The Parking Meter Fairy insert coins in parking meters about to expire, thus preventing people from getting a parking ticket.
“You shouldn’t feed the meter: If the regulation allows for a certain amount of time, usually two hours, you are not supposed to run back to the meter and add more quarters. This is being a meter hog and it can get you a violation if the parking control officer is keeping an eye on your length of stay.” – The Powers That Be.
In 2004, a group of Coconut Grove retailers and restaurateurs in the Miami, Florida area hired 37 year-old actor Xavier Cortes as their very own Parking Meter Fairy. To apply for the job, applicants needed to an extrovert, speak more than two languages, be able to roller skate, and didn’t mind wearing a tutu.
As the new Parking Meter Fairy, Xavier Cortes donned a pink wig, lavender tutu and fake wings and a fairy wand and then roller skated around the business district looking for expired parking meters or ones just about to run out.
After feeding a coin in the parking meter to ensure extra time, this Robin Hood of Random Kindness leaves a calling card on the car with the message: “You’ve just been saved by the Coconut Grove parking-meter-fairy.” This gesture of generosity sends a signal to customers that shoppers don’t have to fear getting a parking ticket while the Parking Meter Fairy in on duty.
As for his character, Cortes reports, “Little kids look at me in awe, some guys whistle at me, some ladies say that pink is my color and I look fabulous. It’s all tongue in cheek.”
When people realize the have been visited by the Parking Meter Fairy, they look for him, offer thanks, give him a kiss and sometimes have a photo taken.
In 2009, The Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) in Canada adopted a similar idea and hired Meter Fairies to roam the streets and add 15 minutes of time to expired meters as a special gift to those who enjoy our downtown so much. The Meter Fairy is a year-round program and is a partnership between the DVBA and the City of Victoria. DVBA Ambassadors also find time to hand out “Two Hours Free” parking cards to encourage shoppers to come to Downtown Victoria.
In Nelson, British Columbia, Canada, there was an anonymous Parking Meter Fairy who put coins in expired meters but also left messages like “Otters hold hands when they sleep….Have an affectionate day from the Parking Meter Fairy.”
One of the earliest examples of Parking Meter Fairies comes from Anchorage Alaska. Linny Pacillo, and her sister Susan became pop heroes in Anchorage by donning black tights, pink tutus and fairy wings to protest aggressive ticketing enforced by the Anchorage Parking Authority. Throughout the 1990s, the Pacillo sisters would plug parking meters with change to prevent others from getting a ticket. The were dubbed, “The Parking Fairies.”
According to Susan Pecillo, “You couldn’t fight City Hall, so the best way was to laugh at them.” Gathering a war chest of donations, Linny and Susan started plugging coins in expired meters to thwart city revenue from $10 parking tickets. The Parking Fairies inspired a 1997 referendum that limited handing out parking tickets to sworn police officers. A few years later, Assembly members tried to allow other officials to issue tickets. Linny was alive to see voters shoot it down.
In 2006, Anchorage’s ‘parking fairy’ Linny Pacillo died at Providence Extended Care after a lengthy illness from muscular dystrophy and disabilities from a car accident six years earlier. She was 47 years old.
In February 2007, The Anchorage Assembly approved a bill sponsored by State Senator Johnny Ellis, to name a parking garage in honor of Carolyn “Linny” Pacillo (September 2, 1959 – November 17, 2006). Her family operated Courtney’s Tudor Service on East Tudor Road, which was one of the very last remaining independent gas stations in Anchorage. The Pacillo family sold the station in 2003, which has since gone out of business.
“When I see a parking meter and I see that it’s red, I look to see if there’s either a placard or a ticket already on it. Those people I really can’t do much for. So I save my quarter and when I see somebody who’s just going to be a couple of minutes late, I put the quarter in there. And as you can see from the gentleman back there at the counter, some of these people really appreciate that.” – Mr. Twister
Another early pioneer in the Parking Meter School of Fairies was Mr. Twister (aka Cory McDonald), a street performer/clown from Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz, California. In September 1995, a Santa Cruz “parking control deputy” saw Mr. Twister putting a quarter into an expired meter in front of the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Co. and issued him a $13 citation. A city ordinance in effect at the time prohibited anyone from feeding an expired parking meter without the owners’ permission.
Attorney Ben Rice defended Mr. Twister “pr bozo” in court, and in the end, the City Council rescinded the citation, removed the law from the books, and gave Mr. Twister his own parking meter. As the case captured national attention, Mr. Twister and his attorney were featured on television and radio in numerous countries around the world, as well as write-ups in People Magazine, Readers Digest and various newspapers across America. The Santa Cruz Sentinel voted Mr. Twister, the Newsmaker of the Year.
And there have been others whose random acts of kindness have gotten them in trouble with the law.
According to a 2004 Internet forum post, a guy named “Rowdy Buckaroo” who drove around Bellingham, Washington in this SUV,feed meters running out with coins and slipped a flyer under the windshield wipers that read, “you’ve been saved by Rowdy Buckaroo!” The whole affair turned out to be an advertising gimmick for The Horseshoe Cafe, a restaurant owned by the Buckaroo. Reportedly, Rowdy Buckaroo was arrested at least once a week for his antics.
In 2010, Ben Bond, a 30-year-old construction worker Eugene, Oregon parking meter feeder (“He’s no parking meter fairy, just a regular guy trying to help others during hard times”) was arrested by three police officers, citing him with obstruction of a government official ($530 fine) and harassment ($280).
Luckily, Eugene’s “parking meter fairy” Eugene Municipal Judge Wayne Allen acquitted 30-year-old Ben Bond after agreeing with Bond’s attorney, William Wiswall, that the city failed to show that Bond had threatened to commit a crime and thus failed to prove one of three conditions necessary to convict someone of “obstruction by intimidation” under Oregon law.
In 2013, the town of Keene, New Hampshire sued a group called ‘Robin Hood’ parking-meters fairies. The city claimed that a band of merry men were feeding coins in strangers’ parking meters, thus “harassing parking enforcement officers.”
When the members of the Parking Fairy Gang find an expired meter, they deposit money into the meter and slip a note under the windshield wiper of the vehicle that says: “Your meter expired; however, we saved you from the king’s tariffs, Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Please consider paying it forward.” The note includes an address where people can send donations for the effort.
The city is asking the court to establish a “safety zone” that blocks Garret Ean and his band of merry men (“Robin Hooders of Keene”) from coming within 50 feet of the parking agents.
The ruling would bring into question First Amendment issues and the group’s constitutional right to record the enforcement officers up-close.
Besides the Parking Meter Fairies are also Registration Fairies. In Brooklyn, as a person returned to their car, then found a note on the windshield. No it was not a parking ticket but rather a reminder that the person’s car registration was about to expire. True enough, the owner glanced at their license plate and realized they only had a few days before it expired. Thanks to the Registration Fairy, the person avoided an expensive New York City ticket.
In 2010, People Magazine reported that celebrity Renee Zellweger’s parking meter was about to expire outside a Starbucks in Santa Monica, California when a man put coins in the meter to save her from getting a parking ticket. For his random act of kindness, Zellweger gave the man a $100 gift card to Starbucks for his help, writing “Thank you so much for the kindness,” on the card sleeve.
NOTE: July 16th is the birthday of the first parking meter. Known as Park-O-Meter No. 1, it was invented by Carl C. McGee and installed on the southeast corner of what was then First Street and Robinson Avenue in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on this day in 1935. Today, Park-O-Meter No. 1 is on display in the Statehood Gallery of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
In Australia, Parking Meter Fairies are called “meter maids.” Introduced in 1965, the Meter Maids of Surfers Paradise are the fairy godmothers of parking who stroll the beaches in gold bikinis to promote the area and dispel any negative, parking-related issues. Their job: feed meters that are nearing expiration. Now how cool is that.
Miami Parking Meter Fairy (Video)
Jackass Meter Fairy – Time for Work! (Video)
Mr. Twister the Clown (Facebook)
City of Keene, New Hampshire sues Robin Hood Meter Men (Video)
Keene Robin Hood Arraigned (Video)
Australian Parking Meter Fairies (Website)
Australian Parking Meter Fairies (Video)
NBC New Channel (Video)
Randon Act of Kindness Meter Fairy in Action (Video)
First Parking Meter (Article)
Anchorage Parking Fairies (Article)
Clown Wins Right To Feed Parking Meters (Article)