They trip around town with their hazard lights blinking and their electronic notepads. They lurk and wait and watch minutes tick away, hoping for expired meters, for street cleaning Tuesdays and tires that aren't curbed, for hazard lights in drop-off zones that flash for five minutes two seconds, three seconds, four...
And I wonder what kind of person decides to take these jobs. Like hall monitors that police schoolyards and other novice disciplinarians. I wonder what kinds of people delight in other's absent-mindedness, misfortune and mistakes. Bullies, they must be. The kind of bully that wears a uniform to justify his need to bust...
Or not. Maybe there's no delight at all. No complex. Maybe it's just work. A job with a paycheck, decent 401k package and benefits.
"Do not park here between the hours of 10-12."
"Permit only after 6pm."
"Curb your tires OR ELSE!"
Out of order, the meter blinks, and when it does, I wonder what will happen when it's fixed and I'm still parked here. Will I get ticketed? Yes? No? Either way would be right. Either way would be wrong.
"Some things ARE Black and white," they say, but not even parking meters are that simple.
I write myself a ticket, then, place it on my windshield. Because the only thing different between the officer and the driver is the flashing light on the roof. We're all illegally parked. We're all speeding on the highway, changing lanes at intersections, bumpers occasionally in the red. We're all pretending we don't notice what hypocrites we are, standing tall in our masturbative meanderings, cursing and shaking our fists at the same faces we will fawn all over tomorrow unless told otherwise by moss-gathering stones with smiley faced emoticons and avatars in support of whatever cause is trendy this month. We are lizards chasing tails that fall off and grow back and fall off and grow back again and we have no idea how ridiculous we look.
We are passengers even as drivers, surrounded by windows and everyone is watching. So how can anyone possibly claim authority? Has hypocrisy become so mundane it isn't even acknowledged?
Somehow in our rush to blow whistles on the ignorant and uninformed, the perverted and perverse, we have forgotten that bullying "the bully" is still bullying. That it has always been against the law to shoot the bad guy. That blame is symbiotic with guilt. That fighting mean with mean is what we scold our children for doing and yet, here we are, pressing our faces against the glass, neener neener.
We are uniform in our need to finger-point and call out and differentiate "good" from "bad" forgetting that not everyone is right handed. Or rather, not everyone is left.
We all carry in our pockets the same change, if only we could find it within ourselves to fill each other's meters. Instead we feel relief when the ticket on the windshield is not on our car, a missed opportunity to empathize, to step out of our shadows for two seconds. Instead we congratulate ourselves for our meanness because "some people deserve to be hated." But hate is just an entitled way of being afraid.
Growing up, my mother always said, when you point your finger at someone, three fingers point back at you... Yes. And just like tickets get handed out one at a time, it is the parking enforcer who collects the greatest debt.
There's change in our pockets.
Meanwhile, the meter maid holds court, waiting for the 00:00 to blink, so she can scribble our mishaps onto her pad, so she can justly do her job.
"Don't run in the hallway!"
"Don't forget to feed your meter."
"Curb your wheels."
But it's impossible not to run when you're being chased, and all of us, at some point, lose track of time, forget to read the directions.