Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In Praise of My First Parking Ticket

O joy and rapture, my first parking ticket! Months after discerning out, of fearing that my blank record would reveal me to be the abnormal former-friar that I am, I can regain anonymity under the guise of illegality. The solemn pink slip of paper. The unsettling surprise of finding it on the windshield before pulling off. The slight sigh of relief when you realize that it will only cost you $30. $30! That’s barely half a tank of gas. What a bargain! And apparently I can pay it online. With the great advances of the digital age, I’m spared the hassle of digging up an envelop, writing a check, packing postage or going down to the station to see that my bill is clear.

The back story, though, is more epic still. I was on the way to adoration at Tulane Catholic Center and could not find a parking spot. (A pox upon ‘The Boot’ and its Monday night reveling!) I was first tempted to park in an empty teacher parking lot, but my conscience grabbed me and I chose to pull out. Then, I almost pulled in behind a small Civic that had left just enough room for one more vehicle. But, alas, my conscience gripped me again. The bumper-stickers and ornaments indicated that the owner was a female and the thought of blocking a woman in on a Mid-City night while I ran off to be with Jesus was too terrible to bear. Therefore, rather than stop, I rounded the block, returned to the Catholic Center and saw the fated spot. It was behind the old Newman Girls College. A car was already occupying part of the space. There was a ‘no parking’ sign, but it was frightfully askew and hung next to an adjacent dumpster. I assumed that it indicated ‘do not block this dumpster’ which, due to my pathological fear of being crushed by a garbage truck, is the very thing I always try to avoid. I considered my situation, that I was burning gas and missing out on time with the Lord, and decided that the signage was ambiguous enough to warrant the risk. I pulled in all the way, as far from the dumpster as possible, and ran inside to adore Christ. The chapel being located directly above the spot, I comforted myself by thinking that the Lord and I could look out together and discern the results of my actions. The Just Judge would be there with me when I discovered whether or not I had committed a crime.

Admittedly, the situation was full of moral ambiguity. As much as I might be tempted to compare my thirty dollars to St. Paul’s lashings thirty nine lashes, I know that the gravity and intentions of the situations separate our sufferings. Yet, I must say that it is some consolation to know that I was in the upper room in prayer when first the arm of the law was raised against me. God be praised! After leaving formation, I return to the world, not as one of its members, but as one of those commissioned by their baptism to convert it. Fasts and solitude are wonderful: but the thrill of risking a parking ticket to be with the Lord is a new one and, I say, a quite refreshing one. So take heart, my friends. We may not have persevered to the point of shedding blood, but our witness to a world is heroic none-the-less. O, if only I could talk to the one who gave me the ticket, to make that one understand that I would do it all again (my ignorance of the law remaining) just to be alone with the Lord!

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