I PUT MY NICKEL IN BUT DIDN’T GET NO MUSIC
It didn’t take long after the first automobiles were sold at the turn of the century for traffic congestion to become a problem. By the 1930s, America was fender-deep in automobiles – Fords, Packards and Nashes; Hudsons, Bentleys and DoSotos. And folks weren’t happy just driving these vehicles around; they wanted to park them!
Parking was becoming a big problem, particularly in cities. Downtown merchants were up in arms because their businesses suffered when parking spots were hogged by the same cars all day long. Carl Magee, an Oklahoma newspaperman, came up with an idea: allow vehicles to park for a specific time period, using some kind of timer – a great solution but he didn’t have the least idea how to make such a thing work. He shared his idea with two professors at Oklahoma State University who came up with an operating model of a coin-operated parking meter.
Magee founded the Dual Parking Meter Company – “Dual” because the meters served two purposes, controlling parking and generating revenue. Oklahoma City purchased 150 of the mechanical marvels at $23 each, installing them downtown under the cover of darkness on July 16, 1935.
The meters charged a nickel an hour. There were not a great many satisfied customers. In fact, citizens were outraged. Paying for parking was unAmerican. The brouhaha attracted national attention, but the meters stayed in Oklahoma City, and quickly spread throughout the land. By the early 50s, one million were in operation.
Today’s motorists would be tickled pink to pay but a nickel for an hour of parking – particularly in Chicago where downtown meters now collect $6.50 an hour.
Death Visits Aunt Agatha, Conclusion: Enter Death, Stage Left
“My poor dear,” she said. “I hate to say it, but you look a little worse tonight. Not to dampen your spirits but I fear Death may come calling tonight. One thing I’ve learned with all the many deaths I’ve witnessed over the years is that Death comes to personally take each and every person away. Once Death appears, that’s it. There’s no prolonging it. You’ve just got to pass on then and there. Goodbye cruel world.” She paused to let the weight of her words rest on Aunt Agatha’s weary body. “Well, enough of such talk. I’ll just leave you here to think on it. Should Death happen to come while I’m gone, do rest in peace.” Bridget stood, a little shaky on her feet now, and scuffled out of the bedroom.
An hour passed without the sound of Bridget’s voice in the bedroom. Aunt Agatha began to twist uncomfortably, Bridget’s words filling her with dread. Suddenly she heard a low, monstrous groaning and forced open her eyes. As her vision grew clear, she saw, looking down at her from the foot of the bed where it seemed to be hovering in midair, a grotesque figure in a black shroud with only a skull for a face. Human-like eyes glowed malevolently from within two holes in the skull.
“Old woman,” growled the fearsome figure. “It is your time. Are you ready? I am Death, come to take you away from this mortal place. Have no fear. You go to a place much better by far, up there, the world above.” The voice became an unpleasant drone. “You’ll love it. So don’t dillydally. Die and get on with it. Die. Die.”
Aunt Agatha whimpered as she stared at the figure floating there at the foot of her bed. “How do you just die?” she asked in a weak voice. “Don’t you have to take me or something?” Death grew quite agitated at Aunt Agatha’s remarks and began to flail its arms and shriek. Flailing, shrieking Death now began to gyrate wildly as though out of control, then suddenly plummeted backward and crashed to the floor. The chair Death had been standing on bounced against the foot of the bed and rolled back over the still figure on the floor. Aunt Agatha pressed back against the headboard, eyes wide, gasping.
As Monty drove down the long road to the farm Monday morning, he passed the ambulance heading the other way. “Poor old girl,” he said to himself. “I hope she didn’t suffer. I’ll just grab a quick beer then go back and take care of everything. Three days. It looks like I beat old Bridget for a hundred bucks.
Monty entered the house and saw her sitting at the kitchen table, but realized even before she turned to him that the woman at the table wasn’t old Bridget.
“Hello dear,” said Aunt Agatha, placing her spoon back in her bowl of corn flakes. She looked . . . almost healthy.
“I’m afraid I’ve bad news, Monty. Old Bridget Berman — who’s not the nicest person in this world, I should point out — passed away last night. Went crazy. Dressed up in a Halloween costume, screamed and carried on, and dashed herself to the floor.”
“Oh dear,” said Monty, trying not to think about the fact that he now owed Bridget nothing. “But you, you look much better.”
“I feel much better Monty, I really do. But it was a real brush I had with death, I’m telling you. I came that close . . .” She held up her thumb and forefinger, almost touching. ” . . . that close to joining old Bridget.”