All I can say to Judy Carlson is that it has happened to many, many others--and they're all out serious money, too.
Judy went to Union Station on a Saturday night to have some pizza. She drove there and parked in the main lot atop the station. Alas, she forgot to bring her parking ticket inside so it could be stamped by the restaurant's cashier. If it had been, she wouldn't have been charged to exhume her car.
She shouldn't have had to pay, anyway, because she showed the checkout clerk her pizza receipt. It was dated and timed, so it couldn't have been a relic from some pizza expedition of the past.
Sorry, said the attendant, that'll be 12 bucks. Judy had paid less for the pizza. She handed over the money--and began plotting a phone call to Levey as she pulled away.
First, however, she tried calling the manager of the Union Station lot the following Monday. He said the company doesn't give "refunds." Judy pointed out that she wasn't asking for a refund exactly--just a return of money she should never have had to pay. The manager said no again.
Asked to explain the policy, Simon Gebru, manager of Allright Parking at Union Station, said his company won't accept restaurant receipts because they "could be abused." He said his garage and Union Station restaurants have an agreement--only patrons who sit down and eat can obtain validated parking. Carryout and stand-up customers cannot.
If people forget to obtain validation, like Judy Carlson, they can go back to the restaurant and try to obtain it, Simon said. He acknowledged that validation-seekers might be out of luck, even if they go back to the scene of the pizza five minutes later, because a waiter or waitress might not remember them.
Can we be blunt about this policy? It smells like week-old pepperoni.
It would have been no skin off the parking company's nose to give a Judy Carlson a break. The pizza-seller eventually would have paid the $12. The parking company couldn't have been left high and dry.
Besides, pizza receipts are coded differently for sit-down customers. If Judy had been a carry-outer or stand-upper and had been trying to slick her way past the parking cashier, the receipt would have pointed a revealing beam of light at her lie.
But the Golden Rule is the best reason why the parking company should change its ways.
This was a woman who made a simple mistake. Why soak her for it? Do parking attendants never make potentially expensive mistakes?
Here's a hiss, with cheese on top, for a policy that's rigid, greedy and wrong.
Bob Forkish has just turned 70, which gives him ample permission to float two jokes about aging.
Joke One: Bob hasn't just entered the golden years. He has entered the "ist" years. Gastroenterologist, radiologist, urologist, ophthalmologist . . .
Joke Two: The aging process could be slowed down if it had to make its way through Congress.
The returns are still being totaled up, but there's no question that we have done a double good deed this year.
We invited people to give away their cars for the benefit of our annual fund-raising campaign on behalf of Children's. More than three dozen have. That has made our bottom line swell by several thousand dollars, but it has gotten clunkers off the roads and out of premature graves in garages.
Clunkers may be too inglorious a term to describe some of the donated cars. Joseph Nuth, of Mitchellville, gave us his beige 1986 Jaguar. Joe Cochran gave away an "old Mercedes-Benz."
Why would anyone do that? "It's not me," Joe said. With equal assurance, he added: "I know Children's Hospital is a good cause."
It will remain one indefinitely, Joe, which means that when begin this drive again about 10 months from now, we'll again be looking for people who have cars to contribute.
It's a simple transaction. The cars are sold at auction. Children's gets the bucks, and you get a tax deduction based on the fair Blue Book value of your former wheels. We welcome donated cars even if they no longer run.
As our 1999-2000 drive draws to a close (tomorrow is the final day), mega-thanks to all who have gotten behind our Clunkers for Children's effort. If reading this has tickled your fancy, and you'd like more information on how to give a car to Children's, call Barbara Oloye at 202-884-4289.
Our goal by Jan. 21: $650,000.
In hand as of Jan. 18: $587,350.71.
TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:
Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.
BY VISA OR MASTERCARD:
Call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in K-I-D-S, or 5437, and follow instructions.