Friday, November 30, 2007

Just Past New York

Of all the goods and services in a free economy, there's none quite as bizarre as parking.

Say you put twenty-five cents into a meter: now what have you purchased? It's not like renting a gym locker, where you'd be paying for the secured nature of that empty space. Parking spots aren't protected by anything except some white lines on the ground. That's right, your three-dimensional space is secured by a two-dimensional boundary.

Oh, and by the way, that space you rented? You don't get to just do whatever you want with it. You couldn't, for instance, put a quarter in the meter and then lay down to take a nap. You can't bring a table along with you, set it up in the parking space, and eat dinner. That space is for cars, and nothing else. You are renting completely unsecured empty space that can only be used for one purpose.

Alright, fine. So you park your car in the space, and you get to use it for an hour. But only if you don't leave! If you move your car from that space for even a second, anyone else can park there. Where else does this happen in life? It would be like mailing your rent check, going to work, and when you get home some other guy is there with all his stuff*. And he doesn't have to leave. And you don't get your rent money back.

So if you're not getting any sort of security for your space, and you can only do one thing with it, and no one holds it for you if you leave, then what does the quarter buy you? What does your rental mean? It means that for one hour, they WON'T ticket you.

You are paying someone money so that they won't charge you more money. What a service.

*Some of that guy's stuff is probably hanging a little over into your neighbor's house.

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