When we visit Navy son in Virginia, we usually drive right through the 800 miles or fly. Flying has been the choice for several years, but this year we decided to drive again, take our time again and visit some things along the way.
Our second stop was going to be the Christmas display at Longwood Gardens, which was fantastic. If you ever have the opportunity, it’s a must do. With time on our hands we decided to visit Philadelphia, take one of those hop on hop on bus tours and see the sights.
That’s when I encountered the City of Philadelphia Welcome Center Parking Garage.
While I don’t get out of the Midcoast much these days, I am familiar with parking garages and how they work. Apparently not in Philadelphia. Before I relay more of this parking garage experience, I’m proud to say that I parked in three, count them, three parking garages in Norfolk, Virginia, without incident.
The garage is centrally located under the Welcome Center, which is why it is cleverly named the Welcome Center Parking Garage.
Like all garages, the rates are not posted on huge signs on the street, but rather listed on a sandwich board you can only read after you have turned into the garage and since you are followed closely by someone who probably works at the Welcome Center and is late for work and blowing their horn, there is no turning back. I admit that I didn’t read the rates on the sign but proceeded in order to get the horn to stop blowing behind me. However, when I took my ticket, I did see the sign that said, “Take your ticket with you.”
Three levels down, we found a spot and saw a sign on the wall that questioned, “Did you remember to take your ticket?” Now, I’m starting to appreciate the importance of the ticket and that I should take it with me. We left luggage, Christmas presents, snacks and water locked in the car, but not the damn ticket! The elevator had explanations about paying for our parking, but we were off to see Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, so I would deal with that upon my return.
The tour was great! Ruth was our guide and she knew a lot about Philadelphia and its history. A little over an hour tour was an excellent value and inspired us to go back sometime and delve deeper into the inner city. I would recommend it to anyone. Now it’s time to visit my friend in King of Prussia, since it’s just up the road. If you park in the Welcome Center Parking Garage, there is a process to square up with the city and go on your way. It’s clearly spelled out in the elevator.
Actually, there are three ways to pay. I have no idea what numbers two and three are because I went with number one, the easiest. You know me. The reason I had to take my ticket with me is that I need to go to level 1 and pay there.
At level 1 there are two machines, side by side.
I looked them over, went over the instructions and inserted my ticket in the slot on machine number 1. The screen immediately announced that the City of Philadelphia Welcome Center Garage needed $22 for the privilege of parking.
While I thought this was a mistake, we’re on vacation and I don’t need to make waves, so whatever. I began to enter bills into the machine, but the machine apparently was not accustomed to cash and would not accept money that was likely minted in Philadelphia at the mint we saw on the tour.
Thankfully, there was a help button.
I pressed it. The lady on the other end was very helpful. She suggested that I put my ticket into the other machine. I did and she then guided me through my payment process to get me my receipt. Thanking her for her help, receipt in hand, we got back on the elevator with the instructions to take my ticket with me, but I ignored that, because I had a receipt. We’re off to King of Prussia.
Not so fast, Country Boy from Maine.
You have to get out of the garage first. I pulled up to the gate and the sign said to insert my ticket. I didn't have a ticket. It was in the machine on Level 1 wherever that is.
But, I had a receipt.
I pressed the help button again and got the same voice who helped me with the machine, and I could see her in a glass room ahead of me (Probably bulletproof.)
I explained that I had a receipt, could she let me out?
She wanted to know where my ticket was.
I put it in the machine in order to get the receipt. She said this happens all the time, and she would go get my ticket. Please put on my emergency flashers so people will not get in line behind me.
At this point, I was thinking, wouldn’t it be easier to just hit a button somewhere, open the gate and let me out?
Not in the Welcome to Philadelphia Parking Garage.
I swear I am not making this next part up. The lady with the nice voice came running out of the bulletproof glass room and disappeared in this huge parking garage while I sat at the gate with my flashers on. Even though she told me it happens all the time, apparently the people behind me had never seen something like a car at the gate with its flashers on because they all came up behind me, sat there, thankfully without blowing the horn and then took a hard right and went out the other gate.
After what seemed like an eternity, the voice lady returned, out of breath, with my ticket.
She put the ticket in the slot and the gate opened and we were free. As the gate was raising, she shared with me that the machine I paid in doesn’t spit the ticket back out so you can see it. However, there are signs everywhere that say, “TAKE YOUR TICKET WITH YOU.”
Bill Packard lives in Union and is the founder of BPackard.com. He is a speaker, author, small business coach and consultant.