We've all been there. You're parked at a meter that expired three minutes ago, and you're still a block away. By the time you arrive, sure enough, your dashboard is stamped with a flimsy paper slip. How do the city's parking enforcement officers always seem to get there before you do?

We've all been there. You're parked at a meter that expired three minutes ago, and you're still a block away. By the time you arrive, sure enough, your dashboard is stamped with a flimsy paper slip. How do the city's parking enforcement officers always seem to get there before you do?

The myth: Parking enforcement officers are notified-via GPS or other electronic means-when street meters are about to expire, prompting them to issue tickets at just the right moment.

The truth: Nope, says Rick Tilton, assistant director of the city's Department of Public Service. Each officer patrols a designated area by foot or on a bicycle. They look for cars parked at expired meters-as well as 60 other parking violations-and issue tickets. A total of 15 parking enforcement officers (plus three supervisors) are responsible for monitoring Downtown, the Short North, Victorian Village, Harrison West, German Village, the Brewery District and the off-campus area around Ohio State. They also patrol Grandview Avenue. City police officers also issue parking tickets within those areas but are solely responsible for ticketing cars in violation elsewhere. "When you go outside the patrol areas of parking enforcement officers, all tickets are issued by Columbus police," Tilton says.

Alas, that parking ticket you got just three minutes after the meter expired was purely a result of tardiness-and bad luck.