Homeless Tip of the Day: How to Popsicle-Stick a Parking Meter


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Not sure if you noticed, but the economy ain’t exactly booming around here. Most every Clevelander without his own game show or shoe deal is a day-trip to MGM Grand Detroit away from losing everything. With this in mind, we present this very helpful tip from a friendly local homeless man. Thank us when you’re wearing McDonald’s cups as shoes. If you live or work in the Warehouse District, you’ve probably seen our hero, “Bear." ... The burly, bearded homeless guy strolls the streets wearing an ancient red jacket and eyepatch, often carrying a jug of spiked apple cider, the undisputed mayor of his neighborhood’s homeless contingent. And if you’ve ever tried to park your car at a meter while Bear’s on the street, you’ve seen this dude work his magic. You see, Bear is the anti-meter maid. And, now, for the first time outside of a malt liquor and canned-beans bonfire soiree that you really don’t want to attend, the secrets of his trade will be revealed. “A guy in a Mercedes taught me this trick,” he says, with the solemnity of a man imparting legend. “I used to walk up and down the block, feeding dimes into the meters, saving people from tickets.” It was a kind hustle. When the car's owner showed up, Bear was sure to let them know that he was the elf that had magically appeared to save their ass. And, you know, a dollar or three would be nice restitution. But that dude in the Mercedes cut the ten-cent overhead out of Bear’s operation. “He told me, man, you could do it with a popsicle stick,” says Bear. And the guy showed Bear how easy it is to feed a slender stick into a non-digital Cleveland meter, jiggle it around just so, and voila — the little hand jumped from the zero-minute mark to the two-hour mark. At this all-important point in his tale, Bear stops talking. A tiny man — maybe 4 feet tall — has emerged from an SUV across the street and is reaching up to drop coins into his meter. “That’s the shortest motherfucker I’ve ever seen,” Bear says, and then, yelling so the man can hear him: “Hey! You’re the shortest motherfucker I’ve ever seen!” The shortest motherfucker Bear's ever seen stares blankly at Bear. Bear gives the guy, inexplicably, a black power fist pump. And then he continues with his story — and how, sadly, popsicle sticks aren’t always that easy to come by. “You put a popsicle stick in there, it works just like that,” he says, clicking his fingers, and then pulling some coffee stirrers out of his pocket. “These Starbuck’s sticks -- they’re garbage, you really gotta jerk the meter off with them.” As a demonstration, he walks up to an expired meter where a car’s parked, takes one of the sticks, and executes a perfect jam-and-jiggle until the meter dings full. If this was an Olympic sport, even the German judge would’ve awarded Bear a 10, and possibly asked for his autograph. “I just saved this guy $35,” he says, pointing at the car. “He doesn’t owe me anything, but if he’s a nice guy … ” “It’s illegal,” he admits. “But if they don’t want to give money to the government, they could give it instead to a good homeless man.” -- Gus Garcia-Roberts


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