It's not a big deal, except it is a big deal. Parking meters. They are necessary to manage the way people use, and share, public space.
How often do we consider how our thinking and actions impact others?
The real-life, case study of The Parking Meter is baffling. The new "smart" parking meters take quarters and credit cards, but that's not all. The meters are "wired in" to the interwebs and there are already apps for drivers to find open spots and feed the meter with their smartphones.
Credit cards or coins: okay, that's fair.
New design: of course, but now I hanker for old style just for the visual, visceral rush of remembering being allowed to drop the pennies in and turn the turner thingy.
But wait: I. Can't. See. It. It's too tall.
What is this weird spate of unusually tall people installing these new meters?
I'm 5'3". This meter, from sidewalk to tippy top, is 5' tall. Take the new screen, titled back at about 45 degrees; and the glare from a sunny day; add that I'm in a rush and get clumsy while I'm standing on my tippy toes (so I stumble) as I try to read the instructions for this new system.
wtf? Maybe it was the winter of 2015 that was the concern and a city would lose revenues from parking meters if the snowbanks buried them.
Nope, that's not the case.
A quick google search tells me that Too Tall Parking Meters have been cited at least as far back as 2012 (Louisville, KY); 2013 (Easton, MA); 2014 (Reno, NV); 2014 Pittsburgh, PA; 2014 (Tampa, FL and a class-action suit); 2015 (Sacramento, CA); 2015 (Tuscon, AZ).
AND, last week was the National Parking Association Convention and Expo in Atlanta, GA.
It is concerning not only that this strategic error in installation happened. What's dumbfounding is that it keeps happening. It means that too many people with the responsibility of the systems of our civic function have their heads down. Literally, causjng a severe CDD: curiosity deficit disorder. In a city like Tampa, FL (pop. near 350,000), it cost taxpayers $7 for the new meters to be installed. And then how much to cut the posts down to size?
If you can't readily see one of these meters, it is upsetting because if you don't use it right, you'll get a ticket. If you can readily see one of these meters, do you care? Should you care? Could you care?
In our communities, we have people of all kinds of abilities, sizes, habits, language, etc. participating in what we hope is good clockwork. Whenever we are responsible for maintaining a part of the clock, we are responsible for staying alert enough to know what where are doing, for whom, and why. It's that simple.
How does the way we work, and live, impact others? Habits relating to trash keeping, music listening, leaf collecting, driving technique, sidewalk passing are all workings of the interactive systems of our day. We do such tasks either mindlessness, automatically, or routinely. At what point do we look around and consider shifts going on? At what point are we thoughtful about how our own convenience is another person's stress? What fuels us to think of others, as we want to be thought of? (I'm keeping the preposition at the end of the sentence because that's the way we talk. Someone is "well thought of.") What about "oft thought of?" How often do we think of others?
What measures of curious and rationale considerations do we take in the course of doing our daily work?
This is a simple and involved question. Rhetorical, wondering questions don't elicit talk back and conversation, per se. It takes a little while to connect such questions to the living of our days. We collect and test.
If we can't thoughtfully talk about how we include and serve all people in our community, we might at least want to avoid wasting time and money and install parking meters sized for the whole population using them.
Being 5'3" and shrinking,
Divign Thinking is about building our skill set of compassion, creativity and rationale as spiritual leaders. As often as this body of work is embraced, it is thought to be limited to the spiritual + leader part, as if it might relate to only a certain group of practitioners. I have to descibe Divign Thinking as a collection of resources, ideas and conversations about sharing our purpose and passion as we participate in our communities.
What I don't separate out from the elements of Divign thinking is multi/cross/interculturalism. If you're reading this, you are part of a multi-cultural system somehow. Interculturalism means we internalize the thought, "systems don't revolve around me." Let's take a look at where intercultualism shows in the five practices of Divign Thinking:
EQ: knowing the difference between what we we know and what we feel (and how we respond) when confronted with facts or truths beyond our own experience;
Wonder: how we employ our conscience, caring and interest by asking questions of ourselves, another, others and the systems around us about what we don't understand, don't know, and need to;
Creativity: what we try to newly express or solve through disruption of habits, art, invention, etc.;
Collaboration: joining with others to solve problems based on a shared vision (without standing in the middle or on the outside of the circle)
Meaning Making: regularly reflecting on our experiences, new knowledge and wisdom, integrating insights through our personal and spiritual practices Now take our intercultural awareness, experiences and skills.
The term "culture" is broad, actually. We speak of cultural distinctions because within the framework of any particular identity, there are expectations, norms, customs, and something binding that culture together. When we use the definition of culture to include a set of factors that describe similar habits, expectations, norms and functioning -- we can consider how to name or describe a culture.
What is the culture of being from a certain neighborhood?
What is the culture of a workplace?
What is the culture of certain learning styles, gender, careers, institutions?
This is talk in generalities. At some point we can't speak about cultural differences and cross-cultural consideration and we just have to talk about how we make decisions that are inclusive as possible. And rather than ask, "are we being inclusive?" we can be more efficient by asking, "who will be left out" of this decision....of this event....of this policy....of this_______________?" Once we have an answer, we are compelled to ask, "what is the impact?" and "what adjustments are possible?" We can't always include everyone but we can -- and should -- do a whole lot better.
This is still talk in generalities. This premise of this is thinking about how we are gaining intercultural competency, or not. This is not a partisan issue. Interculturalism impacts our communities. Everyone wants smooth functioning of all the systems to save time and money. Intercultural competency requires conscientious curiosity as we examine all the ways our daily lives are impacted by decisions that are just thoughtless -- like, in an absence-of-thought kind of way. If we are curious and ask that question, "is this the best we can do?" we begin to disrupt patterns in our society that just don't make sense.
So, how do we regularly update our intercultural operating system based on data and experience?
First, we accept the fact that processes and problems that naturally appear within an group or organizational context involve individuals from different religious, social, ethnic, and educational backgrounds -- at the least. Then we include in our thinking the culture of gender, ability, learning needs, physical concerns and more. Then, in order to do a good job, we seek to understand how people within any group perceive and interact with the world around them. If we're intelligent, we set out to figure ways to design, teach or adjust the operating system which we are, in a way that factors in these variables.
This isn't about our ideologies or feelings about who belongs where. It is about knowing what we need to do in order to do our part in contributing to efficient and fair participation. After all, compassion and creativity is worth little if it doesn't make sense.
This is still talk in generalities. In the next series, let's take a look at some of the surprising, common places and times when Things Happen, in an absence-of-thought kind of way. What are some that you notice?