Although I live in Broward County since 1985 — above ground, by the way, and with most of my senses intact — until this week I am unfamiliar with the Robert Hayes Gore State Office Building in Ft. Lauderdale. I Google it, learn it’s a 5-story structure stuffed with employees paid with my taxes, and get directions because that’s where my meeting with the Department of Juvenile Justice takes place
Easy to find. But absolutely no parking anywhere. I don’t mean, All the parking spaces were taken, I mean, signs everywhere prohibiting “unauthorized parking.”
I circle the building several times, covering quite a few blocks. Nothing. Where are 50 -60 people attending this meeting supposed to park? I find a phone number and call, but it’s the wrong office. They’re kind enough to give me another number to dial.
“GoodmorningDJJ,” somebody mumbles.
Is this VeeJayJay in the Gore Building?
I’m making a presentation to DJJ this morning — where am I supposed to park?
No idea. None if I can’t find a parking spot. What difference does it make?
This inspires mumbling to a third party, who mumbles something back, and they figure out I’m part of the group meeting on the fourth floor. Whoopee screw. Where do I park?
Mumbles asks me where I am, and I tell her exactly. She asks me if I’m near the KFC, and I tell her I’m sitting in its swale. She says I should park not in the lot right next to the KFC — the one surrounded by a menacing white fence covered with dire warnings about the fatal consequences of trespassing — but the one right behind that.
This stupid shit makes me crazy. What do “next to” and “behind” mean in a 3-dimensional world, unless there is a defined reference point? Tell me North/South/East/West, or tell me which way I need to be facing to know what “behind” means. Most blocks and buildings have 4 sides you can be next to or behind. Floridians do this all the time (when they even bother to answer).
Miraculously, Mumbles knows her compass, and sends me north on 4th Avenue, past the Lot of Promised Death and Destruction, to a second small lot surrounded by a chain link fence; it, too, plastered with stern warnings about unauthorized vehicles, 24/7 enforcement, fines and towing, etc. It’s not the first time today I see it and drive past. “Parkthere,” she tells me.
Park where it says I’ll be towed? Seriously? Are you gonna give me a waiver for my dashboard or something?
She assures me it’s perfectly alright. I assure her it perfectly fucking isn’t. I ask if she’s the one who will go retrieve my towed vehicle and pay the fine when it isn’t perfectly alright. I tell her I can just imagine the conversation I’ll have with the agent at the impoundment lot — “But I called DJJ and they told me it was okay…” while they laugh hysterically and say, ”Gosh we never heard THAT story before.”
She gets huffy and tells me since I’m becoming “irate” she’ll get somebody else to help me and the next thing I know I’m listening to her tell somebody else there’s some upset loudmouth going to a meeting who can’t follow instructions while the whole time the third person’s answering service message is playing. Good — that means maybe this whole next conversation will be recorded. They can use it to improve customer satisfaction at their annual taxpayer-funded motivational seminar. State employees are very concerned about customer satisfaction — ask anybody who has ever filed for unemployment or attempted to renew their driver’s license in under 5 hours.
The next person also tells me I’m looking at the right lot — just park. I ask her the same questions about enforcement. I point out that as a VeeJayJay agent, SHE’S in the law enforcement business , and she’s advising me to ignore a clearly posted legal directive. She tells me I must be looking at the wrong lot. I tell her I’m exactly where two people in her office (so far) have directed me, including her.
“Alright, look — I’m gonna send somebody down there to guide ya where yersupposeta park, OK?” And then a guy gets on the line, says he’s in a green striped shirt and black cap, and he’ll be right down.
Great — my own personal Sherpa. I meet him. Older guy (even older than me. And still working — probably double-dipping by now). I invite him inside the car (he was going to walk), and he directs me right back to the prohibited lot. I stare at him in disbelief. He doesn’t have any suggestions about what to tell patrolling cops and tow trucks about bothering my car, either.
“It’s alright,” he says, soothingly. “This is ah ovahflow lot. Wif all the gubmint buildins and biznusses heah, they get a little crazy wif duh parkin’. Put these dumass signs up. Evryboduh parks heah.”
There are people coming to this meeting from the west coast of Florida, Martin and Palm Beach Counties, Miami — how the fuck are they supposed to know where to park? How about posting a sign down here for the day? Or put somebody like yourself on the street to direct? How come attendees never got a memo about this? Why don’t these goddam bureaucrats bother to give a shit once in a while?
This is my problem with authority generally, law enforcement particularly. When they give a ripe shit at all, it’s to keep all the cards in their hands and manipulate everybody else. They invent these feeble little power games for their own amusement, at our expense, and get off on the discomfort and imbalance they create. Like they say in Austria, cops are the wurst. (No, not Conchita.)
He gives me a wide grin. “Gib em hell, bro,” he chuckles. “Mah tahm passed. You take ovuh.”
Right. A man of wisdom, comfortable in his skin and station, remaining within himself.
So much for arriving early to set up. And now I’m agitated and pissed off and looking for a face to punch. What a great way to walk into a presentation. I’d head for the men’s room to whack off my aggressions, but ever since the Senator Larry Craig show in the MSP airport, that’s asking for trouble. Besides, there’s fucking cops all over this building. They probably monitor the stalls.
So I eat my anger, start the presentation with a few tasteless jokes about cops, dead horses, and parking tickets (we all know that one, right?), and leave early. The car has been neither ticketed nor towed. For about half an attosecond, I’m disappointed.