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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Feed me Seymour

I read recently that there is this problem of ne'er-do-wells breaking the law by belligerently and with vicious malice aforethought, going around and putting quarters in expired parking meters!
"Uh-oh", I muttered to myself as the three CPD squad cars approached.

As the cars screeched to a halt just in front of me, their blue lights flashing, I was rethinking my bravado of just minutes before and started trying to remember the phone number for any one of my lawyer friends.

Ten minutes ago, I told her to do it.

Ten minutes ago, I said, "go ahead and call the police."

Was I ready to go to jail for this "cause?"

I knew in my gut I was right. There was no ordinance in the Chicago municipal code that made it illegal to feed someone else's parking meter. It was just a big fat urban myth. Right?

And that's what I had been doing. Feeding the parking meters of complete strangers.
City parking meters and their attendant Parking Enforcement Aides—PEAs—are a major money making scheme. In many municipalities, there is a two-hour limit for how long a car can stay parked, and this limit is designed along egalitarian principles of taking turns. It's your turn, now it's my turn, now it's his turn. Nobody should be hogging parking spaces all day, and so they designed the parking meter to enforce this time-limit. Okay, if that's the case, then why do the parking meters require money? If the whole idea is really just to make people move along in a timely fashion, then you'd think that parking meters would be free, and would automatically reset themselves when the next car pulls into the space.

Anybody with half-a-brain understands the truth, however. Nobody in government really cares at all whether there are parking spaces available for the little people. You know all those schmucks without chauffeurs? It's all about the state making money. Scratch's all about the state taking money. That's what governments do. They take money. They take it this way with taxes; they take it that way with fees; they take it another way with fines. They take, take, take, and while they sometimes give some of that money back to this or that undeserving deadbeat with his hat out, mostly they keep what they've taken and split it up amongst themselves.

When you understand that lawbreakers feeding other people's meters rob the city of parking-fine revenue, then you'll understand the PEA's animosity. This is the same problem you'll sometimes see with those well-meaning but misguided drivers who flash their lights at you to let you know that there's a speed-trap ahead. If you don't get your justly deserved speeding ticket, you are stealing money from the state! And the busybody who helped you—all to feed his own overblown goody-two-shoes ego—is your co-conspirator.

This kind of behavior is as reprehensible as one cow warning another cow..."Hey do what that red tag on your ear means dontcha?" We're not supposed to interfere with the state's lawful harvesting of it's constituency.

I think this innate need to help keep our neighbors from suffering is probably genetic. Think about it. It's a common sight in zoos, magazines, and television to see the spectacle of primates "grooming" each other. They're picking parasites—fleas and ticks and lice—off of each other's bodies. You scratch my back; I scratch yours is the idea, and in the wild I guess that's okay, but when the parasites involved are of the two-legged variety, then my friend, you've crossed the line from mutual grooming to law-breaking.

Did you ever notice that whenever there's a budget crisis the state looks for ways to take more money from everyone they can? The idea of somehow making ends meet with the same fifty or sixty percent of your dollar they already took, by cutting expenses, is never even considered. Instead the people who make and enforce laws decide—amongst themselves—which of us cows is next up on the chopping block. Will it be those who live in the city or own property there? Will it be those who work in the city and have to park somewhere?, Perhaps it will be that perennial favorite, the rich. Yes, yes, the rich, because a discriminating tick wants to live on the healthiest monkey's back.

Did you ever notice that the share that the state keeps always goes up, while the share we the people get to keep always goes down? I'm talking percentages. For every dollar you earn, the state gets its cut, through taxes of every kind, fees of every kind, and finally—for the unwary and the unlucky—fines of every kind. Can we live on thirty percent? Twenty-five? I suspect that in the coming decade we may live to find out.

Did you really think law enforcement agencies—like your own cities' police department for instance—could afford to field the number of police officers that they do, if you were not fleeced, harvested, sucked dry? At some point—usually called the point of death—a parasite stops being merely parasitical and becomes instead a predator that moves along to new prey. Are we there yet? Not yet...

Just remember when you go around unlawfully feeding other people's meters that it's people like you who cause taxes and fees to go up. After all if the state doesn't get its pound of flesh from somebody in traffic court, they'll take it from you when you cash your paycheck, or from me when I renew my automobile licenses, or when all of us have to put twice as many quarters into that parking meter—that's only there to make selfish people share, who don't want to share.

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