Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

As a political junky, I was beginning to despair that there were no defining issues in this year’s County Board race. People here seem to be reasonably satisfied with the direction our government has taken over the last several years, and they should be.

I couldn’t see the Republican candidates for County Board gaining much traction in the race.

That was until last Saturday’s farmers market in front of the Arlington County Courthouse and (ominously) Jail. There I found, to my dismay, what will be my battle cry in the fall election campaign: Rid Arlington Of Its Parking Nazis!

Before I am accused of being Arlington’s Don Imus, let me hurry to say that I do not believe Arlington parking meter attendants are really Nazis. The gentleman with whom I had the disagreement was a perfectly pleasant and polite gentleman. I was immediately reminded of Hannah Arendt’s haunting phrase, “the banality of evil.” (Look it up.)

The day started out beautifully. The weather was perfect, the farmers market bustling, the produce and flowers were very inviting. I found a parking place immediately (a minor miracle at ten-twenty) and the meter still had thirty four minutes left to go! Couldn’t be better than that.

I checked my watch, and figured that I would have to be back at ten-fifty-four sharp. No problem.

I strolled around the market, picked up some great tasting tomatoes, three pints of berries, two peaches, basil, some salad greens, and topped off the shopping with a pint of plain whole yogurt, and a ball of exquisite mozzarella, a must for a visit to the market.

I arrived back at the car, just a few steps from the mozzarella stand, at precisely 10:54. To my amazement, there was a green Arlington County parking ticket on my window! True, the meter was blinking, but it was now 10:55, and it was supposed to be blinking.

Then I saw the parking attendant just a couple of meters away, and struck up a conversation with him. I politely told him about the time on the meter when I had parked the car, and exactly when I had returned. I pointed out that his ticket was time stamped at 10:52 and that the meter could not have expired by then, if the meter was properly running.

He politely told me that I was all wet, that the meter had expired, that he had no reason to believe that the meter was defective, and that if I did not like it I could contest the ticket right across the street at the courthouse.

I went back to my car fuming. How could this servant of the public not take me at my word, apologize for his overzealousness, and tear up my ticket?

Then, after cooling down slightly, I realized that even if I had been a little off in my timing, the time on the ticket strongly suggested that he had stood before the meter for a couple of minutes waiting for it to turn to zero minutes. Talk about the banality of evil!

So now get ready Mary Hynes, Walter Tejada, Mike McMenamin, and Joe Warren; here I come.

I am designing the banners and lawn signs, preparing the bumper strips, organizing every precinct, setting up a table at the county fair, and yes – even asking for a booth at the Arlington farmers market. And I will demand answers and action!

We finally have a cause worth fighting for in the November election.