Nearly twenty years ago, I wrote a column for our downtown community newspaper, City Times, regarding the policy of the City of San Jose and its ridiculous parking laws. Guess what? Nothing has changed. Whenever you want to change the behavior of people or animals, you apply intermittent stimulus to change that behavior. It’s very powerful. An M&M candy or an electric shock given to a subject, administered at unknown intervals, as a reward for certain actions can change the behavior of the subject. Ask B.F. Skinner! Our “SkinnerianCity” is working incredibly well.
The City’s parking rules accomplish this by giving tickets out near the wonderful, new Paesano’s Ristorante in the outskirts of downtown San Jose, situated in the newly designated Little Italy. You’d think the City of San Jose would make a super effort to encourage people to visit the area. Not our city. On Thursday evening, I decided to have dinner at this new restaurant. I fed the meter two hours worth of quarters. I went inside and had a nice glass of wine served by the lovely and attentive Josephine and owner Pino. I was not in a hurry, so I drank my Italiano vino slowly and ordered the insalate verde. Delicious.
I then looked up and saw the meter maid parading outside, giving fines for frequenting this fine dining establishment. Tickets are given out all day until 10:00 p.m.! And the ticketing people are relentless.
Luckily, this time, I had 8 minutes left on my meter, so I did not receive a ticket. Pino, the charming owner of Paesano’s, came out with a pocketful of quarters, lamenting that the city and its stupidity was making it tough on his business and customers. His clients at the restaurant feel on edge because the parking situation will add 25% to the restaurant bill if a ticket is given out. So there we were, standing in the rain, with Pino shoving quarters into the meter. Four dollars worth so far! Back inside we went, so I could finish my dinner and chat with some friends who had sat at the table in the window. Safe in the city that does whatever it can to hurt businesses and train customers/citizens to stay away.
As I left the restaurant and walked to my car, I saw a white envelope on my windshield. How could this be, I thought? Pino, the gentleman, had just put four quarters in my meter. I checked the time on the ticket. Yes, indeed, it was 9:15 p.m. and I had received the ticket eight minutes before. Darn! I never should have stopped and chatted to some friends who were dining that evening. I could have made it out without adding $40 to my bill. Our lovely cash strapped city, with silver-spoon fed union members, has continued to thwart businesses thriving in the downtown area. When will our foolish government wake up and “train” our citizens to come downtown and dine and shop? Instead they train us to avoid coming downtown.
I hope Pino will prevail in getting the meters changed to more reasonable hours. The aggressiveness of the city’s ticketing people is a detriment to business. Let’s make San Jose a business friendly city. At least after normal working hours.