Friday, February 12, 2010

The Unexpected Cost of Ministry

I get parking tickets. Oy, I get parking tickets, especially, but not only in the City of Somerville. Mayor Curtatone requests the clergy of Somerville come to his office once a year, just to check in about things. I went about two years ago, and met the guy. I liked him very much.

When the mayor asked about the needs and concerns of our people, we said first, "Parking."

When I started working at the church in Somerville, I got parking tickets every week, sometimes several. I parked too close to an intersection. I parked longer than two hours on College Ave. I stayed too long at a meter because the meter is a one hour meter instead of two.

In Somerville, you can buy an annual temporary permit to hang on your rear view mirror. The City of Somerville grants the permit recognizing the necessity of parking near one's own house of worship. Clergy, lay people, both can get this temporary permit. My green permit reads, in black sharpie ink, "Church, 89 College Ave."

I'm entirely grateful for this permit, but for the first year I had this permit, the Meter Maid or Man failed to notice the permit hanging from my mirror - especially when there was also snow on the windshield, or rain, or when it was dark. So even though I figured out how to place my car in the right place, I still got parking tickets. I thought my head would blow off. I sent the tickets in with a note, and did it again, and again. I called, and called again, asking for my permit to be noticed.

I also got tickets when I forgot to place my "Church" permit on my rear view mirror, or when the permit fell off the mirror into the dark abyss of the space between the car seats where, if the meter man or maid wanted to look, it could not been seen. I learned to reinforce the paper hook of the permit with packing tape.

These days, I haven't got a ticket in a long time in that exact spot, on Francesca Ave. right behind the curb cut and the space reserved for those who hold a handicapped parking permit. I learned and I hardly ever forget to put the permit on my dashboard. The Meter Man or Maid kindly sees my permit and gives me a pass, a passover. This feels like mercy to me, especially when I really do forget to place my permit. Thank you Meter Man or Maid.

Here's the last thing I'll say about this parking permit problem. Since my permit says "Church, 89 College Ave." but my parishioners live and work all over Somerville, I get parking tickets on avenues Franklin and Highland, or spend my time worrying that I will.

I must say, parking enforcement in Somerville is thorough and consistent. S/he watching over Somerville slumbers not nor sleeps. Psalm 121:4 (a paraphrase)

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