I got a parking ticket the other day. I’m not denying that the meter had expired. It had. But, I was also the only car on that street. In fact, every time I have ever parked there (at least in the last 8 months) mine has been the only car there. Typically, I put a few coins in the meter even though I was fairly sure there was no parking enforcement. I knew this because there were several times that I didn’t, and nothing happened.
The only bistro to survive the shutdown was located right around the corner. Their exterior parklet took up the only two spaces in front, so it was either park around the corner, or not at all. So, every Saturday morning at 10 am, like clockwork, I parked my car, walked around the corner, got my croissant and coffee, and walked back. But this last Saturday I got a ticket.
Everybody is itching to get back to “normal” but with normal will come the mundane, the everyday, and of course, the irritating.
Over the last year we have gotten used to the idea of ToGo cocktails, having drinks on the sidewalk and getting liquor delivered to our front door. But none of that is normal. And most of that is likely to go away once we’ve normalized.
Just the other day I was at a little ethnic restaurant near my home. The dining room had maybe 5 of their 15 tables set for indoor dining. For some places it is not the overall capacity, but rather the physical proximity of tables that limits capacity, the jump from 25% to 50% didn’t double this restaurant’s seating ability, because there was no way to maintain six foot distancing at that capacity.
The owner was walking around with his cellphone held out. He seemed to be filming the building. Kneeling by the ice machine, he filmed the sink under the counter and then he did a general pan of the entire building.
“Are you making something for Facebook?” I asked, confident that since we were both in the same age demographic, he would know what I was talking about.
“Hang on just a second,” he said, holding up his hand. “This is kind of important.” He then bent down with his phone and filmed his floor drain.
Finally, he put his phone down and walked back over to the counter.
“Health Department inspection,” he said.
“Virtually?” I asked.
That can’t be a good idea, I thought. Not because of that restaurant specifically, but for all restaurants in general. Health Department inspections are usually thorough and the idea that during a pandemic they were being done virtually is a bit troubling. And not the kind of normal I think we’d want to keep.
Believe it or not, normal is playing by the rules. Following the law until the law changes. Normal is also having that normal enforced by people actually trained and tasked to do so. Not relying on a part time server to now enforce the vagaries of complex laws governing everything from public health to personal freedoms.
We’ve certainly learned over the last year that some people cannot be left to their own devices. And the number of these types of folks are probably a whole lot higher than we’d like to think. I suppose we humans have always known that. There those of us who will do the right thing just because it is the right thing to do. However, there are a disproportionate amount of us who won’t. Not because they dispute the “rightness” of the situation, but just because they don’t want to, or can’t be bothered. If we could fully trust our fellow humans to be good people then we wouldn’t need laws, courts, or police, not to mention lawyers and insurance.
English philosopher Thomas Hobbes famously wrote that human life without just government is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Only within the constraints of a “social contract” between the governors and the governed does mankind reach its full potential. Hobbes’ ideas influenced John Locke, and Locke influenced our own Thomas Jefferson.
So, it is with that idea that I will welcome back, in person Health Department inspections, radar speed traps and yes, even parking enforcement. Because it has become readily apparent that without them, we tend to lose our way.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
-Whatever the new normal is, I think I’m ready for it.
– “All my misfortunes come of having thought too well of my fellows,” once wrote Jean-Jacques Rousseau, author of “The Social Contract.”
-“It is not wisdom, but Authority that makes a law,” also wrote that Hobbes guy.
-I need to start keeping more change in my car. Or find a new coffee shop.