Interestingly, this past weekend in addition to learning how naive I am, I also learned that free parking doesn’t always mean, well, free.  I have a $60 (yes, sixty) ticket to prove it.

Here is what happened.  I was visiting my family in Montauk, Long Island, New York for the Easter/holiday weekend.  On Friday morning I did the grocery shopping (3 different stores to get everything) and a little gift shopping for Easter.    I shopped in the town of East Hampton.  I went to the municpal lot to park, it said free parking (which I thought meant, free, come park anywhere – little did I know), I followed someone in, parked, all seemed to go well (little did I know what was to come).  We went shopping, bought quite a bit as we were feeding 12 people for the weekend.  One woman even commented on my very full cart. 

Anyway I digress, when I returned to my car, I found a $60 ticket.  When I asked the policewoman, she said, “oh, yes, this is free parking, but you need to get a ticket when you come into the lot.  And you have to display your ticket the right way.”  She then went on to say, “we just started this on April 1 (note:  an unlikely April Fool’s joke given the ticket and her posture.  By the way, the ticket machine was tiny and very low – easily missed.)  The ticket has to be on the front dash, right here, face up, with this orientation, any thing else, and you get a ticket.  You can go to court and fight it, but it will stick.”  When I said $60 seems steep for free parking she shrugged her shoulders.  It is East Hampton afterall.

Since I was not going to get anywhere with this officer, I loaded up my groceries and went to Town Hall/Court.  The Court building was locked, but Town Hall was open, lights on, evidence of people around (beverages, work out, etc), but we couldn’t find anyone.  A few other people were walking around looking for help as well.  When we walked out side, I saw a woman from inside the building come to the door and lock it up and turn quickly to walk away.  She didn’t/wouldn’t return to the door.  When I called Town Hall  a voice recording said they were open, just come on by. 

So now I have a $60 for free parking, no one to talk to, and the realization that it will cost me $60 (round trip including tolls) to come back and fight this ticket…  which according to one local, the best I can hope for is to get it reduced in half.  Well, lessoned learned.  I won’t do that again!

And now I am reminded that there is no such thing as free parking…  well, it can be free if you know and follow ALL the rules… Otherwise fork over the $60.