This makes me uncomfortable

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About a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post called ‘Being comfortable is not the same as success‘. It came out of my ponderings on finding my niche after reading Sir Ken Robinson’s The Element and watching Bloc Party be awesome live. I wondered, do we have to be uncomfortable to succeed? Are we wrongly taught to seek comfort over personal growth? For example, we’re taught to prefer a career that will let us live comfortably in a nice house etc. over a career that might be personally rewarding but more difficult. Counter-culture tells us not to “sell out” and to go for the more difficult path. Is it right? Is there a virtue in discomfort?

Now I wonder if there are different kinds of “comfortable”. Like, say, there’s that feeling of being in the ‘flow state’, when you have found the thing you love and doing it connects you to the floor and the ceiling. Then there’s that feeling of curling up on the couch and watching your old favourite TV show – you know all the words, there are no surprises, and you relax into the safe familiarity. Are these different? I feel that one must be more productive than the other, but then I worry that my attachment of value to productivity is a product of my cultural conditioning to always be productive. Gah. It is hell inside my head right now.

I feel like there must be a bunch of philosophers who have already covered this topic; Plato wrote about different types of love, so surely someone must have written about different types of comfort. If there are any philosophy students out there who can point me towards some reading, I’d love to hear about it! Gimme some juice in the comments below.

In the past, I’ve let myself stay in relationships and circumstances that made me deeply uncomfortable because I had become so divorced from my feelings that I couldn’t use them as signposts anymore. Sometimes discomfort is a good sign that you should run far, far away. Otherwise, what are our instincts for? But learning to separate instinct from conditioned discomfort is difficult, at least for me. How can I tell whether I’m uncomfortable because this is a bad scene, or because I am stepping outside a culturally mandated ‘comfort zone’?

Talking about all this makes me uncomfortable, too. Yeesh, life is just uncomfortable. Thank goodness I have M*A*S*H and this deep sofa to help deal with it.

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Poetry video: ‘Spheres’

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New video! Ezz Wheadon (with her production company A Mighty Fine Shindig) and I have been turning some of my poems into videos. This one was filmed at my favourite chai spot, Roost Coffee.

I hope you like ‘Spheres’! Please leave comments, let me know what you think.

xx

(c) Kaitlyn Plyley 2013

Why catching public transport has made me a better person

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Transports of DelightCatching public transport has made me a better person. Rather than driving a car, rather than careening in my private space down crowded streets, surrounded but kept separate from everyone else – rather than this, I catch public transport, and I am better than I was before.

I don’t have my own personal stereo system anymore. I can’t sing along to the radio at the top of my lungs. I have to sit on seats that have been sat on by many, many other people – some of whom are frequently sweaty – and keep my knees together, my lips closed, my thoughts to myself. I have to think of others. I have to save up my smiles for strangers. I have to thank the driver. I love thanking the driver. A small thank-you and a wave for taking me to the place I want to go, for being a part of my journey, for not shouting at me when I didn’t have the correct change. Thanks for opening the door, thanks for not killing us on Coronation Drive. Just, thanks.

I don’t get to places quickly anymore. I don’t have the luxury of leaving whenever I want. I have to wait for buses. I have to wait. I have to find a spot in the shadow of the bus-stop shelter where the sun doesn’t hit me at full noon but where I can still watch the curve of the road for the oncoming bus. I sit in the shade of an old tree, on the cement border of a garden, on the flat grass next to the bench. I sit and I wait. I watch the road. I check my phone. And if I’m not too busy typing or texting or trying to find a tune that perfectly fits my mood, I look up at the sky. I often look at the clouds, watch them – they’re actually moving. I see them moving. I can watch one cloud shift from the left of the sky to the right, scudding past and changing shape and morphing into something completely different but equally beautiful and I question everything I think about the nature of reality. I ponder god. I ponder life. I stare at the sky until the sun is burned in starbursts onto my vision, and then the bus is heaving into the stop and I’m stumbling up to flag it down.

(c) Kaitlyn Plyley 2013

Taken from a bus stop.

I don’t have my personal space anymore. I can’t pile as many things as I want into my car, carry the heaviest of bags, shift junk from one place to the other without thinking about it, because I have to think about it. I have to think about whether I will be able to get a seat, or whether I’ll be standing, and whether my my bags of junk might swing around and hit some poor older woman sitting near me who was just trying to get down the shops for a cuppa with her daughter visiting from Ipswich. I don’t have the luxury of not caring. I don’t have the ability to shut people out. I have to see them, all of them, the worst and the creepiest and the smelly. I have to breathe in the smell of cigarettes, even though I hate cigarettes. I have to listen to shouted phone conversations and loud school students and brassy ladies on their way out on the town. I am tired and I wish it were quiet, and the girl sitting in front of me stretches forward to press the button for an old man who couldn’t reach it. He twists his burn-scarred face and says, “Thank you”. She smiles, turns in profile; her purple fringe swings into her face. “No worries,” she says.

I don’t have control anymore. I have no say in how fast we go or when we get there or how many red lights we blow. I grip the back of the seat in front of me; I am terrified. I am elated. I want to throw my hands in the air like a roller-coaster rider when the bus driver hurls us down the hills of Kelvin Grove with the brakes completely untouched, hurtling through the suburbs and squealing into stops at the last second. I don’t know if we’ll make that corner. I don’t know if we’ll hit that car. I have lost control, and as a strange result, I am more punctual. I turn up on time, early – so early that I have time to meander down the street and take a breath in the doorway and stop for a drink of water before I arrive. I leave plenty of time to be late; I don’t trust the bus. I shouldn’t have trusted the car, when I had it, but I thought I was in control. I thought I could speed up a little if I was running late. I thought I could plan the journey to the minute. I was wrong, so wrong, and I was a bad friend, a tardy employee, and a flushed and stressed student. I was always running in just on time: “Traffic on the freeway”, “Ergh, no parking anywhere”. Now, I look out the window before I leave the house and think, “Huh, it’s raining. Allow an extra half-hour for the bus.” It’s annoying, but it’s better. I’m better, and when I arrive I’m relaxed and clear-eyed.

I’m looking around instead of looking at the road. I’m people-watching instead of fuming at people. I’m having a chat with the businessman whose briefcase is crammed in next to me, instead of trying to text while I steer with my knees. (Yeah, I used to do that. Another reason why it’s better I catch the bus.) I’m alert, paying attention, and watching my back when I walk home at night. Because I know I’m not safe; I know I’m out in the big, wide world and I am careful. I don’t have a protective bubble of glass and steel around me, tricking me into thinking I am untouchable. I am vulnerable, dependent, trusting that the people around me with treat me with care: the bus driver, the passengers, the other drivers on the road. I trust them. I have to. And it has made me better.

I never could have guessed any of this when I was watching my old Ford Festiva be towed out of the mechanic’s lot. I never could have guessed, while I was waving goodbye to my symbol of independence, my status as a car-owner in an increasingly car-oriented society, that I would eventually be grateful. That I would be kind of glad that I bought a lemon, that my beloved ’96 Festiva (“Jeff” to his friends) would conk out on the side of the Mitchell Freeway and never get going again. Not having a car has limited my life in terms of geography and distance – I can’t drive up the coast on a whim or live a ridiculous distance from work – but it has expanded my life in other ways. My heart, or something. So, bus drivers: seriously, thanks.

(c) Jonathon Hancock, 2013

All of the internet relationships I follow are breaking up

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So, I love the internet. I cannot lie. The internet brings me much of the joys. It helps me feel more connected to the people I love; helps me find new friends and interest groups; makes me a better informed and more thoughtful citizen; and empowers me to express my creative voice. Yeah, I think it’s pretty great.

However, my housemates (Luddites) snicker derisively every time I use the word “blogosphere” in conversation. I protest, “It’s a real thing!” And they say, “Yeah, as real as the internet, HA HA!” The more I splutter, the more they snicker. Huh, plebs. What are we, in 1992? I thought the internet was mainstream now. Geek chic, et cetera?! Someone please tell my housemates!

The thing that surprised me was their assertion that the blogosphere isn’t real. I could try to unpack what it means to be “real” and go read up on Baudrillard and simulacra and theories on mimesis, but it’s a Saturday afternoon and frankly I have other things to do. My main protest was that blogs are created by real people, sitting at their real computers. So there’s realness! Sure, they are presenting a particular image of themselves to the world, an image carefully controlled by themselves. But who isn’t? I don’t think there is much difference in authenticity between the way someone presents their self to me when I first meet them, and the way someone presents their self to me on the internet. We’re all pretending to some degree.

But anyway, I get a lot of joy from reading other people’s blogs. I love feeling a connection to other lives – in my community, and around the world – every day, wherever I am.

Lately, though, the internet has been a little bit heartbreaking.

Two of my favourite bloggers, people whose lives I have been following for months, have recently broken up with their long-term boyfriends. One of them, who vlogs weekly on YouTube, has openly said that she and her boyf split up. She even made a sad video about it that made me tear up a little, because I want to give her a big best-friend hug but I can’t because she lives in Los Angeles and also she does not know who I am. The other blogger has not said anything explicit about a break-up. But you know. You just know. When they go from blogging once or twice a week, from writing joyful expositions about their “meet-cute story” and the boyfriend’s adorable obsession with rugby – when they go from that to not posting for months, and then return with abstract, grand treatises about finding yourself and the importance of inner strength … You know what’s gone down.

And I kind of resent that I immediately knew it was a break-up. I kept telling myself that there are manifold reasons why a person might step away from their prolific blogging and go quiet for a few weeks. We’re complex creatures, right? Maybe they had family stuff going on. Maybe they got a new job. Maybe they just discovered Battlestar Galactica and needed to watch ALL of it in one sitting but couldn’t because their housemate also discovered it at the same time and works full-time so they had to wait to watch it with her because they’re terrible at keeping secrets and would definitely have committed plot spoilers if they’d watched ahead.

But, no. Nothing stops the heart quite like a break-up. At least, not for affluent, upwardly-mobile twenty-somethings. I have a friend who recently found out that her cervical cancer had advanced another stage, but does that bother her as much as her boyfriend staying out an hour later than he said he would? Nope. I think perhaps it is because she knows exactly how much control she doesn’t have over her medical condition. The doctor says “Here are the decisions you need to make”, and she makes them, and she deals with the rest.

I bet cylons don't have to deal with this shit.

I bet cylons don’t have to deal with this shit.

We invest so much in relationships, but we know so little about them. I mean, really, as a species, we barely understand relationships. Why else do we spend so much time talking about them? We don’t devote this much time and energy to the law of gravity, or why grass is green. Those conversations go mostly like this: “What happens if I let go of something? It falls. Ah. And why are all these things green? Chlorophyll. Okay, understood. Now I shall think of other things.” But conversations about interpersonal relationships go like this: “But WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY”. Repeated over and over, ad infinitum.

It makes me sad that these seemingly adorable relationships I’ve been reading about on the internet are breaking up. You want to hope that maybe somewhere, somebody is not breaking up. Maybe somebody is staying together. But I am grateful to these bloggers for sharing their stories and letting me peek into their lives a little. They are making themselves vulnerable to a faceless mass of viewers, and that is incredible. It helps to remind me that we’re all kind of muddling through, even the ones who present a highly edited, storied version of themselves to the public. They’re real, too.

A good friend of mine recently said, “I just pretend to be a person.” She thinks she lacks some essential life-skill that other people innately have. I said, “Have you ever people-watched in the city at rush hour? Everyone is pretending to be a person. If you watch long enough, you’ll see that everyone is doing that thing where you watch everyone else to see if they’ve noticed that you’re a total freak.” We’re all real and confused and a bit messed-up, all of us, everyone.

We’re all just pretending we’re not.

Photo credit: Battlestar Galactica image from Flickr.

Motormouth goes to a Dinner Party.

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Last night I went to a dinner party where I knew hardly anybody, and had only made the acquaintance of a few. Although most of the people in the room where strangers when we walked in, it was one of those magical nights where everybody just clicks. People were constantly moving chairs, hopping around the table, keen to lock minds with everyone else in the room. The end of the night, to me, perfectly summed up what kind of dinner it had been: it took us a good thirty minutes to actually leave the restaurant, because everyone was lingering in the doorway, edging down the stairs, talking in the street. Nobody wanted to part company.

Since last night, I’ve been thinking: What made conversation with those people so engaging? It wasn’t that we all shared exactly the same interests, because I was talking with people from all kinds of occupations and backgrounds. We had introverts, extroverts, nerds, artists and number-jockeys. Young professionals, and young unprofessionals (that would be me). So what makes conversation with certain people so damn delicious?

Is it a keen appreciation for intelligence? Is it purposefully playing with awkward sentence structures? (“I want all of the things!”) Is it asking each other “What do you do?” and getting a real answer? Maybe it’s finding out someone has read the same books as you, or that they’ve read books you’ve never heard of. Maybe it’s four-hour debates about whether soft determinism is a real thing.

I think it’s talking to people who are also seeking. Those with curious minds.

“Walk with those seeking truth … Run from those who think they’ve found it. ” – Deepak Chopra

My favourite kind of conversation is the free exchange of ideas. This is the kind of conversation you get with someone who is seeking truth, who is bright and curious and looking around. If I can brashly dichotomize for a second, I think most conversations fall into one of two categories: the exchange of ideas, or the exchange of information. The latter is necessary to human survival, and the most basic use of language; the former involves higher-order thinking.

I find that conversations with people who think they’ve already found the truth involve only the exchange of information. This can be edifying, sure, but such conversations hit a wall pretty quickly. They fall into a kind of “you say something, then I say something” pattern, in which neither person is really listening. They’re like actors who only learn their own lines and their own cues, and don’t engage with any of the other actors’ performances. They’re just waiting to speak.

We all do that sometimes. I know I definitely do – someone will mention Holland or Michael Palin or something, and I’ll think “Ooh ooh! I have an anecdote about that! Quickly, quickly, mustn’t miss the opportunity to tell it!” Something I’ve gotten better at over the years has been to talk less (new friends – yes, I used to be WORSE). I have a motormouth and will freely run it if left unchecked. Now, when I catch myself doing my ol’ primary-school-student, arm-waving-in-the-air, “PICK ME, PICK ME” routine in my head, I ask myself why I want to tell this story. Will it benefit the people listening? Is it something I need to tell for my own personal growth? If the answers are no and no, then I bite down on my lip and sit on my hands. Because if I’m just telling an anecdote that I’ve told before and is as rote to me as the alphabet, then I’m not seeking truth. I’m just making noise.

I want to exchange ideas. I want process, not just destination. I want to really learn about other people, and to riff on ideas with them. Small talk is fine; I’m all for small talk. It’s the sprig of parsley on a fancy entree. But big talk is the main meal. It’s the best.

I think that’s the key to last night’s deeply satisfying dinner conversation. Big Talk. Talk with a capital T. Let’s have more of that, please. I may have compared it to a main meal, but with Big Talk I never get full. Bring on the next course.

Being comfortable is not the same as success

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So, I saw Bloc Party live last night, for the first time in all the years I’ve loved them. No big deal. Just a long-standing dream fulfilled. Whatevs. I didn’t cry or anything. I didn’t.

But quite apart from the euphoria of seeing one of my all-time favourite bands jumping around right in front of me, I was struck by how very, very beautiful is Mr. Kele Okereke. Not just the superficial kind of beautiful – although, let’s face it, he’s doin’ alright – but the kind that comes from someone who is completely in their element.

Photo from Wiki Commons.

Kele Okereke, lead singer of Bloc Party. If you don’t know who that is, don’t worry, this blog post won’t be ALL about them. Read on!

I don’t know what’s better than watching someone do the thing they love and absolutely nail it. He was, as the song goes, “on fire”. (Last fan-geek Bloc Party reference, I SWEAR.) The man swarmed around the stage, pulled the audience into his hand and held them there, strutted and kicked and spun, and utterly charmed the pants off the mosh pit. Right at the top of the second encore, if he had declared, “Alright Brisbane, let’s march on the city,” damn it, we would have.

It could have been the strobe lights, or the smoke machine, or the wild cheering of the crowd as Kele urged them to “dance, you fuckers”, but it seemed like light was shooting right out of him. This is the guy who music magazines tell me is “incredibly shy”. Well, maybe around music journalists, but not on stage. The stage was clearly his zone, and he was inhabiting every bit of it.

As always when watching people like that, I found myself hoping I could live in my “zone”. Ken Robinson (good old Sir Ken) talks about this in his book The Element (2009). Basically, his premise is that everyone has a particular talent, something that excites them and fires them and will bring them great success. Their element. But, unfortunately, with the education system set up the way it is, people are taught to ignore their passions and to waste their talents. Highly successful people are usually people who paid attention to their passions – instead of listening to the naysayers – and made full use of their special quirks and abilities.

It’s easy to say, “Yeah, right – chase your dreams, champ. Great advice. Oprah, etc.” But the more I think about it, the more I wonder, why wouldn’t we follow our passions? What if our passions are very specific signposts from our intuition (or subconscious, or a higher power, or anything you want to use to describe the ethereal cloak that hangs between us and all the things we can’t figure out)? When we meet someone we’re attracted to, we know it because we feel it. I think we feel a similar tug when we encounter our ideal occupation – something that makes us feel right. Like the first time I found out about poetry slams, or the first time Paul McCartney held a guitar, or the first time the internet saw Jennifer Lawrence.

If I have a special ability that I’m great at and makes my life more fun and can be developed without struggle because I love spending time on it, then WHY THE HECK wouldn’t I devote my energies towards that? The argument made by educational institutions (and a whole lot of parents) would be: because you need to make money. Otherwise, your life will be hard (and fair enough, money helps things along somewhat) and you will make other people’s lives hard, too. You’ll be a miserable drain on society, or something of that nature.

That argument is bullshit, frankly, because it is predicated on the assumption that particular occupations can guarantee you success; if you follow the path correctly and work hard, you will achieve a “good life”. This is rubbish. Not to quote motivational Facebook statuses here, but there are no guarantees in life. Your life will probably be hard whether you finish law school and get a clerkship, or quit and take up the piano. Life: hard. Sorry, kids. But I think that’s because we’re not here to bounce along and try to “get all the bananas” (Donkey Kong? Anyone?). Life’s not like the closed circuit of a video game universe, where you can win the highest score as long as you know all the correct combinations. I think we, as a society, have made a mistake, and gone along thinking that life is about getting the most comfort possible.

I think life is actually about learning. And learning new things – about ourselves, about others, about reality – is rarely comfortable. Fun, challenging, satisfying? Yep. But not comfortable.

Was Kele completely at ease when he was on stage performing last night? He’d be the only one who knows, but I would guess, probably not. Someone who is one hundred per cent comfortable doesn’t work that hard at excellence. They don’t push themselves further. But someone who’s living in their element? Well.

They make the sky run with starlight.

Dudes on whom I have a major brain-crush

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A lot of my posts lately have been kinda heavy, so I thought I’d lighten it up a little and tell you about some of the positive things on my mind. Like sunshine, and puppies, and organic peaches … But mostly dudes! Lots and lots of dudes!

Not just any dudes. Dudes with sexy brains. I have made a list of dudes on whom I have major brain-crushes. Now, before you read it, know that a brain-crush is not remotely sexual. So knock it off right now. It’s not that I have the hots for any of these guys (necessarily … Todd Sampson). It’s just that their brains are so interesting. I would like to take their brains out to dinner and ask them about their childhoods. I would walk their brains home and call them the next day.

You may notice that Margaret Atwood has made my dude list. “But she be not a man!” you may cry. Forsooth, it be my list and my rules. “Dude” is a pretty all-inclusive term in my books.

1. Sir Ken Robinson

Ah, Sir Ken. The wise-cracking, education-reforming, deadpan actual-knight of my dreams. I discovered his work properly last year and went on a Sir Ken binge, reading his books and watching his TED and RSA talks practically in one go.

 

2. Kevin McCloud

Another grouchy old Englishman, yes. But another one bouncing around with passion for his work. Irresistible! Grand Designs always delighted me, but his sustainable housing project catapulted him into brain-crush territory. Basically, he wants to make houses that make people happy. What’s not to love?

 

3. Todd Sampson

CEO of Leo Burnett, climber of Mount Everest, wearer of very tight T-shirts. My favourite co-founder of Earth Hour, and salt-and-peppered panellist on The Gruen Transfer. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr Sampson a couple of years ago for a student magazine, and I somehow got through the whole thing without swooning. Evidently I’m not the only one he affects this way, as a play is showing in Sydney next month simply entitled I Love Todd Sampson. I love whoever created that show.

 

4. Margaret Atwood

Acclaimed author, literary heavyweight, and one-time retweeter of one of my tweets. (Greatest. Moment. Of my life.) My friend Carina Tan-Van Baren has written a gorgeous account of Margaret’s recent appearance at the Perth Writers Festival. Other than that, all I can say is this: if you like speculative fiction, read Oryx and Crake. Go. Read it now.

 

5. Ben Hammersley

I discovered this gentleman’s work recently when I was listening to his keynote on the RSA Events podcast: ‘Tomorrow’s Work: Why Yesterday’s Expectations Are Ruining Today’s Future’. He raised some very interesting points about technology and how we use it at work. Since corresponding with him about his ideas, I’ve changed some of my email habits and become a much happier worker! I look forward to reading more of his stuff.

Non, non, je ne regrette rien

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The theme of this week’s blog post is “regret”. Cheerful, huh? Don’t worry, I’m not going to spiral into some depressive, introspective ramble that ends with me hunched over a whiskey and sobbing the names of ex-boyfriends. “Why, Brian? Whaaay?!” (Just kidding. I’ve never dated a Brian.)

While reading the blog A Writer’s Journey (which I highly recommend for fellow writers, by the way), I came across this passage:

They say you should live without regrets, but I disagree. That mindset would drive me crazy. Opportunities pass us by, we make mistakes, and sometimes we’re just too tired to keep up. Instead of living with no regrets, I want to always be able to say to myself, “At least I did everything I could do.”

I know that I, too, have been driven crazy by the idea that I mustn’t miss any opportunities. I must seize the day! Say yes to life! Not let a chance go by! We’re all food for worms, boys! (And other exhortations from Dead Poets Society.)

It’s exhausting, isn’t it? If you always say ‘yes’ to everything, eventually you end up looking like Gollum’s partied-out cousin. Life will ravage your face. You’ll be worn out and anxious and finding glitter in your hair that you can’t explain.

Some people, it’s true, are not born participators. They could stand to move outside their comfort zone a little more often, to try new things. But that is not true for me. The biggest lesson that I keep learning and forgetting and relearning is how to say NO. As in, NO, I can’t do everything. No, I can’t be everything. I have limitations, whether I like it or not.

I suffer from a medical condition that keeps me from doing a lot of things. I know for sure that I have limitations: flippin’ doctors have told me so. Specialised medical practitioners have prescribed me a large dose of “take it easy”. Easier said than done. But I’m getting better.

Even though I still have this hysterical internal drive to DO, DO, DO all the time – to jump on every single opportunity – I am starting to get the lesson. I will do everything I can do. (I don’t know why I ignored that important little word for so long.) I am learning to step back.

So, I spent New Year’s Eve at home, by myself, trying out a new recipe for dinner. I went to bed before midnight. I AM GRANDMA.

And I regrette rien.

"I'm not trying to buy the road … I just wanted to park on it"

Transports of Delight

Last week, a letter entitled ‘My Rejected Parking Appeal Retort’ went viral on Facebook. It was written by a known troublemaker a dear friend of mine, who recently received a hefty parking fine. She appealed the fine, but her appeal was rejected. (When you read the letter, you might figure out why.) Subsequently she wrote this letter to a representative of the City of South Perth – a poor man named Phil – outlining her general feelings on the rejection. This letter is about a parking fine … but it’s so much more than that.

In it, she ranges wildly in tone and philosophy, from questioning the role of government in our daily lives, to oblique (and seemingly irrelevant) Tom Cruise references. She dismisses feminism, endorses privatisation, and accuses South Perth of careening towards an Orwellian dystopia in which Big Brother is always watching. Remember, this started because she parked slightly outside the lines of a parking space.

This letter is hysterical. In every. Sense. Of the word.

I initially took the letter at face value, as just another eccentric thing my friend Jess did. But as more people have read it and discussed it, full-blown arguments have erupted.

“She’s making a valid point! Why do we have to pay to park on roads that we drive on for free?”

“We pay for what we use! We pay so that the City can afford to maintain the roads!”

“Isn’t that why we pay taxes? Why are they punishing us for using roads for which we’re already paying taxes?”

“It’s not punishment, it’s a clear set of consequences that you agree to when you participate in civilisation!”

“Civil liberties, blarrh!”

(And that was just the argument going on inside my own head.)

So, before you read the letter, I want to ask you: what is your opinion on parking fines? Is it reasonable for the City to issue punitive fines when we’re parking on public roads? Are roads something to which we have a right as citizens, or must we pay extra for the privilege? Are parking meters and fines a “revenue raising” scheme, as my friend suggests, or are they in the interests of public safety?

On a broader philosophical note, I would also like to ask: Do we serve the government? Or does the government serve us?

I’m going to copy in my friend’s letter for you, now. By the way, she really did send it. (The addressee’s name has been changed, because I believe in protecting privacy, even if ‘Gov’ doesn’t. Ooh, ideological burn!) After reading it, I suggest punching the air and yelling “WE ARE THE NINETY-NINE PER CENT!”

My Rejected Parking Appeal Retort

Dear Mr McKay, (if that even is your real name)

I understand that you feel that the City of South Perth could really use the $100 from my parking fine – it being “tough times” and all… In fact, I’m pretty sure there is a parking inspector in Greece that is blaming their crisis on being lenient on the Gucci laden women that park so recklessly in their suburban streets. So, how do you even sleep at night? I’m just taking a stab in the dark here Phil, but I’m guessing it’s on thousands of $100 bills that you’ve collected from poor, naive women like me; who just have terrible depth perception and can’t tell if they’re parked in the right space or not.

Surely there is a “women driver” clause that gives us a bit of grace? What about a warning to be more careful, or simply be more attentive? Or issue a forced public apology even? Now I’m all for equality, but I think the feminist movement has a lot to answer for. I’ll be honest, Phil, I don’t like lifting heavy things, or opening doors for myself; they’re just dirty.

Now, I don’t have a clever segue-way for my next point, but did you ever see that film, I think Tom Cruise was in it (shame about the divorce) Minority Report maybe? Anyway, it was about convicting people of crimes before they could commit them? Which in the end turned out to be a terrible idea and I’m pretty stoked we don’t have that kind of technology to enforce that in our society. Japan may be the closest to it – or Germany, for different reasons – but hey, I don’t live there, I live in Australia – quite possibly the greatest nation on this planet, despite it’s petty parking laws and over zealous Rangers – but alas, I digress. We just don’t punish people for victimless crimes these days, Phil! It’s just not hip! Maybe all the cool kids are working at the City of Perth or something, because they’re certainly not hanging out on the south side of the basketball court if you get my drift….

This whole spiel about parking laws being in place for public safety seems like its just bureaucratic jumping-on-a-couch-mumbo-jumbo. As if anyone has been hurt because someone hadn’t parked exactly inside the yellow lines in the first place? Enlighten me, Phil – just how are those solid yellow lines of paint on Mill-Point Road saving lives?

Let’s be honest, it’s not really about safety is it, Phil? It’s simple revenue raising! It always is! And without parking laws, we can’t create over-paid jobs to enforce them, or pay for the office Christmas Party now could we? Gina is keen to import labour from overseas – maybe you should try that to reduce your costs? Perhaps then you could issue more affordable fines, for say, twenty or even forty dollars, whilst still being able to go out for lunch on the corporate credit card. I’m sure Gina would agree that $100 for a parking infringement, in this circumstance, is pretty steep – even with the new carbon tax in place. You know Phil, I’m not actually trying to buy the four meters of road I was parked on – I was just borrowing it for half an hour.

In all seriousness, I find it pretty lowbrow to be issued a fine for parking slightly out of the space, but still within it mind you. Perhaps you should give out vouchers for parking lessons, as it looks like there is a minimum standard of competency that I have missed out on. I don’t believe this violation of your South Perth lore is fair, and I reckon it’s worth appealing.

That said, I would love to see the photos the Ranger took of my car. Please email them to my email address – I most certainly don’t have the resources to come to visit the rangers of the mighty South Perth Civic Centre during work hours to view in person, and I’m sure the photographic evidence is already on your system. Surely your department isn’t still taking snaps with Polaroid’s? Well, it seems there are so many of these wandering Rangers about – can’t one of them just bring the photos over to me? Alternatively I am happy to send you a self-addressed envelope for you to send them to me via post. You already have my address, license plate number, car description etc. – so finding my postal address shouldn’t be too difficult.

It may be worth noting that my blood type is O+ just incase you need me to sign another form with it – I know how you local government types love to see things jump through hoops; whoa, hold up – is that why the City of Perth has a circus camped out on the foreshore?! My God, is that what it’s there for??!!!

I’m not a believer in ponsey appeal processes and I am looking forward to writing to you for the long-term.

Kind Regards,

Jess