You bet snow emergencies are unjust

am a victim.
Sure, I know what you’re thinking: How can a white male with a middle-class upbringing in 20th-century America possibly be maligned, defamed, cheated or otherwise shortchanged by society? Well, believe me, last Friday it happened.
A fiendish agent of the city of Minneapolis towed my battered, bruised and rusted-out 81 Chevy Citation after we had a hiccup of a snowstorm.
Now some of you are probably saying, “What the hell? The idiot parked on the wrong side of the street. It’s winter, this is Minnesota, Minneapolis wants to make money and there was a foot of white stuff on the ground. Of course they towed him, what else could he possibly expect?”
I must protest; our urban parking crisis defies such simple stereotypes. While it may be politically expedient for reactionaries to tirelessly blame the hapless victims of discriminatory parking policies, a more holistic and comprehensive approach is necessary if we are to ever heal these nagging social lesions.
As a victim, I won’t allow the faceless bureaucracy buried deep within the labyrinth of city hall to stomp on my claims to equal treatment under the law. Like the characters in “Independence Day,” to paraphrase Bill Pullman’s excessively charismatic character, “We’re fighting for something more important than freedom: We’re fighting for the right to park.”
We, the economically disenfranchised and destitute residents of Minneapolis who can’t afford off-street parking, demand vehicular justice!
A few College Republicans in the audience are undoubtedly squirming in their seats and nervously reaching for a bottle of Tums. They’re muttering and cursing to themselves, saying, “Here comes another damn liberal down the yellow brick road of special-interest minority politics.” Relax, guys (and most of them are guys), parking isn’t necessarily a zero-sum game.
I’m advocating a few modest proposals that, if implemented, will humanize the Darwinian parking system currently in place in Minneapolis. Here’s a brief rundown:
The parking dialogue
Before reconciliation can ever occur, all of the participants in the great parking debate must first discuss their differences. We must expose the misconceptions and ill-conceived notions that govern the relationships between tow truck operators, impound lot employees, meter maids and victims like me. All parking violators aren’t slovenly! We simply want to be treated with dignity and respect. We aren’t looking for special perks, parcelled handouts or pork-barrel benefits. Rather, we’re merely asking for equal opportunity. That’s not so threatening, is it?
Parking empowerment zones
This is an oft-misunderstood program, so allow me to clarify. In a parking empowerment zone, the automobiles most discriminated against are evaluated with alternative performance measures. This “legalese” may sound excessively vague and subject to the abuses of interpretation, but that’s the idea.
Consider the following example. My decrepit Chevy Citation starts poorly because of fouled spark plugs and an improperly adjusted carburetor. In fairness, should I be held to the same standard as the driver of a BMW 835i? Definitely not. I’m not asking for any special allowances, but some consideration should be given to disadvantaged vehicles such as mine. My car didn’t choose to have faulty electrical and mechanical components, it just came off the assembly line that way.
Unfortunately the modern-day welfare state is under scurrilous attack by right-wing operatives, religious zealots and GOP neophytes. In such an environment, far-sighted social programs like parking empowerment zones are being pushed out of the legislative limelight faster than Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. This is criminal callousness.
Subsidized suburban parking
The NAACP has long championed this cause and rightly so. Suburbanites aren’t forced to constantly search for a parking spot after city officials declare snow emergencies: They simply leave the car in the garage. Urban dwellers like me, however, must stay snow smart and learn to distinguish emergency routes, parkways and residential streets from one another. I must also be aware that some city administrators feel three or four inches of snow constitutes an emergency. Franklin Roosevelt had it right when more than 60 years ago he promised the American people a chicken in every pot and a garage for every car. Why is it city folk like me haven’t shared in the prosperity? At the very least, I should be allowed to park in some suburbanite’s garage.
Sensitivity training
Discovering that my car went AWOL on Friday afternoon was a traumatic experience. I don’t remember feeling so panicked and flustered since I got lost driving my Incredible Hulk Hot Wheels in second grade. In situations like these I immediately call my mom, the Ann Landers of my family.
I whimpered, “Mom, they … towed away my car earlier today.” Instead of offering an empathetic ear, however, she blathered about parking being a privilege and not a right. I really expected more from my very own suburban soccer mom. Cold, distant attitudes like this won’t change until we all embrace diversity seminars and sensitivity consultants.
I’m certain an amicable solution to Minneapolis’ parking crisis exists; it’s merely a matter of communication.
In closing, remember what one of the landmark leaders of the parking-rights movement said: “Can’t we all just get along?”
With a little more free parking, I’m sure we can.
Greg Lauer’s column runs every Wednesday in the Daily.