Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Zihuatanejo and the Grant Street Parking Garage Dilemma

I can't help it -- I hope this sounds like excitement and not boasting: my almost-bride and I have selected Zihuatanejo, Mexico for the site of our forthcoming seven-night honeymoon. Neither of us has seen the Pacific, so that's how we started our search, and when the word Zihuatanejo sprung up in one of our searches, it was a sealed deal. Anyone who has seen the final five minutes of The Shawshank Redemption will understand. Here are the final lines of the script:

RED: I find I am so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it is the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain... I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.

And here's a map, followed by a picture of where we're staying. I'll let you just imagine the view:

Then the other day my friend and fellow former-truth-seeker (he's engaged now), Brian D., came into my office telling the story of what went down in the parking garage. Our parking garage, like all parking garages, seems poorly designed. I say seems because there really is no way around the awkwardness--cars aren't as agile as gazelles, after all. Brian's fiancee was driving, and (as usual, they both admitted), she decided to turn the wrong way in the parking garage in order to avoid having to follow the traffic signs and drive all the way around the perimeter of the large garage. To get to the 5th floor (I've odometered it) involves about .7 miles worth of driving, which can be cut to about .3 if one "cheats" all the way up. On their way up, they came face-to-face with another surprised driver who had driven the proper way up the garage and gave them a "WTF?" look through his windshield.

Low and behold (what does that phrase mean, Michael?): as Brian and his future wife exit the parking garage, the man accosts them: "Hey, were you the one turning the wrong way in the garage?--you could've called an accident, you know?"

Brian's driver/fiancee: "Oh, yeah--sorry."
Angry man: "Well, are you above the law?"
Brian's driver: "It's just a parking garage."
Angry man: "Oh, so--rules don't apply there?"
Brian: "You wanna fight, man?--let's go."
Angry man: (walks away scoffing)
Brian: "See you later, Captain Democracy."

Obviously, something went wrong here among some human beings. There is no danger in driving against the traffic signs in the parking garage--I want to emphasize that. No one will get hurt, and it is very unlikely that anyone's vehicle will get scratched, dented, or dinged. And yet, my sympathy is split here. I take the long way up in the garage every day -- though I have cheated in this garage in the past.

I love this issue because it seems right out of a Platonic dialogue to me. If you aren't Brian, you'll probably see that Angry man makes an interesting point: a rule is a rule, after all. And if Brian and his driver can go the wrong way, why can't everyone else?--and what would happen if we all did? Brian's "argument" is not coherent; so let's consider his fiancee's: "It's just a parking garage." She means to imply that there is no danger. Also a good point.

So ultimately the question is: Is this angry exchange avoidable?--or is it the product of bad laws? Or bad architecture? Is it institutional? Is Brian's driver at fault? Brian? The Angry driver man? I have a little aphorism that I made up not long ago: "Good people love to break bad laws, and bad people love to break good laws." Take my word for it: Brian and his future-wife are not bad people...

So what's the story here?


Richard said...

Hm, this doesn't seem to me a question of breaking "bad" rules, but of what works, or what has been decided will be the way something works (which of course is encoded into the rules). You're right that it's only a parking garage and that no one is likely to get hurt (although wrong, I would think, about the possibility of car damage, for what that's worth), but if, in fact, more people did that on a regular basis, the garage wouldn't "work".

On the other hand, the other guy's anger has more to do with him than with your friends' (minor) infraction.

Also, I believe it's "lo and behold"--which may make it clearer what it means, though it's largely a filler phrase.

Casey said...

Ah -- "Lo!--over yonder, etc."

Makes much better sense.


Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with Brian.

Monica said...

I don't blame angry driver man for being irritated, but there was no reason to be upset. I've made that illegal turn in the garage more than a few times myself, and though I totally understand if someone sits in their vehicle and flips me off, I would be angry if I were accosted. Who is angry driver man, the keeper of the parking garage laws? Let it go. It was not personal.

Wishydig said...

He's the same guy that made sure the teacher knew that recess had run 6 minutes over.

You look at him and smile for about 4 seconds after he's done ranting. You just stare silently. Comfortably. Then say "okay thank you" and walk away because you've also decided which rules to care about. And he's not changing your mind so why bother trying to change his.

Casey said...

Michael, do you think "okay, thank you" works better than "See you later, Captain Democracy?"

I love that.