Then it was time to check out. I needed to get a new card, and I had been feeling guilty about using my kids' cards for my books since my card had fines on it (I know, how embarrassing). So I decided I would do the right thing and settle my account. Ten dollars later we were on our way, hurrying down the sidewalk in the soupy, sticky heat. We arrived just as the Parking Enforcement Officer was putting the ticket on our window. We were in the wrong; we were past our time and fully deserved the ticket. I was still hopeful though, asking if we were too late to cancel the ticket. He explained once it is on the wind shield he can't do anything about it. He almost looked worried for a moment that it might turn into a confrontation. Instead I asked where I could pay it, and looking relieved, he gave me the information. I acknowledged he had a tough job to do, especially in this heat and thanked him for the help.
We headed to City Hall to pay the fine. I started to get upset ("I told you kids to hurry up"), but realized I was the one to blame. I could have gone back at any time to feed the meter. This was instead now an opportunity to demonstrate to my children how to own up to your mistakes, deal with the consequences and move forward. We had it paid within five minutes of having it written. That's got to be a record. I mentioned to the lady at the wicket how helpful and professional the Parking Officer had been. She said he was new to the job so it was great to hear that feedback. It made me even more glad that I had kept my cool.
So a trip to the library for a free program ended up costing $16.50, plus the money we put in the meter. I think it was still a great value. We had science fun, made "donations" to our library that we love and to our city, and the children got to see inside City Hall for the first time. We headed up to our community garden plot afterwards for a snack of peas, and were again reminded of all this beautiful city provides for us. It made me feel good about giving something back.