Tuesday, February 11, 2003

I Need to Calm Down 

I mean, I know it might be the end of the world and everything, but I really need to calm down. I usually park right across the street from the coffeehouse. I happened to glance up from my happy work serving the brown brew, and there, through our big glass window, I saw the meter maid reading my car's license plate and writing in her ticket book. I grabbed my keys and dashed out and across the street. A Sewrage and Water Board workman was talking and flirting with the meter maid, and he said to me, "You're too late. She's already through with the ticket." The meter maid was a pretty, young black woman, and the workman was a thick, good-looking black man, who seemed to be taking advantage of his unexpected luck in running into a pretty meter maid. "I don't want the ticket," I said, as I drove off.

I found a parking spot around the corner, and seething, I parked and strode off to find that meter maid, dammit. In the back of my mind, I thought: "This is what crazy people do, don't do this. Leave the meter maid alone." But I couldn't stop myself. I felt righteous. I found her strolling innocently enough down the street, scanning the cars and looking for more tickets to write. I had parked in a two-hour parking zone, but I arrive at work at 6a.m. every morning to get the coffeeshop ready to open at 7a.m., and I can't very well park around the block, because it isn't safe that early, when it is still dark, and I might get shot or mugged. Sometimes I forget to move my car, later in the morning. Sometimes I don't need to move it, because the meter maids disappear for weeks at a time, and I am not punished for parking next to where I work. But then a worm hole must open up or something because all of a sudden they are back.

When I caught up with the meter maid, I asked her if the ticket she wrote for me was going to go through, and she said yes. I said it wasn't fair, because I work where I park, and she seems to be targeting the area, because this was the third ticket in a week and a half that I've gotten, and they are thieves, I told her, writing tickets on the backs of the working poor in this city. Truth is, I doubt that they discriminate between economic divisions, but it felt good saying it. I said, "I moved my car, isn't that what you want." That's what really got me. Even though I moved my car, I'm still ticketed. Wouldn't it be the decent thing for her to do, to say, "Hey, she moved her car; that's what we wanted." But no, the reality is she has a quota to meet, and I'm sure that once she starts a ticket, tough shit for that person, because she has been instructed to complete the paperwork, wether the person accepts the ticket or not. I was now looking at three $15 tickets, a total of $45. Once you receive three tickets, and they aren't paid, they can boot your car, and your fines go up.

The meter maid was not sympathetic to my plight, and she looked at me stalking her down the street with a mixture of fear and stubborn resistance. But I was stubborn too, and I asked to speak to her supervisor. She placed a call to her on her portable phone, and if I wanted to talk to the supervisor, I had to continue to follow her and wait for the supervisor to call back, which I did. I watched her write another ticket for a car parked facing the wrong way, and then the owner came out of this really cool comic book shop, and cursed and grabbed the ticket off of his windshield, and looked at me standing there with my arms folded while the meter maid jotted something in her ticket book. He and I exchanged glances and commiserated silently together in bemused misery, if there is such a thing, for a few brief seconds there. I recognized him as a good-looking bald guy, youngish, who occasionally comes for coffee. I continued to follow the meter maid, and she looked at me and said, "You have any paper, 'cause she didn't call back. I'll write the number down for you." I didn't have any paper, so I borrowed her pen, and wrote the number on the inside of my hand. "I'm not mad at you," I said, glancing at her face, looking for signs of traumatization by me. I was already feeling guilty. "I'm mad at the system", I told her.

Then a little later, my friend Rosebud and I went for a walk, after he showed me some more kindness in his apartment. First we walked back up to the coffeeshop, because I had forgotten my coat. I saw some people I knew who were clients of mine when I worked in a psycho-social center in the 1980's. One guy was acitvely hallucinating. I knew this because he said strange things to me about still working the magic in his brain, and that's how he made a living. I told him I believe in magic also. I felt reasonably happy all of a sudden. I told my afternoon crew that they were a beautiful crew, but they just looked at me like "Huh?" I guess they weren't used to my being so effusive with my feelings. I wanted to embrace all three of them suddenly, but luckily I stopped myself. After chatting for a while with one of my ex-clients, I said good-by to them and left. As I walked out, I noticed the guy who makes a living from magic in his brain was talking into his cell phone like it was a walkie- talkie. I said, "Bye, bye , see you." He smiled and waved sweetly, interrupting the conversation he was having with his cell phone. I remember his face from the p/s center.

Rosebud and I walked to the levee, once again enjoying the architecturally rich heritage of our crescent city. At the river, we marvelled at the beautiful winter landscape of bare trees with intricate tangles of branches. We encountered a small flock of green parrots on a power wire. They were jockying for space on that wire as though they were most annoyed with each other. We wondered at the symbolic significanse of seeing a flock of parrots. I suggester the jester. I found a tiny, delicate feather, that I picked up and kept. "I think I sprouted a small wing", I said. My friend found a large, rusty nut. "Oh, oh", he said, "Does this mean I'm screwed, that I'm a nut?" I asked him how many sides to the nut, and there were six sides. He's been noticing that when he buys two certain items at the coffeeshop, and he pays with a $10, the change is always 666. Then we briefly discussed that 666 equals 9 when added together, and I said that 9 represented a kind of spiritual perfection, though there is no such thing as perfection, really. I suggested that in the midst of all of this chaos right now, we could still achieve the spiritual "perfection" of a nine. He's fascinated with the number 9 right now.