This is one of the new parking meters in Walnut Creek, California.
We hates it, precious.
I probably stood in front of the new meter a full five minutes, staring at it’s confusing, intimidating face, pushing buttons and trying to interpret the inscrutable instructions that flashed across its screen. This was in service of making certain that I had paid for the full two hours allowable, which I knew I needed. Payment had to be by credit card of course. The simple days of feeding a meter are gone – at least in Walnut Creek.
I returned not one minute late…to discover… a $45 parking ticket and a notice that the meter had expired one hour earlier. Was. Not. Pleased.
While I was contemplating protesting the ticket, because I really had tried to pay, I managed to misplace it and had to call the city parking authority to pay. Somehow this took the wind out of my “protest” sails. (Naturally, they charged me an additional $2.50 for paying by phone.)
The world has changed under me in ways I could never have foreseen, and even for those more at ease with the digital revolution, there are dehumanizing impacts. Machines control more and more of our interaction with the world, and they create a certain mindset – one that is very focused on end-products and outcomes. This will let us down.
There is a strong tendency for this focus to reinforce what is already often our sole objective in any problem solving or conflict resolution we are involved in: to push for the result we want.
But the results/outcome based focus will derail us.
It will interfere with a nuanced, shared examination of the situation.
It will short-circuit the process, driving us farther away from finding the best solution.
It will diminish the depth, complexity and warmth of our relationships, making it harder to connect now and later.
We need to resist the “machine-like” way of interacting with life.
Can we set aside the problem and focus on what matters to one another? Can we stay with that until we can both say that we understand what matters to the other – and that we feel cared about?
This is the mindset we need to bring to finding solutions that will truly benefit everyone who is a stakeholder. If we can get there together, new doors will open.
When I called the Walnut Creek Parking Authority, I tried to have some human connection with the person I spoke to. I asked if he would be able to pass on the word that some of us, at least, find the new meters very un-user-friendly.
He said he had nothing to do with that and suggested that I contact City Hall.
I stayed with it. I said I would just appreciate it if he could pass on my concern. I said that I understood that he had a lot of work to do, and that this was not his job, but I would be grateful nevertheless. His voice softened, and he said he understood and would do that.
It was a minor victory, but one that felt as though it was almost worth $47.50.
Let’s not treat people like the machines proliferating around us
What we can do in the face of any kind of dehumanizing experience is bring our own warmth and humanity into the situation. If person-to-person interaction is happening, we always have that choice. It automatically invites others forward.
With You on the Path