yellow, blue, green, orange, and red. The gumball always tastes like sugar mixed with chalk, but hey people liked it! You plant that candy gum ball in your cheek and go about your day when you were done with it, when all that overly sweet and stale flavor was gone. That was when it was time to go back to refill the meter. And people loved it.

Things changed for the better. And all that money lost by the city…well lets just say they made up for it with a hefty tax on routine dentistry. Still no parking in this filthy city tho-.

Got any ideas on how you would have fixed the parking in Distinct Poplar? Let us know in the comment section below!