Most of the time, we hear about the Philadelphia Parking Authority for terrible reasons, like its ruthless regulation of the parking rules it seems its own employees fail to understand, sexual harassment issues, nepotism or its odd usage of police horses. But a few rare times, the agency can surprise you, in a good way. Onto the tale of Josh Cornfield.
Cornfield, the New Jersey news editor for the Associated Press, was ready to deal with the legendarily difficult agency Thursday night in Northern Liberties. His sister had just given birth to twins Wednesday morning, and somebody needed to watch her and her husband’s other child while they stayed in the hospital. So Cornfield was assigned babysitting duties of his niece, Amelia.
He searched for a parking space with no limitations and had no luck. It was past 7 p.m. and anyone who’s tried to park in the neighborhood knows the closer you get to nightfall the farther you get from finding a spot anywhere near your destination. So Cornfield settled his Nissan Altima into a spot that had two-hour parking either until 10 or midnight; he can’t recall which. Either way, he knew he would need to be in the neighborhood longer than two hours and would probably get ticketed. Still, Cornfield had an idea.
“I figured I might as well whip out the reporter’s notebook and take out a page,” he said, “and beg for them to cut me a break.”
He tucked the note inside the windshield, roughly where a ticket would go. It read, “Dear kind PPA officer: My sister just delivered twins and I am babysitting her younger daughter. They live on 4th Street. Hope you can let me slide on two-hour limit.”
The next morning, as Cornfield walked back to his car, he saw a ticket on the windshield. It was what he expected. But the closer he got, the more he realized the envelope was something else.
It read, simply, “This is not a ticket. 1st congrats to your sister. 2nd get your car inspected.”
“I sort of lit up,” Cornfield said, “and saw it was someone being nice and showing some humanity.”
The PPA did not respond to an interview request.
Cornfield went to work that morning at the AP’s Center City office, making sure to park in a paid lot where the PPA wouldn’t patrol and ticket him for his late inspection. Afterwards, he immediately dropped his Altima off at the dealer.
“And it passed inspection,” Cornfield said, “with flying colors.”