Yesterday, I looked out my apartment window, and saw a woman sitting in her car. She had just parked in order to visit someone in the building, and as she sat preparing to exit her auto for a visit, she was pounced upon by a marshal and a tow truck operator who proceeded to seize her car.
The way it works is that the marshals drive around the city punching in license plate numbers into their computers, and when they find someone who owes unpaid fines above a certain threshold, they pull up along with a tow truck operator, plaster a sticker on the window of the vehicle, and simply tow it away. To retrieve your car, you’ll have to pay the Marshal fee, tow truck fee, as well as the fines owed.
New York City Marshals are public officials, appointed by the Mayor, but they are not paid employees of the City of New York. They earn income by performing certain tasks in Civil Court cases, including the enforcement of judgments. City marshals charge fees for their services and receive a percentage of the money they collect. (from the NYC.gov website)
This woman had to suffer the embarrassment of having her car towed away while she frantically searched the trunk, the back seats, and the glove compartment to make sure she had all of her valuables. People stopped and stared, traffic was held up, cars’ horns were blaring for the approximately 20 minutes it took for the whole scene to play itself out, leaving her car-less, with her shopping bags stranded on the street.
An on-looking tenant in the building I’m in, commented, “That’s how things are in the real world.”
I thought about that, and later had a conversation with the doorman who had witnessed the whole scene, and we talked about people being evicted from their homes, pawn shops, repossessions, law suits, exploiting others’ ignorance and weaknesses for cash, and the mercenary nature of those who prey and survive on the misfortunes of others, and I thought to myself, “I don’t want to live in a world like this.”
Sure, regarding the scene in front of my building, you can justify it anyway you wish–yes, there was money owed; Yes, we all can’t keep shirking our obligations, people have to pay for their utilities, rents, etc., or the whole system crumbles. I know. However, I’m taking a step back, and looking at the bigger picture. There’s just a certain inhumanity and lack of compassion in the way the officials/agents treat other humans in situations like this, in addition to how the entire system is constructed to begin with. There’s a whole perverse, mercenary nature to how things are organized in our money-makes-the-world-go-round society that is disturbing to me. Where’s the compassion? Where’s the courtesy? Where’s the humanity?
Earlier in the week, I spoke with a friend who is feeling the stress of her life and feels like making some major life changes. She is feeling a bit overwhelmed by what she feels is her inability to cope; she’s worried that her desire to make changes will be seen and judged by others as “merely” a mid-life crisis. I reminded her that what we’re all doing here in our society–particularly in big cities like New York–is trying to live a natural, normal and sane life in an unnatural, abnormal and insane bizarre world. The normal things you want to do–raise kids, sustain a relationship, survive and thrive–are actually thwarted and made more challenging by the abnormal things you have to do–work away from home and children every day, live in polluted environments, conform to arbitrary societal expectations.
And all the things we’ve come to accept and call “real” are so totally out of alignment with who we truly are, and what is truly normal that it’s no wonder we get stressed out. It’s no wonder we feel like escaping. It’s no wonder we have “crises.” I suggested to her, that while society’s label of “mid-life crisis” implies that one’s actions are irresponsible or flighty, that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with aligning your thoughts, feelings and actions and doing the things you think and feel will make you happy. Rather than being flighty and ill- advised, honoring those desires may actually be the most sane thing you’ll ever do!
Finally, a friend of mine, who has lived all of his life in South Asia as well as the Pacific, and who raised his now three teen-aged children there, is now visiting New York.
As I was giving my newly-arrived friend a tour of New York, I had to help him make sense of the isolation, the lack of eye contact, lack of camaraderie and lack of compassion he’d already noticed just by being here in New York for only 14 days. At the same time, and for that very reason, he commented that he wants his kids to come to America and live in New York so they can experience “the real world.”
I commented to him that I, personally, wouldn’t call this “the real world.” I suggested to him, “Just because a portion of the planet has fallen for the deception of competition and cutthroat, doesn’t mean it is better, advantageous, or more real than the compassion and camaraderie you’ve left behind in your homeland. It’s common, but it’s not natural. It’s accepted, but it’s not normal. It is now ingrained, but it is not real.”
Empires rise and fall. The time to follow Rome is on the way up, not on the way down.
Don’t mistake devolution for progress. What’s needed is NOT for you to join the madness and to participate in the fall, but to see it for what it is, and most of all, don’t let it change you.
The Real World?
I wouldn’t call it real, my friend
there’s danger in that thought
Accept it and fall victim
to this madness we’ve been taught
We’re taught to seek advantage
at another man’s expense
and build a wall of wealth
to serve as comfort and defense
Pit one against another
in a struggle to survive?
It doesn’t have to be like this
My friend, it’s all contrived
Yes, think of what we suffer
in the playing of this game:
the fear, and the suspicion,
and the anger and the shame
No please, no smiles, no thank you
for the nice are seen as weak
No one is made to answer
for the havoc that they wreak
Or, think of what you gain
in this mad scramble and pretense
You trade your soul for salary
and hope that it makes cents
And what shall be the outcome
of such madness left unchecked?
The loss of what is human
with no way to reconnect
The time to follow Rome’s
not in the fall, but in the rise
It’s time to change our hearts
and see the world through different eyes
© 2012 Walt F.J. Goodridge
Please let me know what you think of my first life rhyme in 6 years! Should I do like Sylvester Stallone and keep making comebacks?
Starting back in 1997, and every Friday for nine straight years thereafter, I wrote and emailed my own brand of motivational poem I call a “life rhyme” to the 10,000+ subscribers to my Walt’s Friday Inspiration newsletter. After a very exciting and fulfilling run, I wrote and sent the last official life rhyme just about the same time I escaped from America in 2006. The full archives are here at LifeRhymes.com and if you want it in book form, you can order here or on Amazon.com