When destitute, one must be creative in seeking entertainment. One must be alert to the entertainment potential of your immediate surroundings, as the usual avenues of museums, movies and sporting events are now off-limits.
In yet-another heinous and spiteful contradiction, unemployment dictates that just as you are most in need of diversion, you will be least-able to afford it. Which is likely why I was so thrilled when my apartment complex announced it was going to repave its parking lot.
The announcement was sprinkled with the sort of zero-tolerance warnings currently in fashion. Many exclamation points were used.
"All cars must be removed from the parking by 6:00 AM! Those not in compliance will be towed at owner’s expense—no questions asked!" This was followed by one final declaration of authority: "No Exceptions!"
Being possessed of a cynical and skeptical nature, I snickered. The phrase ‘no exceptions’ practically guarantees there will be. It promises exceptions as surely as heathens slather their French fries with ketchup.
The very phrase flies in the face of our modern temperament. In America we are all exceptions. It goes hand in hand with our sixth sense—entitlement.
Yet childrearing experts (and even some parents) caution against this. They advise consistency in the enforcement of rules, and stress that when consequences and punishments are called for that they be carried out.
This because children (like their older and bigger counterparts) quickly learn to discern and tune out empty threats.
I positioned myself on the appointed morning at the window which overlooks the parking lot. Six AM found three cars still in the parking lot. Their mute defiance sent a chill down my spine. This was going to be, if not quite Shakespearian drama, better than a morning on milwaukeejobs.com.
The leader of the construction crew was on a cell phone, gesturing wildly at the offending vehicles. Soon, the complex’s lead maintenance man was on the scene, also speaking into a cell phone. Next was the property manager. She, too, was on a cell phone.
For all I knew, they were calling in their grocery orders to peapod.com. But this tempest of cellular activity seemed to indicate that decisive action was being taken, and being taken quickly. I was impressed.
This gave way to astonishment when a municipal police car arrived. A tall, balding cop with the requisite mustache and aviator shades exited the squad car, ticket book in hand. He was going to write tickets! Cars were going to be towed! Exceptions were going to be snuffed out like cigarettes!
My pulse raced. My head throbbed. Why hadn’t I brewed decaf instead?
A flatbed tow truck then entered the lot, picking its way through the maze of idled construction equipment. There was now a faint layer of perspiration on my palms. I was a-quiver with anticipation.
I was also premature.
At six forty-five, two of the exceptions were located. He stumbled out of the building in flip-flops, gym shorts and a ratty t-shirt. She followed a few minutes later in way-too-tight sweat pants, a way-too-tight top and a cell phone seemingly grafted to the side of her head.
The cop and the property manager spoke to each. Drama King impatiently jingled his key ring as he listened to their lecture. Drama Queen couldn’t even be bothered to turn off her phone. She would periodically pause the lecture with an upraised index finger as she monitored her call.
Afterwards, the royal couple sped-off petulantly in their respective vehicles. The cop spread his arms out in their wake, a non-verbal “What are you gonna do?”
There was one exception left.
Cell phones were again employed in a desperate search for the owner of the third car. Perhaps it had been stolen and left overnight. Perhaps it belonged to someone’s overnight hook-up. Perhaps the owner didn’t give a damn.
Whatever the reason, the car was finally loaded onto the flatbed and taken away. Work on the repaving began at seven-thirty sharp.