At the last Beaufort City Council meeting, downtown parking was the issue of the day.
You have to hand it to the council for even discussing parking, in any form. After the Great Parking Kiosk Controversy of 2010, it would not be surprising if some on council wanted to avoid using the word "parking" again. Personally, I wouldn't even discuss "parks," as that, too, would trigger a flashback.
To recap: The parking kiosks were these giant, solar-powered monstrosities that were put downtown to raise revenues and confuse people. Some scientist working in a lab -- located in an alternate reality -- decided it was "easier" to move the hand-fed, coin-operated parking meter (that had worked well for the past 100 years) away from your car and relocate it in a magic box, two blocks away, and let it operate with credit cards.
Needless to say, people were not happy. Riots ensued. Well, "Beaufort riots," which is lots of people grumbling to each other, and phone calls being made and letters being written.
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(If Beaufort were to hold an "Occupy Bay Street" event, it would consist of weeks of angry letters, then conclude after four hours and a city-sanctioned oyster roast in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. Yes, we get angry ... but, come on, USC's kickoff is at 8.)
Eventually, the kiosks were banished to more welcoming cities. (Except for one that is still in the library parking lot. I am not kidding, just last week I had to use it, and I was still confused. And I won "Bioshock 2" on my XBox 360 in less than a week, so you know I am not a dummy.) And tranquility was restored.
Now, the council is tackling parking again, and good for them. You can't let one bad mistake keep you from doing your job. The question now is holiday parking. We've had a system in place the past few years, that appeared to work fine. But maybe it didn't? Tinkering is being done to assure your two hours of free parking is more efficient and plentiful. There are even posters being made to "explain" it to you.
(While I am in favor of council doing its job, let me take a break from being Johnny Positive for one second and say the obvious: If we learned any lesson from the parking kiosks, it should be that if you have to explain something as simple as parking your car ... it's already too complicated. End of annoyed rant.)
Rather than rehash old wounds, I'd rather focus on people in our community who are trying to solve problems, even if most of us never realized there was a problem to begin with.
If improvements are made to holiday parking, we will all clap and say, "It was so much better this year. Did they change something?" If you go downtown in December and leave being vaguely annoyed, then we'll be having the flashbacks. Council is taking all the risk, and good for them. It's brave.
I was recently almost caught doing something I wasn't supposed to be doing. I do not want to incriminate myself, but I will say that I might have been driving my car in excess of the speed limit. As I passed the police officer, and realized that -- to my relief -- he was not turning his lights on, my first reaction was, "Next time I speed, I will be way more careful."
By the way, kids, this is not the way you are supposed to react in a situation like this. Your first thought should always be, "I will never, ever do that again." But we're human. We're flawed. We don't always learn from our mistakes right away. We have this almost-masochistic drive to revisit something, even if we know it is wrong.
Sometimes -- usually -- this is a bad impulse. But it also leads us to jump back into the hot seat after we fail (to the tune of robotic, solar-powered parking kiosks). It's both the worst part of human nature and its most enduring trait.
It's a risk to revisit your biggest miscalculation, but rather than attack someone for trying, we should appreciate the guts it takes to go "back there." We've all had to revisit failures in the past, and it's never easy.