Austin has always been a pretty hippy-dippy place. Back in the ‘70s, we had longhairs smoking dope with rednecks at the Armadillo World Headquarters, bonding over their common love of Willie Nelson. The Armadillo is long gone – replaced by a bank that is now also long gone – but today we have an ashram on the edge of town, macrobiotic restaurants that unashamedly serve barbecued tofu, and more Buddhist meditation centers than Katmandu (not really; I just like the word “Katmandu”).
But I am embarrassed to say that I think Cambridge, Mass., may have Austin out hippie-dippied.
I came to this conclusion after reading an article the other day that said that parking violations in that fair city are now helpfully illustrated with a series of calming yoga poses.
The article said the city printed 40,000 of these tantric tchotchkes as part of a public art project by artist-in-residence Daniel Peltz.
Austin has public art – we have a rotating statue of a giant bat, and another (non-rotating) statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan. And we used to have an Alice-in-Wonderland sized magic mushroom statue (this speaks — or mumbles — volumes about Austin), but it still sounds to me like Peltz needs to take it easy on the hemp-seed granola.
Peltz was quoted as saying: “I started this process by wondering what would happen in a world where I received [tickets] with a set of graceful postures: a clean bend at the waist, a gentle lift of the windshield wiper. I’m going to get the ticket either way; my only choice really is how I’m going to receive it.”
Choosing how you’re going to receive it is also an option during an IRS audit, a colonoscopy, or shower time for the new kid on Cell Block D. Speaking for myself, I don’t think I could “receive” any of these with anything even vaguely resembling grace. And I know that for a fact when it comes to the colonoscopy thing — I’ve received a couple of those and, unless you consider whimpering graceful, my posture was anything but.
City fathers (and at least one city mother) say the tickets are a good-vibe kind of thing. Transportation chief Susan E. Clippinger said, “It’s trying to debunk the idea that all parking tickets are a hostile action. We’re not writing tickets to get somebody. We’re writing tickets to help make the city function.” Sounds like a New-Agey spin on the old “this hurts me more than it does you” song and dance.
The touchy-feely project doesn’t end with the yoga tickets. New street signs explain traffic rules in offbeat ways; “10,000 Excuses” is a mural of excuses given by ticketed drivers; and plush, stuffed “soft-boots” to give the ultimate parking penalty a warmer, fuzzier feel. About the only thing missing now is aura readings and Reiki massages.
Clippinger reports a mixed reaction from the city’s 33 parking enforcement officers, who write about 340,000 tickets a year.
“Some of them think we’re crazy,” she said.
Only some of them? No kidding? Lady, I’m from Austin and even I think y’all are crazy.