Funny You Should Say That! No Parking Any Time
Finding defeat on the street.
By John Cadley
I’m writing this column in my car, where I’ve been sitting for the last several minutes trying to figure something out. Perhaps you can help. I’m looking at a street sign that reads: “Parking Permitted from 6 p.m. on odd days to 6 p.m. on even days.” Do you have this sign in your city? If you do, could you please tell me what it means? I don’t want to get a ticket.
My problem is that it seems more like a math problem than a traffic sign, and I’m not very good at math. It reminds me of those test questions that start: “If Mary travels 40 miles at 30 mph and Jane travels 30 miles at 40 mph, how long will it take...?” At this point I find myself wishing that Mary and Jane would drive off a cliff together like Thelma and Louise.
In fact, the more I look at this sign it reminds me of a Zen koan, which is supposed to give you wisdom by making you contemplate a question that has no answer, like: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” If you try to answer that question logically you will go mad and start claiming you know the formula for Coca-Cola®. I feel like that: This sign is making me crazy.
First of all, I don’t know today’s date. I never know the date. Nobody knows the date except bank tellers, and that’s only because they have that little display so people won’t keep asking them the date. I ask them anyway.
I’m trying to work forward from the last date I do remember, which would be New Year’s Day (January 1st, right?), but then I can’t remember which months have 30 days and which have 31. Why can’t we just have one big month with 365 days? Call it Januember, so we have dates like Januember 212th. True, there wouldn’t be any horoscopes, but is that such a bad thing?
So let’s see…I wrote a check two days ago and put down April 7th, but that was a guess. I knew it wasn’t April 15th because I haven’t broken out in hives yet from doing my taxes. Besides, it just felt like April 7th. That would make today April 9th.
Now, what time is it? This is when I wish I’d figured out how to set my dashboard clock. Right now it says 2:23 a.m. and I’m sitting in bright sunlight, so that can’t be right. I’m guessing mid-afternoon – say, 3:30.
Okay, so it’s 3:30 p.m. on an odd day. Now, let’s plug those figures into the algebraic equation on the sign. It says, “Parking permitted from 6 p.m. on odd days to 6 p.m. on even days.” What does “from 6 p.m.” mean? After 6 p.m.? It’s not after 6 p.m. yet, so it’s not an odd day. Or wait – it is an odd day but not the right kind of odd day, which would be an “after 6 p.m.” odd day. I can’t wait til 6 p.m. My meeting starts at 3:45.
So then it’s an even day – or it’s an odd day that I should treat as an even day. Let’s make sure this is right. Parking is permitted to 6 p.m. on even days. So that must mean up until 6 p.m. on even days. But it’s an odd day!! So I’m on the right side of the street at the wrong time. And if I cross over I’ll be on the wrong side of the street at the right time.
I have a headache.
Okay, let’s take a deep breath and start over. (Deep breath). Fact: It’s 3:30 p.m. on April 9th. Fact: It’s an odd day that won’t become officially odd for another two and a half hours. Fact: I can’t wait that long. Not only is my meeting in 15 minutes but I really have to go to the bathroom. Conclusion: The other side of the street is my only alternative. But the sign there says parking is allowed “from 6 p.m. on even days” and my meeting goes til 6:30. So at the stroke of 6 p.m. I will be legal on the odd side while I’m still on the even side.
This sign has no right answer. The Department of Public Works has given me a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. I have no choice now but to stop writing and accept my fate. Perhaps you’ll hear from me again, perhaps not.
I’ve just entered the Parking Twilight Zone.
John Cadley is an advertising copywriter in Syracuse, New York. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.