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12/18/99 The Merge Concept
11/19/99 Degrees of Sickness
10/24/99 The Finger Game
10/14/99 Learning Very Slowly
09/26/99 Serfs Up
09/04/99 Kindergarten
08/15/99 The Son Also Rises
08/06/99 Time to Listen

Serfs Up

Last week, a swell rolled in and feathered the coast with overhead surf. I arrived at dusk, so I had to hurry before darkness screwed everything up (I hear Jaws music once the sun goes down).

Parking my car, I noticed a machine in the middle of the parking lot. Approaching cautiously, I saw that it was a bloody parking meter! It wasn't really bloody, but it was a parking meter!

First, they paved the place; now they're charging for the "service." It's like one of those bums who washes your windshield at the intersection and expects you to pay for it afterward. Would my fellow surfers reduce themselves to pay a toll? No way. And neither would I. Besides, it was practically nighttime.

I squirmed into my wetsuit, descended the cliff, and enjoyed 45 minutes of nasal-plunging surf.

You'll never guess what I found on my windshield upon returning to my car: a scantily dressed blonde with a thing for scrawny white guys. No, it was a parking ticket for $84. Eighty-four dollars. Eighty-four dollars! Let's see. If I earned minimum wage, it would take roughly 12 hours to pay that ticket after taxes...

I had been parking in this lot since before it was a lot. Who had the right to charge me for it now? I looked for God's signature on the ticket but did not see it. My sense of injustice steamed like fresh dog duker.

Driving home, mad at myself, mad at the government, mad at Cher on the radio, I obsessed about how I might get out of the ticket... My car had been stolen by a gang of hoodlum surfers who needed a ride to the beach. Then I'd have to report the car stolen and deal with the police, which did NOT appeal to me. How about, I did buy a ticket and put it in the window, but it must have slipped into that crack where all my spare change goes. All I had to do was go back and find someone who had purchased -- no, it was dark. Maybe I'll just commit suicide. See if they get my money THEN...

Before my brain catches fire, allow me a rant.

Ahem.

What does it say to charge a citizen to park on public property? It strikes me as an arbitrary demand to empty our pockets before the passing guards. The moment I got that ticket, I went from surfer to serf, bound to the land and indebted to my lord. On the steps of city hall, an administrator is overlooking the city and thinking, They're all on my land, and it's bothering me...

As an explanation point, the machine's toll charge does not protect us from theft or vandalism, but merely grants the privilege of storing our vehicular property for a limited while. Does the government own all the unpurchased coast and reserve the right to charge us any time we stop to enjoy it?

 

If you try to walk
they'll tax the street
If you try to sit
they'll tax your seat...

Paid parking is an underhanded way of siphoning coins from people who already pay taxes on the money they earn and on the money they spend. The capital generated by these parking tickets is supposed to go back into the preservation of the coast, but recent water samples deny it. In the Santa Monica Bay, it's easy to spot surfers at night -- they're glowing.

I've watched this pave-and-charge scam up and down the coast for the past 10 years. California Street used to be a surfing paradise until someone recognized the volume of traffic. They cemented the shore, painted lines for cars, and installed that damn toll machine. So it goes.

Initially, the locals rebelled by breaking the machine so that no one could pay, but over time the revolution vanished like sand through a clenched fist. The nice thing about a law is that if it lasts long enough, people will come to accept it without question. The right to bear arms, for instance, comes from a time when we actually had reason to use them.

You won't find pay machines at beaches that are not frequented by surfers, which poses a final irony: the more attractive a beach is to surfers, the more likely it is for said beach to be squatted on by local government. The surf dictates which beaches are paved and which are left in peace. If the contour of the sea floor, which is itself several gazillion years older than the state of California, is shaped in such a way as to create surfable waves, the surrounding shore will be paved and surfers charged for the service.

Let's face it -- most surfers don't think about the underlying principles and are content to break the machines for a while, but the rest of us can't ignore a clear-cut example of how the landscape can degenerate permanently because of shortsighted decisions made today.

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.

 



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