Maybe it was my out-of-state plates. Maybe he could see I was scouring the car for coins. I pulled up to a parking meter in downtown LA's Fashion District - southbound Maple before Olympic (map) - and this ensued:
Meter Hustler (approaching driver's window): Hey, you want one or two?
Me (in car, windows up, doors locked): What?
Meter Hustler: Do you want this meter for one hour or two?
Me: I don't need your help.
Meter Hustler: Hey, man, you afraid of me? I'm handicapped!
I played like I couldn't hear him. He eventually wandered off, but first he ranted to a shopowner about how he was just trying to help, what I jerk I was, et cetera, and so on.
Needless to say I left that spot, found parking elsewhere. It's a good thing I did. Here's how the scam works, according to an LADOT Parking Enforcement Officer:
We usually have this kind of trouble along 4th [near Skid Row] not this far down [past 9th]. Some of the homeless guys rig the meters so they won't work. Then they approach cars and ask for money so they can make the meter work. It's illegal to rig the meters but it's also illegal to park at a rigged meter, so we [LADOT] will write you a ticket. And if you refuse to pay the guy and park there anyway, you'll also come back to find your car completely scratched up.
Later I checked that meter. It read 0:00 (not FAIL) but I couldn't tell if it would accept coins. (And I wasn't about to spend my own cold hard money to find out.) The SUV parked there hadn't fed it, and scammer man was nowhere to be seen.
More about a year-old incident in this ongoing downtown Los Angeles parking meter scam from from Metroblogging LA.