By Ken Bradbury
I was in a quandary. I wanted to see a movie and support our downtown businesses so I had a choice of Concussion, Joy, The Revenant, Star Wars, In the Heart of the Sea, and the latest Hunger Games thingy. The cheapest way to see a movie nowadays is to 1) be old and get the senior discount, and 2) go to a matinee. Trouble was, each of these movies lasted longer than two hours and that doesn’t count the previews, popcorn picking, and potty time. The city of Jacksonville has decided to start enforcing the two-hour parking on the square and the fact that I qualify for the senior discount makes long treks from off square parking a problem. So if you want to see a movie during the day at the Illinois Theatre and don’t want to get arrested you can A) come late, sit by someone who you don’t know and ask them what’s happened so far, or B) watch the movie but leave twenty minutes early, being sure to get the email address of a complete stranger sitting in the row ahead of you so you can message them and ask whether Luke Skywalker died.
Up until the current enforcement regulations came into effect, one of my most delightful pastimes was to stroll down to Norma’s for breakfast, stop at the Playhouse on the Square to see what production Rich McCoy is brewing that week, pop into the adjoining coffee shop for an espresso, then spend a bit of idyllic time browsing through Andy Mitchell’s bookstore. This often puts me over the two hour parking limit so I’ll need to cut something out. Maybe I could order instant oatmeal at Norma’s or only read the comic books at Andy’s place.
Another of the recent delightful additions to the downtown Jacksonville scene is the proliferation of spas and places to get your body and soul rehabbed. Okay, I’ve never patronized a spa. I walked through one on an Alaskan cruise ship and it scared me. But there are thankfully many among us who avail themselves of these kinds of services, so I logged into an off-square spa site and found that it takes a bit of time to get your body tuned, re-timed, and toned. They offer a 45-minute hot stone massage, a one-hour deep tissue massage, a 45-minute infrared heat treatment, and a host of other services that I’m not qualified to talk about. Besides, I’m Presbyterian. But of course the trouble comes when a lady decides to avail herself of one of these treatments but she’s parked her car on the square. She’ll have to settle for a lukewarm rock, a deep massage that only goes down a few inches or instead of infrared heat just a few minutes sitting in front of a microwave oven.
Yes, parking is limited in downtown Jacksonville. There’s no arguing that. We often have to start plays a few minutes late at the Playhouse as we wait for waterlogged patrons to trudge into the theatre, sopping wet, having finally found a parking place in Roodhouse or Ashland. But after all, it is what it is, and surely no one would want to return to the days when the Jacksonville Square resembled Diamond Grove Cemetery on a slow day.
I was sitting in the coffee shop recently, chatting about the problem with a friend and he suggested a solution. He said that the city intended to start putting chalk marks on tires to act as a sort of bowel doctor, detecting any sign of movement. Rita the Meter Maid chalks your wheel, notes the time, then returns in two hours with handcuffs drawn. It was my friend’s plan to start a chalk-removing service. For a small fee, say maybe $10 a month, he’d go around the square with one of those old-fashioned chalkboard erasers and wipe the offending smudge off the tire of anyone who’d signed up for his service. He told me he’d been working on a gadget whereby he’d attached his eraser to a selfie stick to avoid all the bending over.
I asked him if such a plan would be legal. He simply shrugged and said, “I suppose so. . . until I get caught.”
“Then what’ll you do?”
“I’ll turn in my eraser.”
As we finished our coffee and got up to leave he said, “Seriously, Ken. A two-hour parking limit. What could be worse?”
I said, “Being a city council member and trying to keep everyone happy.”