T’was the last day of May. The day started with the revelation that the car we had parked outside overnight was gone. It had been towed away overnight because a parking permit was not visible. I need to take this moment to assure you about the permit. You see, the pater accompanied us to place the permit in the car.
How can I be so sure? For one, when we leave the house, the pater locks the door. By that simple statement what I mean is that he hangs on the doorknob and pushes and thumps the door till I can hear it howl in anguish, and confirms that the door is indeed locked.
So, when the pater checks the permit in the car, the permit is in the car. And can be seen from every angle. With torch light or without.
Of course we were flummoxed to find the car missing the next morning. A few minutes later, there we were in the towing company’s yard. We went in, and the fellow behind the counter, from now on referred to as Tow-man, started off professionally enough. He showed me some hazy pictures and I must admit I could not find the parking permit in the pictures he showed me.
He then walked with me to an impressive lot surrounded by a 8-9 ft tall fence topped with barbed wires on top. I wondered then why a towing company’s impound lot needed that kind of prison security. I was soon to find out.
I went in with him, and right enough, the parking permit gleamed. It is a shiny red one, and the morning rays of the sun made it glint cheerfully. I showed Tow-man the permit, and he was flabbergasted. I saw shock flit through his face. He had been so sure he had not seen the parking permit in the pictures.
I asked him if I could take a picture of the car with the permit, and he agreed. Immediately, he realized that a picture could mean no money. I could almost see these thoughts run through his head, for he immediately clamped down his stance. He insisted that I get out from there, his company had a no-picture policy, and that he needed to investigate this. That was when anger became his companion.
Ursula Le Guin in her excellent set of essays, No Time To Spare, dedicates a few pieces to Anger. In one essay, she says, Anger usually stems from fear.
In this case, that made sense. Tow-man feared his bosses would not be happy with him if he did not get the money for the towed car. But there was no doubt that the permit was there. This is something that felt like a mystery to me too, and one I hoped to solve amicably. But his anger bubbled up, and stopped all possibility of a dialogue. He made ridiculous claims such as: You must have scaled the fence and jumped inside overnight to put the permit inside the car.
The impound lot, as I have mentioned earlier, was double my height, and topped with barbed wire on top. I asked him a bit incredulously whether he really believed I could jump over something like that. I have my merits, but pole-vaulting over 9 ft high fences with barbed wire on top is not of them. Ask the rose bushes I walk by. I love them to bits and stop to sniff at them rapturously every now and then, but I still keep clear from the thorns. Getting scratched does not appeal to me.
There was no talking to Tow-man about rosebushes however. With anger as his weapon, things got ugly soon.
“We have a no-picture policy, and you have been taking pictures.”
I felt the no-picture arbitrary rule a bit unfair, but there was nothing to be done.
Things started heating up, and we went out of the premises.
Quote from No Time To Spare by Ursula K Le Guin:
Anger continued past its usefulness becomes unjust and then dangerous.
It is very hard to find the right response to anger in a situation where both parties are technically right: His pictures showed no permit; I know the permit was placed before midnight and the car in the lot held the proof.
It is a gripping tale, but in the interest of length, shall cut to the place where Tow-man shook his head obstinately, and said no, I won’t give you the car even if you pay.
The police had to come now. Professional as ever, they listened calmly to both sides of the story. Jobs dealing with people in general are hard, but jobs dealing with people in duress, peppered with high strung emotions and actions has got to be toughest of them all.
It reminded me sadly of the piece on Anger again:
Anger continued past its usefulness becomes unjust and then dangerous. Nursed for its own sake, valued as an end in itself, it loses its goal. It fuels not positive activism but regression, obsession, vengeance, self-righteousness. Corrosive, it feeds off itself, destroying its host in the process.
The mystery was solved within minutes of his printing the towing papers:
The towing company indicated that they had taken the pictures at 11:26 p.m.
We had put in the parking permit at 11:30.
The vehicle was towed away at midnight.
The permit is only enforced between midnight and 6 a.m., but before towing the vehicle, they did not verify again. The Classic Corner Case.
What is the way to use anger to fuel something other than hurt, to direct it away from hatred, vengefulness, self-righteousness, and make it serve creation and compassion?