head, heart, hands: the price of illegal parking

So I would say almost the entire time I’ve been writing to you this year, I’ve tried to be as honest with you as possible. If I’m not, I will at some point expose myself as a liar, and you’ll end up not reading, and then I’m wasting a good hour of my life doing something that no one will see. I’ll write in my journal or play guitar or practice my interpretative dance moves instead. My hope is authenticity will keep you reading.

All of this to say that I have a doozie for you this week.

Walker Apartments were I am the RD is on the corner of 7th and Peach Streets, and right across from me is a parking deck. Now, I already have parking on 5th street, but days like we had last week with driving rain make the deck significantly more appealing. So usually I pick the deck over my own spot. While this seems like a perfect solution, as it normally is with life, there is a catch – to not have to pay, I can only leave the deck at night, typically past 9, and on the weekends. Most of the time that’s not a problem, but this Friday I needed to leave to get something at the mall and then some lunch.

For each day I’m in there, I am supposed to pay $10, unless I don’t have a ticket, then in which case it’s only $10 maximum. Most of the time (and here’s where the transparency and honesty comes in) I just never seem to be able to find my ticket. Sure, occasionally I may find it in a cup holder 10 seconds after I leave, but how awkward is it to go back and say you found it?

Friday was different though. I felt guilty. I have one of those consciences that will wake me up in the middle of the night. There were nights when I was younger that I would wake up my parents to tell them something I’d done that day that I completely got away with. Weird, I know.

So on this Friday, I decided to give $20. I couldn’t remember if it was quite the full amount, but hey, $20 and I have a clear conscience and I don’t have to think another thing of it. As I approached the man at the gate I felt nervous. No joke. As if he was going to yell at me for giving him what I was supposed to. Well, I explained my dilemma:

“Good morning sir. Oh, I’m doing well! Yes, see, here’s the problem: I looked all over for my card, and I just couldn’t find it. I know I’ve been in here for two days, so here’s $20 dollars.”

The man looked at me strangely, as if it was going to be a problem to do, which he assured me it wouldn’t be. Soon, he looks at me and says “well, hey, I’ll let you out for $5”, gives me $15 dollars change, and manually lets me out.

I win.

Oh no. I lost. I lost so badly. I looked up to Heaven and said “Okay, God, you win”, especially after the man in the booth then said to me “Remember that I let you out of here for $5”. Nothing perpetuates a guilty feeling quite so well as getting away with a scheme better than you thought. I thought I was doing the right thing and had no satisfaction.

Nothing perpetuates a guilty feeling quite so well as trying just to eliminate a guilty feeling.



  1. I considered not commenting, but I just want to say “Ew!”

    You “lost so badly?” Give me a break. The man was obviously impressed by your honesty and wanted to reward kindness with kindness. That’s great! You DO win. And the man wins too. I was more than a little taken aback when I saw that your perspective of this event took a self-demoralizing turn. To me, the interaction between you and parking-man is an example of mutual goodness in a world where simple trust is usually overlooked.

    It’s totally legitimate for you to intend to pay the correct amount for the sake of a clean conscience, a.k.a. for the sake of doing the right thing. To imagine that you “lose” and that God, on the other hand, wins, because you held onto your guilty feeling needlessly, well that’s just….ew.

    Forgive my rant. Let’s still chat soon!


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