Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Unemployment and Parking

You may ask yourself....what do these two things have in common? Everything. Here in Rabat parking is the unemployment solution. The jobless rate is at about 30%. That leads to lots of people in the streets looking for a way to make some money. There are lots of beggars as evidenced by my 5 year who I noticed one day pretending she was a blind beggar. Then you have the tissue box sellers and windshield cleaners. However, the most ingenious way to make some cash is the self appointed parking attendant.

For the price of a reflective vest you can claim your own spot in a city street and help people maneuver and in out of parking spots for some change. I'm guessing the process is similar to what homesteading was except without the piece of paper or Indians for that matter. The same attendants are in the same spots day after day and will give you hand gestures (of the nice, helpful variety even) and assist you in maneuvering in and out of a parking spot for a mere 2 dirhams (approximately 20 cents US dollars) paid when you leave your spot (don't pay before you pull out to leave, it only goes to shows you're a foreigner). Some attendants go a step further and will even wash your car while you're parked and that may cost you a whopping 5 dirhams (we still haven't reach 1 us dollar yet). The car washers are the real go-getters of the business. If their product was Mary Kay these would be the pink Cadillac drivers.

What strikes me is how civilized it all is. All attendants know the exact boundries of their parking areas and what infringes on another attendants parking area and they respect them. And I have never noticed an attendant getting stiffed on a tip. How did this all work out? Who was the mastermind of this brilliant idea? And how did 2 dirhams get to be the standard price? It's truly fascinating that this independent parking microcosm runs itself and results in its own little parking utopia.

Now can you imagine this working in the states? In say LA? No way! There are so many ways this wouldn't work. First, while Americans do have the independent spirit to come up with this scheme, we lack any civility to carry it out peacefully. Not only would there be discrepancies over whose area is whose, but also those hand gestures the attendant gave you well...they might not be all that helpful and you can just hear the driver saying "that scratch wasn't there when I parked and I sure ain't tippin' you byatch". And you know a gun would be involved. Now a government agency is gonna get involved, if they haven't stepped in already. They are going to sell the reflective vests for $50 and register each independent contractor until they are no longer independent. Then voila, it's an inefficient government run social service agency which has created some fantastically cushy jobs for the administrators that work in a nice air conditioned office somewhere shuffling papers. The sad thing is....you know this is all true.

So let's dispense of our American attitudes and develop some civility. Maybe Ember was on to something. Next time she picks up a stick to play blind beggar woman I'm going to give her a lesson on economics and hand her a reflective vest. We could start our own family experiment to see how long it would take until a bureaucrat emerges and who it would be. Okay I already know which one of my kids would be sitting in the comfy air conditioned office, but how long would it take? Where do you buy those vests from anyway? Do they come in extra small?

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