Whenever someone is behaving like a total asshat, I find myself reaching for my compassion. When someone feels that rules are more important than human beings, I have to restrain myself from quoting some ancient wisdom at them. I do believe in playing by the rules. I also believe that compassion has to triumph, or we are all doomed. Rules, laws and traditions should all have enough flexibility to allow people to live with them and not under them. And those people who are in love with the rules? They are suffering.
I found myself in a very odd situation recently. I was running late to meet a friend for coffee. Trying to get to Tanner’s as quickly as I could, I pulled down the street and saw what looked to be a parking place. As I was parking, I noticed it was a bit short, but just a bit. The car in front was taking up a touch too much room, and the driveway behind me was filled with an enormous RV with parking blocks on the wheels. Ok, I thought, I’m a bit over, but no one is going to be using that driveway anyway. And if they did, it would be effortless to get past my car – I was only about 20% over the edge.
When I got back, I was appalled to find a ticket on my windshield, and the owner of the RV our washing it down, a tiny dog running around the yard next to him. “Wow!” I exclaimed, ” I cannot believe the police gave me a ticket for blocking the driveway.” I turned towards him. “This driveway can’t even be used as a driveway – it’s a storage space.”
“That DOESN’T matter!” He crowed with delight, and continued soaking the over-sized vehicle.
I got in my car and sat for a moment. It dawned on me that if he wasn’t using his driveway as a driveway, the car parked in front of me- the car carefully placed so that whoever parked behind it would have to leave a bit of bumper in the driveway – must be his.
It was a set-up. I looked again at the ticket and figured that was a couple of bags of groceries my kids would have to live without. But why?
What kind of person would get so much pleasure out of getting someone a parking ticket? Clearly he had called the police to report that someone else (for surely I am one of hundreds) had fallen for his trap, and they needed to come and write a ticket.
One of the things I have noticed over the years about the CCPD – They are not ticket happy. As a former resident of Santa Monica (and employee in West Hollywood) the CCPD leaves fewer tickets than expected, and I have even known them to err on the side of mercy – not standard operating procedure.
So that leaves the guy with the squeaky-clean RV, who seems to have such an impoverished sense of pleasure that he delights in getting people parking tickets. Hmmmmm- Raised by ruler-wielding nuns? Spent too much time in military service? Family full of evangelical Bible-quoters? (The Bible is so filled with contradictory admonishments, just reading it through and trying to reconcile it all could strain a few synapses.) What could account for his taking the time and the trouble to park a car just so that anyone trying to park behind it fell into a position that was, just barely, technically ticket-worthy?
I thought about leaving a loaf of chocolate-chip banana bread on his doorstep, but realized he might decide it was poisoned and throw it out without tasting it. I thought about recruiting a troop of women to dance on his lawn, but concluded, sadly, that he would probably be more annoyed about people stepping on his grass than enjoy the beautiful dancers. I thought about going back there and just asking him why this was fun for him. But I talked myself out of that too.
Sometimes compassion is just walking away- not in anger, or with any sense of slight or thirst for revenge. As the Bible says – don’t waste oxygen talking to an asshat (ok, I’m paraphrasing here) it doth not profit.
I took the time to relish a few of the things I do the give me happiness – reading poetry, talking with friends, listening to music, cooking, singing. I just felt sad for him. Some people cannot allow themselves to have pleasure. For some, fun is only about watching someone else suffer. That is because these are people who have suffered so much, their sense of pleasure died, and their only sweetness is in sour grapes. It has cost them much, much more than the price of a couple of bags of groceries.
So however you feel about rules and fools, if you are running late trying to get to Tanner’s, do not assume that that is a parking space. It’s cleverly disguised meditation on life.