Inanimate objects make even reasonable people crazy

June 26, 2012

We consider ourselves reasonable people. After all, we are not animals. We pride ourselves on being able to sit around, talk things out and come to workable solutions.

This would be a correct assumption if you were perusing a book on logic that was written by some ancient Greek philosopher, like Plato. But what these classical works don’t take into account and couldn’t foresee is an  infamous invention called the parking meter. Throw in a couple of meters that refuse to work or are listed as 30-minute slots and you’ve got an entire species that will go into such a rage they end up looking like they went 10 rounds with Oscar De Le Hoya.

There is something about dealing with an inanimate object that will make you fall down on your artificial knees and bang your head into the ground. It's sort of like saying I give up, just put me in a pair of sweats and I’ll live out my days watching wrestling on television.

Now I know parking meters do serve a useful purpose; after all, we do need the income to pay for vital services like someone picking up all the paper plates and french fries that are thrown next to empty trash cans. And living year-round in a resort area, we do have an advantage in that come May, we walk around with enough quarters in our pants to create an arch between our legs that is big enough to drive a an aircraft carrier through. Fortunately, out-of-towners write this off as the whole community having a severe case of hemorrhoids; either that or we have watched one too many John Wayne movies.

Now, I’ve seen a number of tourists hanging around these heads on a stick that we call meters, looking as if they were alien beings, which we know they are.  You've probably watched one of those movies where Rod Serling comes to Earth to lead the pod people, who are disguised as parking meters in an attempt to take over the planet. He works as a pharmacist, so we know it is possible.

One of the problems for tourists is the tiny microscopic information written on the meters, like the phone number of the meter office, which by the way is one number away from my own phone, which affords me the opportunity to listen to daily tirades from out-of-state visitors.

It seems that everyone knows how to use these things. You put a quarter in and a time will appear on the screen, letting you know when you should return to put more quarters in the meter. What befuddles most people who don’t live here is that as soon as that coin hits the meter, not only is your time up but you probably owe some back money from the last person.

I’ve seen people mash, cram and pound meters that won’t accept anything because some kid has stuck a bunch of sticky glue in the slot. I’ve seen people talk to, yell at and plead with meters; eventually a Good Samaritan comes along and pries their hands loose from around the neck of the parking meter.

But parking meters aren’t the only inanimate objects that we deal with today. All the electronic devices, iPods, iPads, smartphones, computers, etc.  are not only annoying, but most of them come with voices that sound exactly like your mother when she asked where you’ve been all night, who were you with and what did you do.

Fortunately, though, we live in an age and a country that provides complete healthcare coverage for any injury incurred while trying to put quarters in a parking meter, throwing a computer out a window, backing a car over the iPad and having a bad photo taken while trying to make it through a yellow light on Route 1. It’s good to be in America.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.

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