Azerbaijani Meter Maids: Not Lovely, Nor Named Rita
There are no parking meters here in Azerbaijan, that I know of. Certainly not here in Lənkəran. There’s barely even a sign that might indicate whether you can park somewhere or not. Things that might deter you from parking somewhere, like a yellow-painted curb or a fire hydrant, don’t exist either. Instead, parking on the street introduces you to the surprising Azerbaijani version of the Meter Maid.
One of the popular professions of what appear to be poorer 60-year-old men happens to be that of the street parking watcher. You park in his zone, area, turf, sector, and then you are treated to all the cushy benefits. He’ll watch your car to make sure it survives untouched by a wild driver. If you ask politely, he might even try to keep your parking spot for you if you need to drive off for a quick minute. And as you are leaving the parking spot, he’ll even become de facto traffic cop and hold up other drivers while you execute your three-point turn out of the parallel slot. All this service for the nifty price of 20 qəpik. Maybe if you park there all day, you’ll be a little more generous and hand over 40-50 qəpik.
I’ve been watching this informal system for the past year, and it strikes me as just a human-shaped parking meter. And this one doesn’t charge by the hour, but just by the car. I think the only reason I’m actually interested in this phenomenon, however, is how completely and utterly unnecessary it feels. It really seems like someone is pulling a fast one on you when a random old guy comes up to you and asks for 20 qəpik when you get into the car to drive off. Without this ‘service’, I’m fairly certain that the parking situation would remain the same. You’d just have one less person helping you back into that tight squeeze of a parking spot. I’m also pretty sure that those guys aren’t registering their ‘business’ with the local authorities.