Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Recently the rates on Chicago’s parking meters were jacked up and new meters were installed where previously there had been none. Most citizens are not pleased with this exciting new development and some of the more cynical residents of this great city suspect that there must be secret plans to funnel the anticipated increased revenue into an Olympics-related slush fund.

Over the last 20 years, finding free, legal parking in Chicago has gradually become akin to locating a website without pop-up ads. Since permit parking zones were first instituted decades ago, they have become a cancer, metastasizing throughout Chicago's neighborhoods. This writer has no issue with such zones, as long as 1) there is a preponderance of senior citizens and/or handicapped individuals who need to park close to their homes and 2) more than three quarters of the housing stock is apartment buildings without garages. However, you can now find permit parking on streets occupied by mainly single-family homes with garages. Don’t whine that restricted parking is needed because there’s shopping nearby, or a train station, or a Dairy Queen. These permit parking zones are not necessary. The aldermen simper, “But more than 50% of our residents want them.” Aldermen – and women – get a clue. If more than 50% of your children asked to be served ice cream for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, would you cede to their wishes? Sometimes you have to be smarter than your constituents and this is one of those times. Using garages for the purpose for which they were originally designed will solve the problem of residents not being able to find parking. Not meaning to insinuate that many garages are so full of crap that getting a car in there is harder than pulling a camel through the eye of a needle, of course.

That is my rant about permit parking, and it may be recycled later in this blog. For now, I would like to offer a nightmarish scenario as to where Chicago seems to be headed, getting-around-wise.

Now that LAZ Parking has done such a brilliant job of taking over our parking meters, let’s figure out some other ways to inconvenience and stealth-tax our drivers. How about installing 24-hour meters on the residential side streets, in the alleys and on the shoulders of the expressways. Those neighborhoods that are too blighted to merit meters (and where the installers would likely get mugged trying) can be permit parking only. Make sure that there is a hefty fee for the yearly – make that monthly – permit that the residents can’t afford.

Now that all streets are either metered or permit, let’s tackle the private garages. To enter his or her garage, an owner will be required to deposit a $10 bill, which will then be whisked into a secret Olympics 2016 fund. To exit the garage, come up with another $10. Stopping with drivers is for sissies. To make sure as many people are inconvenienced as possible, slash service on the CTA. Cut bus routes and hours of operation, and don’t forget to raise fares. To obtain one of those convenient “Chicago Cards”, require citizens to submit their Social Security Numbers and all bank/brokerage/credit card account info. Then eliminate payment by cash or regular fare card.

Let’s start licensing bike riders. The fees from all those licenses will help fund a new Olympic event, the “pothole slalom” and before you can say “Lance Armstrong” it’ll cost you to get around by bike. Finally, don’t spare the pedestrians. Set up a toll booth at every intersection. To cross any street, charge a toll of $5 per leg. To show that this is really a compassionate city, give any amputees a 5% discount, but make it exact change only, otherwise no deal.

If considering the above makes you crave copious quantities of alcohol, look on the bright side. Thousands of jobs in surveillance, security and law enforcement will be created. And won't it impress the Olympic Committee to be able to claim that our unemployment rate has gone from 10% to less than 3%?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Beccah, Ditch That H!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story in today’s Chicago Tribune about the young lady from Mokena, Illinois, Beccah Beushausen, who blogged her way to fame on a mostly made-up story about being pregnant with a terminally ill child who died soon after birth. I never had the pleasure of reading her blog and today was the first I heard of it. It was followed by thousands of pro-lifers eager for affirmation of their beliefs, and it drives home an important point: don’t believe everything you read, even if it agrees with you! That goes for us pro-choicers too.

Trust, but verify.

Having said that, I have to hand it to her. She is apparently a terrific writer who knows how to push emotional buttons. That is one thing I have never been able to do. I can tell a story, but I can’t sap it up and any excess emotion gets tempered with a little comedy thrown in. I also have a very hard time making up stuff. You could say that I have a dearth of imagination when it comes to generating sentiment. Go back and read the story “A Tale of Two Babies” earlier in this blog. Every fact in that story was corroborated, verified and approved by the mothers of the babies before I hit that “publish” button.

Beccah (and if I were her, I’d get rid of that superfluous h at the end of her name, since in Jewish tradition H is the childbearing letter and she misused it, whether she’s Jewish or not) has some choices. She can channel all that writing talent into cranking out a couple novels. That’s a positive use of her gift. Or she can appear on Oprah and The View and apologize over and over, telling, re-telling and crystalizing her sad story. Not so positive. Of course, the visual appearances would be more lucrative and less hard work. And money, especially easy money, is one thing we can all use.

Or she can fade into oblivion, having experienced her proverbial 15 minutes of shame.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Take My Money...Please!

I’m starting to look forward to the next telemarketer who asks me for money or the next business that tries to push unwanted services in my direction. Since I got rid of Caller ID, I’ve been picking up the phone more often. If it rings between 6 and 9 p.m. there’s a good chance it’s a charity, arts organization or semi-legitimate business hoping to make a hole in my pocket.

Charities and arts organizations aren’t too bad and I would consider sending them a few bucks if I had their assurance that my name and phone number wouldn’t end up on the mailing and calling lists of every other worthy cause in the nation. And in fact, I donate regularly to Purple Hearts and am pretty much a soft touch for anything veteran-related, especially when it involves contributing goods instead of money.


I am a Suspicious Aloysius when it comes to people trying to sell me services I don’t need or trying to guilt me into parting with my money. Some of the most aggressive telemarketers are those folks who call on behalf of police functions. When I politely informed the caller that I donated through my employment and my church and had made all my donations for the year, he questioned me. “You don’t support law enforcement?” I roared back with the equivalent of “I’ll enforce YOU!” and asked for his name and his supervisor’s name. He backed off, a wounded and chastened cur slinking off into telespace, phone between his legs.

Another opportunity arose the other day when I contacted a tech provider to get some over-the-phone help. The assistant I got was more interested in selling me services I didn’t want or need than actually helping me to solve the problem. I politely refused one such service, repeating at least three times that I didn’t have the budget for it. But if I had the presence of mind, the conversation would have gone more like this:

Tech Dude: This service is very inexpensive, it’s less than $11 a month!

Me: Sorry, but it’s not in my budget.

Tech Dude: For only $10.95 a month you can have this service!

Me: You wanna repeat my last sentence?

Tech Dude: But it’s only $10.95 a month! That’s less than a tank of gas!

Me: Since you think it’s so necessary that I have this service and you feel it’s so inexpensive, am I to infer that you are willing to personally pay for it so that I can have it?

Tech Dude: [silence]

And that is what the next phone-beggar will get from me. If it’s that important to you that I buy your service or make a donation for which I have no budget, I will turn the tables and ask you for the money.

Bring it on.