Thursday, April 5, 2012

Of "Parking Wars" and Christianity

So I'm on vacation this week. Have I put the time to good use? Yes. I read the bible. I have made many blog entries. I went to church. I've prayed, fellowshipped, and encouraged. I also napped to refresh myself, read secular books (three, and threw them all out as either pabulum or sinful). I read MacArthur's Worship and Christ in Prophecy, too.

I also watched two and a half seasons of Parking Wars. LOL.

Usually one way I kick back is to find some dumb show and watch it for hours on end online until I'm saturated. Last summer break I found Big Bang Theory and watched all the clips on Youtube straight through. The vacation before that I found the Fuel Project's Know Your Enemy series and watched every video straight through. There are 77 of them. (That one wasn't a dumb show though.)

This vacation I found Parking Wars. I thought it was a new show, but then I saw that it has been on for 6 seasons. Hey, I'm a gal who thought Law & Order was new but it had been on for 19 years by the time I caught up with it.

Believe it or not there is usually an instructive message in this obsessive tv clip watching. Or so I tell myself. The advantage of watching all the available clips at once is that you get an overview and a flavor pretty quickly that you would not otherwise get by watching it week to week.

Of Parking Wars I was struck by several things. I watched all of season 3 and 5, all from season 1 that were available. That's about 75 clips. With at least three parking violators per show, sometimes more, plus bystanders, but let's stick with three for simplicity's sake, it means I watched the behavior of at least 225 violators, and at least 25 parking authority employees. Of the 225 violators, 224 of them ranted and raved and tried to escape accountability. Their violations were self-inflicted, self-aware and deliberately chosen. You don't accidentally park. "No stopping" but they stopped. "No parking" yet they parked. "Buses only" yet they were in a car. So the violations were clear. Yet in 224 or so cases, the violator made excuse after excuse, often at top volume and with profanity. Several were cruel to the Parking Authority person delivering the ticket or at the impound lot. They made fun of their teeth, hair, looks, height, and weight. They made rude gestures with their hands or genitals.

Of course, one can't be surprised at behavior like this from lost people, but many were wearing a cross. Some referred to the Lord or Jesus or God. The episode with violators attending a Baptist Church conference was disappointing. Several of the ladies who came out of the arena to find their car having a ticket on the windshield exclaimed with dismay, "We're good people! We are going to a church thing! Why you pickin' on us?" as if the rules don't apply to Jesus's people. One of the women held up the ticket and said 'people need Jesus', but she was referring to the Ticketing Agent, and his 'lack of mercy'. The church bus driver said, "This is crap!" And immediately retracted by saying "Crap isn't too spiritual," but in his next breath said again, "This is crap!"

I mourned the lost opportunity to respond to a mistake we make with grace and submission and apology. I was sad that there was apparently no one in any of the three cities featured who would apologize for violating the law. We are supposed to be ambassadors for His name. Don't people want to start the day and make it a goal of the day to not besmirch Jesus's name? Even the people who don't know Jesus behaved abominably. They were on camera, they knew they were on camera, they knew the episode was from a national television show, and still they jumped on cars, gave the finger, yelled, cursed, and stomped their hands or feet. A few attacked. If they would do that on camera, what would they do OFF camera?

I asked if there wasn't one person who would take responsibility and there was one. One. She was a lady who had parked in handicapped space at a drug store. Tickets in that space cost the violator $100. When she came out and saw the ticket agent putting the violation card on her windshield, she smiled and said something like "shucks" or "shoot." But she made it clear that she was saying that about herself. She apologized for doing something she knew was wrong. Explaining that she was a child of Jesus, she knew it was wrong and properly, she got caught. "I have to take responsibility for my actions. I have to follow the law. Jesus said to submit to the authorities, and I accept my penalty. Fortunately He has also blessed me with the means to pay my fine so I praise Him for that."

Well.

What the show taught me once again is that our actions are transparent. We can think we are making a logical argument but it's really a sinful bundle of excuses to avoid responsibility. Others see right through that. I have to remember to be of sterling character at all times, to follow the law, and to take responsibility if I am caught doing something wrong-immediately and openly.

As for me...I have two anecdotes to share. Back when I was just a few months saved, I got divorced. I had to go to Portland and make a visit to the divorce lawyer to finalize things. My lawyer was in a suite of condos atop the F.O Bailey Antiquarians shop, in a building known as the FO Bailey building. FO Bailey is the state of Maine's oldest business. I parked in the lot behind the building and looked at a sign that said FO Bailey. It was my mistake to misunderstand that the lot was only for the antiques shop and not at all for any of the other businesses upstairs. One thing the Parking Wars officers say episode after episode is to "READ THE SIGNS". Slow down and read the sign, they say. They're right. I didn't read the sign carefully enough.

I came out, freshly divorced, to find that my car had been towed.

The FO Bailey folks let me use their phone call the tow company to find out where my car ended up. It was at an impound lot down by the wharves. I had to call a friend of mine to drive down from where we lived, 17 miles and 45 minutes away, with cash, to drive me to get my car and pay for the tow. She did and I thank her to this day for that. That is a good friend.

I didn't have any of the long waits and problems that the customers on the show are shown to have, and it was not long before I had my car. She even found a $20 bill fluttering along the gutter and gave it to me. I resisted taking it, but she swore up and down that it really was fluttering along the ground, and no one else was in sight. So the day wasn't a total loss and I recouped some of my lost money from spent tow fees.

I hope that my behavior was respectful and polite that day. I remember my hands shaking while I dialed the number. I remember crying a bit while I was on the phone. I remember being a little fearful going to the cavernous garage at the wharf where some rough guys were hanging out, to get my car. But I think I was polite. I hope I didn't bring shame on myself or Jesus. I always felt bad that I misunderstood the sign and hadn't asked further inside whether it was OK to park there.

Later that year the antiques business moved to Yarmouth, citing parking problems as their main reason:
"F.O. Bailey Antiquarians, Maine's oldest auction business (established 1819), is moving from its Old Port location in Portland, Maine, to a building in nearby Falmouth, Maine. "The Old Port has changed a lot," Jack Piscopo told M.A.D. "There's no parking down here. At the new location we have a big parking lot." The Piscopos have sold the old building, a large handsome Italianate commercial building on Middle Street in Portland that came with their purchase of the auction house. They had previously converted most of the space to office condominiums (populated mainly by law firms), keeping only the downstairs portion for the auction and retail antiques operation."

It must have been a real hassle for the FO Bailey owners to deal with unobservant people like me who always parked in the lot that they're paying for. I was a contributor to their problem.

In another parking incident, I live on a street that was recently made one-way. People used to be able to enter my place by taking a left off Rt 98 to enter my driveway 20 feet down on Clover Ave. Twenty feet! Now I have to go 1/4 mile further down Rt 98, take a left, drive half a mile down Paoli, take a left onto Clover Ave Ext, take another left onto Clover, and go another 1/4 mile. You don't know how tempting it is to just zip in the wrong way. But I always resist. The sign says "Do Not Enter", not "Do Not Enter, except for Elizabeth because she lives so close to the end of the street." Nope. I carry a magnetic Jesus fish on my car, so that would be a poor witness. Also it is breaking the law. Also I'd feel horrible if I caused an accident. So I always resist the temptation.

I guess what I'm saying is:
  • Our behavior is an example of His grace to a lost and dying world. "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God." (2 Cor 5:20).
  • We are more transparent than we think we are and that is because we are supposed to be on display: "His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,' (Eph 3:10)
  • Jesus is watching. Even if no one else sees, He does. (Matthew 6:4b, 6:6b, 6:18b)

5 comments:

  1. Shouldn't we count it a good thing when we can rightly feel ashamed?

    2 Timothy 3:3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

    Our behavior is an indicator of what is really inside is it faith in Christ to live and walk uprightly or do we just live to please ourselves in the moment.

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    Replies
    1. Even parking attendants are at risk these days! Funny, but sad. I too watched all 77 "Know Your Enemy" videos released by Fuel Project. Disappointed when the series ended. JRed, from another "watchmen" blog, recommended the series. All good. Love the way our Lord uses people to reveal truths that are easily covered up by those in power.

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    2. Lin, Kim below said that the Fuel Project has another project coming. They're on Facebook. Stay tuned!

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  2. The Fuel Project has another project in the works so keep checking his Facebook page or the Fuel Project web page. I love the way the Holy Spirit changes us from people who want to curse, cuss and throw temper tantrums when we've done something wrong to people who hope they have acted politely and not brought shame to Jesus. I worry about the times though that I have not acted righteously and the person I spoke to on the "phone" did not know I was a follower of Christ. Jesus knows, though, and there have been times when I have not represented him well. Thank the Holy Spirit for convicting me that day and sent me to prayer for forgiveness. I pray I will never do that again. Good job, Elizabeth!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Kim! I didn't know about their new project. I can't wait! Your sentiments are well stated. I completely agree, the Spirit does change us. Me especially. Thank God for that!

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