ATLANTA MANO A MANO

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So I was sitting in Starbucks minding my own business, trying not to be distracted by the baldish Hari Krishna person dressed in bright orange who may just have been a trendy female with sunglasses perched on top of his/her head, or by the self-important woman talking loudly on her cell, or the discussion of why Kate Middleton’s wedding was making prime time news on all major television channels.  I sat facing the open window enjoying the sun and the blueness of the day, isolated in a crowded Starbucks.
My peripheral vision barely registered a man who entered, and excused himself to talk to a patron who sat nearby.  He mumbled something and I heard her profusely apologize.  I then heard “excuse me” in my air space, and the same man who I barely  noticed, was now trying to get my attention.  He looked scraggly, with dry ashy skin and an unkempt appearance.  I’m just saying he definitely was not the typical Starbucks patron.  I’m not even sure what he asked as I was high off Albuterol from an asthma test I had taken twenty minutes before, but it was something about wanting some help getting food.  I offered to buy him some food from the display case.  I could be wrong, but as he tilted his head, I perceived that he tried to figure out some way not to accept the offer of food, but spin it into some cash (?? just saying).  Maybe the Albuterol glazed look in my eyes made him realize the futility of a cash offering.
I walked with him to the display case and suggested a sandwich.  There were three sandwich containers which all contained turkey and cheese.  He mulled over the three for a long while, and then requested the pound cake.  I shook my head no, and again suggested a sandwich.  He mentioned that he was so hungry and thirsty, and asked the cashier for two pieces of pound cake, like a vague “mano-a-mano” bond was going to override my hard cash.  I suggested he needed protein more than sugar.  Then I had a thought that maybe I was being too controlling but I felt a need to treat him like a child; protein is much more important that sugar, yes?
“What’s your story Mr. Man?” I ask.
“I just got into town, and don’t have a car or a place to stay.”
“Where are you from?”
“Michigan.”
“Oh!  What part of Michigan?”
“Milwaukee.”
“Umm, Milwaukee is in Wisconsin?”
He laughs. “It’s the heat.”
I left that thread alone.  The cashier was in a tug of war when again Mr. Man asked for the pound cake, so I firmly stated that I would not buy sugar since protein was more nutritious. Mr. Man ended up with only two cartons of milk.  In retrospect, a sugar fix is probably what he needed in lieu of a solid pharmaceutical fix (just saying).  He left the store reluctantly. I know Mr. Man was now sorry he targeted me.
I moved outside to escape the too cool a/c ambiance.  Fifteen minutes later I watched as Mr. Man from Milwaukee, Michigan sauntered up and again entered Starbucks.
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BOOT DOWNTOWN ATLANTA

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Went to a class downtown held by SBA this morning; my gps defaulted to West Peachtree instead of Peachtree NE so I lost a few minutes, and was running late.  (I’ll tell you about the class in another post – it was for 8(a) certification.)  Rather than driving around Ralph Abernathy, Peachtree Center, and Peachtree seeking a rare open parking space, I pulled into Eagle Parking Lot.  All I could see was $8 in bold black for daily parking.  I asked the attendant was that a flat price…he looked a little confused.  I clarified that I “thought” I only needed two hours.  Two hours would be $5 he volunteered.  Geeze, a breakthrough.  He waved me to park near the front, and I duly offered up my credit card to the automated pay machine, punched in my 336 lot number, punched 2 for the hours needed, and retrieved the thin white ticket which spat out.

I returned to Eagle about fifteen minutes after the two hours lapse.  Something red and colorful was attached to both tires on the driver side…what!?  I had seen the attendant when I approached the lot, but he mysteriously disappeared.  A big black car stopped near me and asked me about the price and parking location.  Did I look like the attendant?  He eventually mentioned that the attendant was in a car at the end of the lot.  I wandered around to the back; all the cars were unoccupied save one with tinted windows that was pulling out of the space.  Was that the attendant man hiding from me?  I knocked on the window and he braked, rolled down the window.

“There’s a boot on my car.”  Silence.

“How do I get the boot off my car?  How do I pay for the extra fifteen minutes I used?”  Silence.    “Do I give the money to you, or have to go to the machine again?  How does the boot get removed from my car?”  Silence.  I’m getting really exasperated by this time.   He finally dials a number on his phone and talks to “Mike.”   He offers, “Mike will be here in a few minutes.”

“And?  How do I pay for the extra minutes?”

“Talk to Mike,” and he gave me a royal nod to go back from whence I came.  In retrospect I now know that he was trying to avoid confrontation.  When I got to my car, “Mike” was there in a small truck.  I leaned down and instantly got suspicious when he pointed a camera on the dash toward my face.  What?!

“It’s $75 to get the boot off your car.”  After a few well articulated phrases, whinging, getting a little loud, enlisting the help of others at the automated machine, more questions, I came to the conclusion there would be no reasoning with Mike.  Mike repeated with a little resignation it seemed, “It’s $75 to get the boot off your car.  And $75 each day until it’s paid.”  Now I’m silent.  I look at him, the man from the big black car, the ladies at the automated machine.  I still have no words.  I sigh and hand over my brand new debit card for my company Elite Care LLC.  I was downtown for company business so I’m charging the company.  Somehow I felt a little better but then remembered that the company funding came from me.  I’m going to call the city and complain.

9/26 Update: After gooogling boot complaints in Atlanta, found many complaints for the boot company EPS.  I reported this incident to Dot.gov/atlanta and received a case number.  Anxious to see what type of response I’ll get.

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