Returning to your car to find a ticket tucked under the wiper sucks. So imagine how you'd feel finding a six square foot block of yellow plastic splayed across your windshield, rendering it impossible to see a thing.
The people who made this contraption, called the Barnacle, think you'd feel pretty OK—at least compared to how you'd feel finding one of those infernal boots clamped to the wheel. "With a boot, even in the best case scenario, it's an hour before someone can come and remove it," says Kevin Dougherty, president of Barnacle Parking Enforcement.
Fair enough. But still. A barnacle?
Dougherty developed the Barnacle to overcome all the horrible things about the wheel clamps, also known as a wheel boot, a Denver boot, and any combination of expletives. Parking enforcement types typically deploy them against scofflaws with piles of unpaid tickets. But they're almost as big a hassle for them as they are for you. I mean, have you ever carried one? They're also tricky to install.
The Barnacle is a breeze in comparison, weighing in at under 20 pounds. Simply unfold it and stick it on the windshield, aligning it to obscure forward vision. Then use the built-in pump to draw air from the suction cups, creating a vacuum. The integrated GPS signals an alarm if the car moves, alerting Johnny Law to your attempted escape.
At this point, you've got two options: Call the authorities and have them come take your money and release the car, or make a payment over the phone in exchange for the code needed to release the damn thing. You've got 24 hours to return it, and don't even think about affixing it to someone else's car. The pump is locked into the tough high-impact ABS plastic body.
Yes, there is a third option: Ignore the alarm, stick your head out the window, and hit the gas. "Ah yes, the Ace Ventura reference," says Dougherty. "We get that a lot." But it's almost impossible to drive that way. It's also illegal, and don't you have enough problems already?
Forget about prying the Barnacle off. The suction is so strong—about 700 pounds—you'd pull the windshield out. A security ring prevents getting a crow bar or anything else under it.
Parking officials in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, are giving the Barnacle a try. Dougherty sent each city a few of them, and he's convinced everyone—drivers included—will prefer it to the boot. (We've reached out to officials in each city, and will update the article with their thoughts when they reply.)
Of course, the hassle of waiting to get a boot removed is part of the deterrent. If the Barnacle is relatively easy for drivers to yank off after calling in a payment, you can imagine authorities increasing fines to maintain that deterrent. And if they're easier to apply, you can see cities using them more often to boost revenue.
Such criticisms apply to all enforcement measures. Used correctly, they can make parking fairer, and keep the roads safer. Used too widely, they can make people miserable. All the more reason to eliminate parking altogether. But that's another story.