No Parking for Spoiled Brats
Melissa Bean Sterzick
Every weekend, I give my kids a list of chores to do. Yes, I’m that mean parent who expects her children to help out around the house, learn to scrub toilets, and clean up their own messes. I hope nobody calls Child Protective Services.
Some weekends my daughters look at the list, roll their eyes and get to work. Some weekends they cry and say, “It’s not fair!” Obviously, their concept of fairness is flawed, because they think it would be fair for their mother to do all the work. Some weekends they go beyond crying to stomping and sulking.
My reaction to their behavior varies, as well. I might smile and say, “The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll be finished.” Or, “Sorry, we can’t (insert fun activity here) until you’re done.” And there’s nobody’s favorite: “I love you too much to let you grow up thinking you don’t have to do your part.”
I have infrequently told them they are behaving selfishly – as opposed to calling them selfish outright, because labels aren’t allowed in modern parenting. I won’t tell you what I say when I really blow my top, but it happens that way, too.
When I feel discontented about this dynamic, I remind myself that I am the parent and kids don’t make the rules. That runs parallel to a theme lots of you have probably heard before: “Don’t let the inmates run the prison.”
What’s got me going on and on about my kids’ reaction to doing chores is an article I recently read about how residents in one U.S. city reacted to being given parking tickets. They got mad. Then they decided they really hated the private agency hired to enforce parking on their streets. Then they hated the agency so much that they made bumper stickers, and started websites and Facebook pages to share how much they hated it.
Then they re-elected a mayor who ran on a platform that included ending the contract with this agency. Meter readers were abused, angry letters were written, Facebookers were incensed in digital unity, and bumper stickers were imagined to be so much more important than the paint-busters they really are. The drama was soap operatic.
People who get tickets have negative feelings about those tickets. They might try to deny responsibility for the ticket by saying somebody else made a mistake or the rules were not clear. They might take responsibility for the mistake, but soften the blow to their psyches by vilifying the motives of the party responsible for applying the consequences.
An evil, money-hungry enforcement agency that preys on semi-innocent people is a nice beard for immaturity, absentmindedness and denial.
In order to be fair, I considered the residents’ issues with the agency. Residents said they were ticketed incorrectly and not given an opportunity to resolve the mistakes. They said the meters were hard to use. They said it wasn’t fair that enforcement officers parked illegally while handing out tickets. They said the enforcement agency just wanted to make a profit.
Those complaints could be legitimate, but they sound like the excuses of people who don’t know how the system works. How it works is this: You live in a city, you follow its parking rules. If you don’t follow the rules, you are ticketed and fined. Your city uses that fine to pay for whatever it chooses. And enforcement officers can park wherever they want, for crying out loud; this isn’t seventh grade.
The residents in this city had gotten used to parking illegally without consequences, because there had been no enforcement program in place for some time. Once they were again expected to follow the rules, they were angry and resentful. Then they banded together to renounce and defame the enforcement agency.
At any time throughout this drama-fest, the city and the agency could have used the same forums their detractors did to keep the conversation going in a more productive direction. If they hate you on Facebook, you should be on Facebook. If they form clubs, attend their meetings. Don’t let their dialogue take over – you have the law on your side.
I think dealing with spoiled parkers is a bit like managing children. Every day I climb the slippery slope of parenting, trying to validate my daughters’ feelings without letting them get away with murder.
It’s a similar slippery slope for municipalities trying to enforce parking laws, because certain individuals will use all the tools at their disposal to avoid responsibility, from finger-pointing to whining to tantrums. Just hold your ground.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is Parking Today’s proofreader, occasional writer and amateur parker. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.