Dear Parking Cop,
You ripped my heart out of my chest and tossed it -- bloody, beating, and trailed by ragged, wildly flailing veins and arteries -- to the bumpy asphalt next to your hard shiny boot. Here I am, going about my day, trying my best to be a decent person in this world, and with one push of a button on that heinous little ticket dispenser you carry around, you sank my perky optimism, which let me tell you takes a lot of work to maintain in this topsy turvy world.
I work hard, pay my taxes on time, say thank you to the cashier at the check out stand, hold doors open for the people behind me. I'm just another person trying to make it through this thing called life with a smidgen of grace and dignity. I am admittedly imperfect -- I have a weakness for hash browns and am way too attached to my cell phone -- but mostly, 96.4 percent of the time, I play by the rules. Because rules matter, and if we had no rules then our barely contained ids would run amok like tyrannical two year olds, and our prosperous and ordered society would crumble into anarchy like a street intersection in some undeveloped country where they don't believe it traffic lights. Agreed.
But dude, there was no parking at the bank. There never is. You know this.
The bank allows only two cars in the green zone next to the ATM, and those spots are always filled because we live among millions of people and we all gotta feed the hungry machine on a regular basis or we starve. So really, can you blame me if I pulled in my little hybrid vehicle for a mere two minutes in the red with the emergency lights flashing? That's all the time it took since my bank machine has the creepy ability to predict what I want to do, which is to deposit my paycheck and have a receipt emailed to me. Task completed, triumphant, I turned around.
There you were, mad dogging me. For a split second, I let myself believe that I averted disaster just in time, that you would bestow mercy and spare me the bludgeon.
You were waiting to give me the ticket in person, so that you can watch the last vestiges of hope detonate and implode over my face. Your gaze expressionless, you handed me the ticket --$58.12, without batting an eye.
Clearly you had been waiting around the corner all along to nab your next hapless victim. Clearly you watched me get out of my car, put my blinkers on, and walk 10 feet to the ATM.
Dear parking cop, I am writing to you because I am worried about you. You are in grave danger of losing your humanity. This is an intervention.
Yes, you have a badge but does that mean you lose all sense of fairness and compassion for your fellow man?
Dear parking cop, I assume you make middle class wages, and that you understand that $58.12 hurts for 99 percent of us out there. For some people, it's an entire day's wage.
Yes, it's the law, but there comes a point when certain laws go too far.
Consider this -- over the last six years in Los Angeles, the average parking fine has increased almost 75 percent to a whopping $61, generating annual revenues of over $150 million for the City of Angels.
"The city looks at its citizens as human ATM's," according to Jay Beeber from the Parking Reform Working Group, a grassroots effort to reform parking policies in LA.
Oh, the irony. I stop by my ATM, only to be tapped into as a human ATM by my local government.
Dear parking cop, if we let rules that don't make sense override over our own moral compass, then we are all just robots, which they may as well deploy, since you're already acting like one.
If you had just given me a chance, everything would have been different. High fives would have been exchanged. Your gesture of helping a fellow citizen would have given you a glow of satisfaction that your family would remark on that night. I would have began writing a piece about the kindness of strangers.
Happily ever after. But no.
Instead I hereby issue YOU a ticket, sir, for inhumanity. The citation states the violation: you have become a cog in the machine and lost perspective of your mission on this earth which is to be fair and kind to your fellow human beings. The fine -- which you have 21 days to pay -- is this: You must work extra hard to search your soul for that expansiveness you had as a boy, when you were blown away with joy at the sight of the moon, when you shared your M&M's with your classmates, when you waved to other drivers from the back window of the family station wagon, delighted when people waved back.
Hurry, before it's too late.