Colombo Telegraph

Emperor’s New Parking Lot

By Ruvan Weerasinghe

Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe

In a country in a distant part of the world, there lived an Emperor who called all his advisors to solve the irritating and recurring problem of his subjects not being able to park their vehicles wherever they wanted. Whether it be to do their groceries, their shopping, the school of their children or their office, they were unable to find space to park. He ordered the advisors to come up with a solution forthwith or be prepared to relinquish office.

The next day, the advisors lined up one after another and suggested their solutions. The most popular solution by far was to build parking spaces and charge for citizens for parking. The Emperor was happy with this solution but was reminded of the fact that there was one situation in which this solution wouldn’t work: a situation where the parking was for no specific reason (unless there’s a requirement to keep their vehicles as near to their children as possible at all times), in areas where no parking lots could be built owing to the high cost of land and where the number of vehicles needing to park well exceeded the capacity of any parking lot in the city.

Angry, he called the advisors that he hadn’t fired after the first round, and this time gave them a tougher assignment: find a solution to this new problem or else face the gallows! The next day, unlike the day before, no advisor was willing to line up to meet the Emperor. They had failed to find a solution to this most absurd requirement. Why would people want to park for no reason? Why would they need to park for such a long time in a place where they had no reason to park? What is the specific need for parking a vehicle as near as possible to their children at all times? And why indeed were there so many citizens flocking to park in those very places? Of course, they dared not ask the Emperor these very pertinent questions!

No one was willing to come forward, no one except one that is. Up walked his most brilliant advisor, rising up to the occasion yet again. “Your Majesty! I have a plan to solve your most urgent parking problem at no cost to you nor the tax payer!”. Delighted, the Emperor called him up and leaned forward attentively to listen to this master plan.

It is quite simple, said the advisor, enjoying the attention he had gained by now. “Many roads of this city are wide and mostly unused during much of the day. All we need to do is to covert three-fourths of the main roads near the areas where these large numbers of your citizens want to park without reason, into parking lots and allow regular traffic to use the balance one-fourth” he suggested. “What a brilliant idea my fellow!” bellowed the Emperor beaming with satisfaction. “From this day forth, all major roads around and near our prestigious schools will be converted to parking lots so that all significant citizens who need to drop their children in schools and tuition classes (where bombs could go off at any time) would be able to park their vehicles and spend the entire time in them (whether it is from 7 am up until 2 pm at school or 6 pm to 11 pm at tuition), so that their precious children could be dropped and picked-up from their very doorsteps”. And so it was done.

And came a simple-minded citizen, and asked on Colombo Telegraph, but what about the more than 7000 students who travel by public means to one of the primary offender schools near the First Minister’s residence (after all there’s space only for around 200 vehicles even in this outrageous ‘solution’)? And then what about the ‘other’ non-prestigious schools? Are their children somehow expendable, in some way? How come many of them travel in public transport and others of them crowd into mini-busses and vans and still do pretty well in school and beyond? And what about the rest of the road users who have to go through hell in areas surrounding these ‘prestigious schools’? And who decides which schools are prestigious enough, and for how much parking space? And how do we stop this menace spreading to the more ‘prestigious’ tuition houses proliferating in the city and the suburbs? All this, with the implicit permission of the Minister-in-charge and the Police?

The world wonders: will the people of the country (not to mention the Emperor, the Minister-in-charge and the Police) listen to the simple-minded citizen and wake up to the absurdity of this “emperor’s parking lot” or simply choose to believe in the blatant lie that it is an absolute necessity?

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