Living in DC has many advantages. Recently we spent the better part of a day at the International Spy Museum, one of the many museums and attractions in the area. It was great fun because it took both of us back to our youth – way back to our youth – of Secret Agent Man, Man from U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, and Mission IMPOSSIBLE nights before the television screen wondering how the hero was going to make it out of another tight spot or impossible task. I’d given up long ago that ANY of the little gadgets they used on any of those shows actually existed. How could they? They used things like a tiny tape recorder that fit into a package of cigarettes when the smallest home version available at the time was not much smaller than the size of a washing machine. But as we made our way through the Spy Museum – there it was displayed in the glass case – the tiny tape recorder fit into a package of cigarettes, circa 1960.
But what brought me to this reflection was what happened when we first entered the Spy Museum. First, we had to stop in an ante room and find an identity. We were to remember the name, occupation, place of birth, destination, reason for this visit and how long our identity was to stay in said destination. If we forgot any of the alias information at any check point along the way, we would be held suspect. Needless to say, it’s difficult to remember something that is not real. And, I have always wondered how spys did it. In the current shows, like MI5, the spys are given massive amounts of information in a few seconds which they must take in, remember and act out of for the duration of their mission. It’s amazing to me that anyone could even do that, and I’ve decided I could never!
I much prefer the wisdom of Oscar Wilde who said “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Why even want to be somebody else? It makes for great entertainment – but life? No, just be yourself. And that is the grace. Each one of us is unique and graced in our own individuality, every moment of every day. “Be yourself! Everyone else is already taken.” Be yourself and it will be enough. It’s a better tool for life than any little gadget in the Spy Museum, and only you can do it! Just be yourself. And reflect to world the wonder that is you!
So many things in this city are still so hard to get used to! Yesterday, I set out for the post office with a package to mail and on my way out of our housing area I noticed a tow truck with a car in tow backing into a parking place along the street. I thought to myself just how lucky this person was who needed his car towed — the tow truck actually found a parking place somewhere near his apartment. What are the chances of that on a crowded D.C. street? I glanced to where we had parked our car along the street (as I do everyday) to make sure all was well with our little “Dixie” and walked on to mail my package. Following my business at the post office I set off in a new direction and promptly got lost. Luckily, since there are no perpendicular roads and going around the block is not an option in this city, I had google maps on my phone to help me. Referring to my map several times, I managed my way back into familiar territory and found my way toward home. All of this had taken me on a lovely 3.75 mile hike that took almost 2 hours. It was a good walk and I love the exploring – just not so much the getting lost.
When I returned to our corner, I glanced to where our car was parked and — it was gone! I tried to remember if that was THIS morning that I had just seen the car parked there, or was that some other morning and in the meantime, we had parked the car somewhere else. No, I was sure that was the last place we had parked — and NO CAR was parked there now. Beginning to think that our little “Dixie” has been stolen, I made my way to the police station while calling my husband on the phone. “Did you move the car?” I asked him. What a silly question, as I knew he had been at work all morning and it would probably have taken him longer to get home and move the car than my walk had taken me. While talking to him and proceeding to the police station, I noticed another tow truck, with another car in tow. What a strange sight for our neighborhood – two tow trucks in the same morning! Then I noticed that there were work crews cutting branches off of trees around power lines. My mind made the connection! Were the tow trucks moving cars out of the way so work crews could cut tree branches around power lines?
With this novel thought, I walked slowly away from the police station and back toward our neighborhood to walk around the streets that we usually have to cruse to find a parking place. Tree trimmers were buzzing and tow trucks passing and then I spotted her. Our little “Dixie” was parked in a space where we had not parked her!!! Someone had moved our car! On the windshield I found two tickets and a pink slip. The first ticket was printed at 7:51 AM and fined us $50 for parking in a space that was reserved for tree work from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM. The second ticket was printed at 10:01 AM and fined us $100 for the pleasure of having our car towed to another location. The pink slip was courtesy of DC city towing, but had nothing filled out on it – a blank pink form from the city of DC, obviously left by a tow truck operator far too busy towing cars to fill out any paperwork.
Needless to say, I was a little miffed. I walked back up the street where we had originally parked the car and found two small signs the size of legal paper taped to a tree and a light post located about 3 feet apart that notified car owners to have the street cleared for 150 feet between the hours of 7:00 AM and 3:00 PM. Now, you must understand, our car was about 7 or 8 cars away from these signs, AND the car parked in front of us – closer to the signs – had a single ticket on it and had not been moved. Add to this information the fact that there are NO trees requiring trimming anywhere between where we had parked and the posted signs! The men were working further down the street.
I had to ask myself how it is the city feels they can move the personal property of others without adequate notice or signage and then make citizens pay for the privilege. Well, I guess it’s one good way to help counter city deficits.
Where’s the grace in all of this you might ask? Well, the grace is that the people who “stole” the car put it in a place where it could easily be found and left no other damage besides a required “gift” to the city of $150. It could have been so much worse.