Civil Disobedience

Now well into my 60s, I check the obituaries regularly to make sure my name isn’t in them. But that wasn’t always the case. I used to check the post office frequently to make sure my photo and profile weren’t on the bulletin boards as a sought-after felon!

When justice, principles, or common respect are wantonly disregarded, righteous indignation flows through my vessels.

I have worked at the firehouse since 1974 when, as a college student, I had a job with the Center for Community Action, from which sprung the Mixed Blood Theatre. If we would park with the nose of our cars to the old fire doors, we would get a parking ticket for blocking the sidewalk. If we parked as though there was a curb, we would get a ticket for blocking the driveway! And tickets were a whole $7 in those days when my gross pay was $700 per month.

I met with the City (at 21) to get guidance on how this could be resolved. They wrote me a letter asserting that we could park with our nose to the fire doors as long as the back of our cars didn’t block the sidewalk (that wasn’t there).

There used to be a cadre of parking enforcement peacekeepers called the “Meter Maids.” Fourth Street had 90-minute parking – no meters, just signs indicating that. The Meter Maids would chalk the tires of the cars and then return 90 minutes later to give tickets. After my meeting with and ruling from Maria (head of the Meter Maids), I parked as instructed…AND GOT A TICKET FOR BLOCKING THE SIDEWALK.

In those days, the Meter Maids would get out of their scooters and walk down the block to place the citations on the windshields of the now-tardy chalked cars. Outraged at my ticket, I (letter in hand) waited for the Meter Maid to be well down the block, flung open the fire doors of our building, drove the Meter Maid’s scooter into the building, and closed the doors!

Soon there were sirens and police cars. (It seems someone had stolen City property.) I held my letter up to the glass. We yelled at each other. I opened the doors. I returned the scooter. I wasn’t arrested. I dodged the post office bulletin board…that time.

I never got another parking ticket for parking with my headlights to the fire doors. The Meter Maids’ policy changed. For the past 47 years, they now get back into their scooters, which are now cars (and the enforcers aren’t gender-specific), and pull up to each car that they intend to cite. Meters replaced the signs. I called Maria and thanked her for resolving the matter.

My actions had led to a change in attitude, behavior, and policy – a long-held aspiration of the future Mixed Blood Theatre. A disciple of Dr. King, I was proud that civil disobedience had won that day. I don’t check the Post Office as often anymore.