Parking Meter Vigilantes Accused of Jerkishness
by Susana Polo | 4:19 pm, May 15th, 2013
Superheroes can’t get by on being big jerks all the time. Batman. Batman, stop it. You are ruining my point, Batman.
Okay, superheroes can’t get by on being big jerks all the time, unless they’re Batman. Or Cyclops. And real life “superheroes” really can’t get by if they’re going to be jerks to people. I’m not saying the Keene, New Hampshire group who went around topping up expired parking meters and calling themselves “Robin Hood and his Merry men” are necessarily real life superheroes. But I am saying that they probably should have been very careful about making sure they weren’t being jerks to the folks whose job it is to enforce parking while they were doing it.
Keene is currently suing six of their citizens for allegedly harassing, taunting, intimidating, and otherwise interfering with the city’s three parking enforcers during their duties. The group’s general activities consist of plunking change into expired meters and leaving notes on the windshields of cars that read “we saved you from the king’s tariffs, Robin Hood and his Merry Men,” and encourage the receiver to pay it forward by donating to a short list of charities. Which is pretty decent: nothing here is illegal, the city still gets its meter money, and maybe some money actually gets donated to charity.
Members of the group maintain that they’ve done nothing wrong. “They say video recording or talking to them is harassing them, but I don’t agree with that,” says defendant James Cleaveland, “So they want to establish a safety zone of fifty feet.” The lawsuit does not seek to stop his group from filling meters or from filming.
But the officers tell a slightly different story about the “talking,” and the city is concerned that if they can’t convince the Merry Men to behave, their officers will all quit, incurring the city the expense of having to hire and train new parking officers. From Yahoo! News:
Parking enforcement officer Linda Desruisseaux said, “Besides following me, crowding around me, making video recordings of my activities, and placing coins in expired meters to prevent me from writing tickets, these individuals repeatedly taunt and harass me, asking why I am stealing peoples’ money and telling me to get another job … In particular, Graham Colson likes to taunt me by saying, ‘Linda, guess what you’re not going to do today – write tickets.’ … The taunting and harassment tends to get worse when there is a group, as they try to one-up each other at my expense.
Whatever the truth, there’s an important thing here to remember, for when you’re gently subverting the status quo: if somebody’s job is involved in that status quo, you probably should try to be as polite and non-threatening as possible to them, and not, you know, openly mock them about how you’re making their job obsolete. And that goes double if there are more of you than there are of them. And take it from this former receptionist: never pretend to be horrible as a joke, especially to a stranger who is prevented by their professional position to give back what they get, because they already see too much of that that’s 100% genuine. It ain’t right, and your mommas, or at the very least Mr. Rogers, raised you better.