Thursday, 18 August 2016

The day I got a death threat at work

I am fortunate. Part of my job is to promote sustainability and environmentally friendly activities. In a team meeting I mentioned the worldwide activity known as PARKing Day.

PARKing Day is one day a year where community groups and others temporarily transform a metered car space into an alternate use. Sometimes it's a mini-park, with fake grass and deck chairs. Sometimes it's a mini coffee shop. I've even seen a mini-golf set-up and an op-shop for second-hand clothing. It's a great way to highlight how much of our city is consumed by parking and how many other things could be done with that space if we were less car dependent. The activity is legal, paid for and has local council approval.

playing checkers on PARKing Day

In the meeting I gave the op-shop example. A colleague said that if she saw an op-shop in a car parking space, she'd drive over the shop and anyone in it. As a supporter of the event and possible attendee I tried to look for other ways to take this - other than as a threat on my life.

My colleague is not evil. As far as I know, she doesn't generally threaten to kill people. But that's part of the effect of spending time behind the wheel. When I had a car, driving in traffic could often make me quite agitated and sometimes aggressive towards other drivers. This was part of the reason I gave up driving.

If something turns you into an aggressive and hostile person, the sensible thing is to give up that thing. I choose my character, my faith and my humanity over having a car. Clearly not everyone is in a position to make that choice, so we get situations like this.

It seems when a person spends enough time behind the wheel, they view the car almost as an extension of theirself. They see a parking space as some sort of birthright that the rest of the world owes them. Wherever they go, even in the busy areas, they have an expectation that room must be made for them and for their two tonnes of metal.

Is this why we sometimes talk about car "addiction"? People acting like desperate drug addicts when they don't get their fix. Unable to imagine an existence without the thing they crave.

As humans we generally say that we love other people - or at least like them enough not to kill them. It seems that driving a car takes us far away from that ideal.

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