“He needs a good beating”…REALLY???

philadelphia 3

By Kenneth Justice

~ There are a lot of things I’ve done in life that I regret (I can hear friends from my youth snickering as they read that line), but there have been a couple moments in life where I did the right thing; and those times seem to stick with me.

A while back, in the course of a short span of time my friend was arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, fell into a coma and nearly died in a hospital bed, sued by two different people, and had his car ticketed and towed by a dastardly meter-man. In the flurry of all of the sh*t that was going on in his life, I was sitting at coffee with my friend one morning when we spotted the meter-man from hell approach his car once again.

Let’s go beat the guy up” my friend said, ha wasn’t joking. Regardless of what people might think of me, I tend to be really empathetic toward the less fortunate; and my friend had suffered so much in such a short time that everything in me wanted to go outside with him to help him beat his frustrations away into the chest of the meter-man.

Of course, common sense and logic dictated my actions, so I restrained myself…..and my friend. I can’t go into more details but there are other things that this meter-man is guilty of and a lot of people I know think that a nice sound beating would help straighten the guy up. And to be honest with you, I really wanted to help my friend give the guy a good beating. Yet, just because we didn’t do it, I suppose I’m every bit of guilty for thinking about it….right?

—) Is this nothing more than the disgusting barbarism of men? That we would think giving a guy a nice pounding would help him?

—) Would our culture be better off if more compassionate women were heads-of-state since they might be less likely to beat people up in order to ‘help straiten them up’?

—) As more information comes out about the Bush Presidency, it appears that it was mainly men in high-ranking positions that supported and authorized torture of prisoners

It was with that mindset toward meter-men that I arrived to Philadelphia this past weekend. And who should be the first person I talk to on the street when I was dropped off downtown; a meter-man! Instantly, I could feel my blood pressure rise; I’ve simply begun to really hate meter-men, it’s an awful admission but it’s the god-honest-truth.

I was standing on the corner of Rittenhouse Square Saturday morning in Philly, not sure where to walk to or what to see as I wanted to get a feel for the area before I arrived at the coffee shop. I suppose I must have looked a little bit lost when the short pudgy meter-man smiled at me and asked me how I was doing.

I told him I had just arrived in downtown Philadelphia only moments before and wasn’t sure where to go or what to see; the meter-man’s eyes lit up. I suppose meter-men (and meter-women) are pretty much treated like sh*t on a daily basis. After all, does anyone ever go up to a meter-man and thank them for the parking ticket they just received?

Well, for whatever reason the meter-man was so excited to be talking to me that he began walking along side and leading me all around Rittenhouse Square…..and for the next 25 minutes he gave me a six block tour of the area, all while filling me in on the main places I should visit while in Philadelphia.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see passerby’s watching us. We were an unusual sight, me with my backpack (an obvious sign that I was a tourist) and the meter-man talking excitedly like a pimply faced Disney World tour guide on his first day running the boat in the Jungle Cruise.

Although a half-hour window of time may not seem like very long to the average person; for me it seemed like an eternity. I had built up so much unjust hostility toward meter-men that with every step we took I could feel my resentment dissipating; the meter-man’s tour of downtown Philadelphia was a form of unexpected therapy I never could have anticipated.

I’m not proud to admit that I harbor thoughts of beating people up. I suppose it merely betrays my own unfettered mind that too often wanders toward things I shouldn’t be thinking about. Western Culture often gets me down; there is so much about our society that seems out-of-whack that violent thoughts are too easy to start thinking.

On my way to coffee this morning NPR reported the story of an innocent man who tried helping a young boy on the street last week; he was beaten by an angry mob and is still on life-support in a medically induced coma.

Violent thoughts are permeating Western Culture. Frustration is at an all-time high. People in countries like Greece, the Ukraine, and the United States are mad. We are upset that the problems of life seem to be out of our control…..but the meter-man isn’t the enemy. I learned that this past weekend.

And for all those cars with expired meters that the meter-man skipped thanks to the little tour he gave me; I expect you to each send me a dollar as a thank-you.

Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee this morning.


I will be in Madison, Wisconsin this Saturday! Come join me for coffee and let’s share stories!


Categories: Culture & Society

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49 replies

  1. I guess at the base scientifically we are all animals. But we try to mold ourselves into an animal that’s is set apart from the other creatures. It is sad that we resort to violence, but I guess we like deciding what a person deserves and it gives us a sense of satisfaction to met out justice our own way. And we see this everywhere in every sphere of life and I myself and I am sure many others have been a victim of these thoughts !
    I really liked your article, well I like all your articles! 🙂

  2. I was ready to ask you: what in the world is meter-man? Then got the answer at the middle of your essay. What a mixed story shared! Like life with ups and downs with expectations and unexpected things.

    • Ha ha…I probably should have explained it better for my European audience! Sorry! Yea, the meter men walk around all day giving tickets to parked cars 😦

    • Well we have meter men and meter maids in Britain, and have done for a long time – d’you recall the Beatles’ song ‘Lovely Rita, Meter maid….’

  3. An honest and insightful post – and points to our real problem as humans lately, dehumanization through mental labeling, or labeling all in a group because one or a few are miscreants. I’m thoroughly enjoying your trip, thanks for taking us along.

  4. While I’m all about equal rights, etc, I’m never sure when I hear people claim that the world might be better if women ran it. While it would certainly be different, I’m not sure that I would go so far as to say “better.”
    But yes, to your point, we all have those impulses – that ID within us. But not giving in to it is what separates us from the animals and sets us apart as a more divine being.
    I believe it was St. Augustine who claimed that thinking something evil was the same as doing it. Thankfully for the people in my life, my thoughts never became reality, so I must politely disagree with Augustine on this one.

  5. I’m not sure what I think although I read the whole thing. Thanks to Bush the terrorists he was doing business with since before he was president are residing comfortably in the US. A substanceless businessman – only money talks. Still, we’ve got to say no to violence. I never wanted to beat up my ex-husbands but I wouldn’t mind if they met up in prison, had to share the same cell and became butt-buddies. That thought makes me smile. Helps me say no to the hate.

  6. ” I’m never sure when I hear people claim that the world might be better if women ran it.” – Remember, it was a woman – Margaret Thatcher – who took the UK to war with Argentina, and authorised the sinking of the Gen Belgrano (which was outside the exclusion zone), resulting in horrific loss of life. It was almost as if she was doing it to prove herself the equal of a male Prime Minister.
    People are people. Some are have aggressive tendencies, some don’t. I don’t think it’s gender specific.

  7. Disney doesn’t allow pimples. If one sprouts on a worker, he is immediately taken into the labyrinth underground and turned into over-priced hamburgers.

    That said, this morning’s article is a lovely example of how you teach. Exposing your own weaknesses and then sharing the growth you experienced when you shifted from an I-it to and I-Thou relationship with the meter-man makes for beautiful writing and the best kind of teaching. Thank you for continuing.

  8. Meter men/women, traffic cops, etc, are doing a job. They don’t deserve our anger any more than any one else. If we followed the rules ourselves, they might bear less of the brunt of our misplaced anger. After all, we are the ones who didn’t follow the rules.

    Women in charge? Sure, I’m for it. They won’t be the cure for what ails us as a culture. There would be some refreshing differences of attitude and delivery.

  9. YAY KJ! Love this piece! Just Love This Piece! Just … love it! Thank you so much!

    (and meter-men with cars are “meter-men” the world over – no translation required!) 🙂

  10. Maybe the answer is lovely Rita meter maid?

  11. I have to correct one thing; not all women are compassionate. Some do think about beating up those who do harm to society.
    This post made me remember an incident in my past. I am a retired police officer. Back in the day I arrested a man for driving while intoxicated. The next day, I received a dozen roses at the police department. The card with them said, “Thank you for taking me off the street last night before I killed someone.” I am sure the guy did not like me much the night before and would have liked to beat me up then. Occasionally, humans do bad things but then sometimes they do the right things.
    Fortunately, we can’t get into trouble for our thoughts. It is our deeds that reflect our true nature.

  12. Be careful Kenneth. The wiley Western mind can detect a potential sales pitch expressed as humor and wrapped in warm anecdote of redemption. Your tour is free or it’s not. Your writing is your authentic or it’s not. Your stuff touches a lot of people. If you are running low on funds, just ask your fans directly for a little help. I’m sure they will come through.

    • Robert, I saw a joke and chuckled. Looks like we both have wiley western minds. Weally wiley minds. And my wiley mind detects a jibe that is weally out of order.

    • Robert! OMG you have me laughing so hard!!! I totally did not realize that could be conveyed by my article!!! Ha ha ha, no, I’m not running low on funds, and its wasn’t a sales pitch!! It truly wasn’t MY car that was towed! Ha ha……I just have always really hated meter men; true story!

  13. Just have to say this is by far my favorite post since I’ve been following you (that sounds creepy as all hell) Anyway, I too, as a woman (and I think our country is throwing away the ideal of the non-violent woman, which is NOT a good thing. Women are nurturers and for the most part I do not think it is in our nature to react physically. But with violence permeating society its bound to rub off.) Anyway, I loved kickboxing. Now that I have fibromyalgia its impossible. So those frustrations I once channeled into exercise, are now lying dormant. I wrote a post called “I Miss Punching People,” that is a tiny bit like this. Thank the goddesses for yoga. So anyway, I just love this post.

  14. Meter-man sounds like you’ve seen the ghost. In every action it’s the reaction that matter the most and you sure handled right cuz some faces can really change our blood pressure. Violence would never fix what’s done, we just wish people get what they deserve; swallowing your anger through that intense walk helped few people from getting parking tickets. Good deed 😊

  15. Let’s not assume there are kids in class right at this moment staring out of windows dreaming of the day they’ll become meter maids or men with all the power the office bestows. Because once we get that far, we can understand, that although a very small minority of those who join up, may have grown up harbouring a hatred for drivers ever since their tyrranical Dads ran over their foot while reversing into the garage, and then blamed them, most of the others join up because they can’t get other jobs, or into the real police. So they take what they can in the first hypothesis, and want the next best thing in the second.

    And, whichever category they fit in, as soon as they realise how much motorists hate them, the temptation to wreak revenge will always be just below the surface. But we must not hate them, we must love them.

    As a lifelong pedestrian I also harbour a secret hatred for drivers. I think I might need a I lie-down.

  16. Who WANTS a job as a meter attendant? You have to patrol people who feel persecuted when they do not pay the fees and somehow feel entitled to get free parking and now in his case feel entitled to beat you up for doing you job? No one wants this job. It is yet another irrational anger we harbor from our inflated sense of entitlement. I silently watch people post on Facebook jokes/non-jokes about violence all the time, it always amuses me that the father that his gonna kick the ass of the boy who likes his daughter or the man who wants to take on the meter attendant assumes they will be victorious in their “beating” attempts. Careful what you ask for, especially when you ask for violence . . .

  17. And all the world’s meter guys collectively sigh. You threatened them every day and you had no idea you were doing it. You’ll sleep better from here on out. 😉

  18. I tripped and fell into a deeper pot of reflection after reading your post. I was fortunate to travel the world and melt myself into other cultures. I hid in plain sight to interrogate the locals using the wicked tools of compassion and deep interest in the person sitting opposite me. Hundreds of people opened up to me and after a few decades I found that at the base level, we are all the same. In every person there is the predator and the prey. The more intelligent and sophisticated, the greater the capacity for the most cruel of sins. We are a species that lives to fight. We start as infants reaching for what we want and howling in displeasure if we can’t have it. We grow through conflict and conquest to be good predators. A lioness will thoughtlessly throw her life away to protect her young and savagely attack her prey to feed. We accept this in the animal world as the natural order of things. They do it because it is necessary to continue life. But, as I stood on soil fought over for 3000 years and surveyed the death in the Tuzla valley, the stench of it sucking the life out of me as well, I realized little has changed in our desire to fight one another for power and possession. We do it on the smallest of scale to the greatest expanse of the globe, to the limit of our ability. History teaches us that we will live for the greater good of all we can see and understand until another threatens to dispossess us. Then, we will carelessly throw ourselves away for just a small taste of vengeance or avarice. To fight is to be human in our natural form. To do otherwise is to strive toward a goal greater than humanity. I think of it as our desire to find balance in our lives and in doing so find our lives richer for having supressed the innate urges to conquer. Just my over caffienated opinion. Your writing is inspirational and gives me moments to explore long hidden thoughts and now I’ve dared to share them without any need to be right or any fear of being wrong. Dan

  19. What an amazing coincidence. I went to a free Buddhist meditation session in Melbourne’s Fed. Square at lunch time today – been meaning to go for months – and this rather warm, gentle cockney-accented monk spent 15 mins giving us a ‘teaching’ of how we should react when confronted with people who make us angry and drive us mad. (American meter-men perhaps?).

    “We need to stop and listen and then……..understand that it’s not the person who is aggressive or angry towards us………it’s the negative state of his mind in that moment.” He’s probably a very nice person in reality. He (the aggressor) just formed a negative state of mind on this particular day/week etc. Instead of reacting to the person (in your case the meter-man, Kenneth), we should just stop, relax and accept or listen. We should not allow a person’s mind-state to ‘bait’ us and inflame our own negativity.

    As you found out, Kenneth, this Phili. meter man didn’t deserve your rising state of anger, he turned out to be a very nice person indeed.

    ……..then we had to meditate on not reacting to a person who makes us angry and retaliative (is ‘retaliative’ a word?).

    Great session. I’ll be keen to go next Tuesday and learn some more methods of dealing with anger (and improving our self esteem).

    I have found in life, there is always ‘a story behind the story’ of what we are confronted with. This disliked meter man would have felt the full brunt of your distressed friend, if you had gone along with your friend and beat him up. In reality, your friend’s anger was possibly caused by the injustice of an incorrect charge, the stress of court charges & being sued, the fear & terror of how the coma/hospital episode might have cut short his life, and then……..a meter-man just doing his job, for which he is probably paid a lousy wage, by ticketing & towing away.

    Meter men are employed to write tickets and if necessary, tow away cars. Why should we criticise and attack a man just doing his job.

    And Kenneth, how could you justify ‘helping your friend beat a man up’ (who had done nothing to you).

  20. Hey Kenneth,

    Isn’t it wild when the universe sends you a chance to heal old resentments?? So groovy that you took it. To any passerby you just looked like two dudes walking along. But here it’s actually a teaching, healing moment. That’s who you are – someone who gets close to the truth and brings it back for us. You might think violent thoughts sometimes, but you are not your thoughts 🙂

    Violence is something that hurts me deeply to watch or hear about. To me it is the most heart breaking soul crushing thing in the world, that goes for physical or emotional violence. Whether a man or woman runs the world maybe doesn’t matter as much as whether that individual has MORE than just compassionate thoughts. Anyone who claims to be a leader of fragile human beings must be, live, cultivate, and stand up for radically compassionate acts. It has to be the guiding light, the true north, the only thing that matters. It takes a much bigger strength than brute force to stand up for peace. A deeper conviction than we’ve ever seen before.

    I will stop before I cry! I worry that we have a long way to go. But people like you give us hope 🙂 That’s worth everything.

    Peace, my dear, always ~ Allison

  21. As I sit here, with angry thoughts continually threatening to swirl up and overtake me, your story is a reminder that it takes just one horrible situation to shape our future thoughts and actions. However, while we may not be able to stop the angry thoughts from entering our mind, ultimately it is our actions that decide who we are. That for each event that would steer us towards hate there is an equal occurance that gives us the opportunity for redemption and love to come in and combat the negative emotions. Life is a cycle, a constant ebb and flow of the good and the bad. Without knowing love, could we know hate, and vice versa? I am not sure that I will ever meet a shitty mother who will calm the agitation that arises in me when I have to interact with one, or if the particular shitty mother who has caused me so much pain and anger will ever be able to convince me that they don’t deserve the hostility I feel towards them. I do know that I am determined to not let my anger about my recent loss consume me. I will not let anger dishonor the memories I have or detract from the precious life that was lived. We may not be able to stop anger, but we don’t have to let it dictate our life.

  22. Well put. You’ve described how I’ve come to think about a lot of people who have wronged me in life. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that they are not the problem. Sure, they may have treated me poorly and they certain hold some responsibility for their actions. Often what is more at fault is the system that allows horrendous things to take place. It’s how society views problems and the violent or discriminating ways in which it too often tries to solve them.

  23. “Is this nothing more than the disgusting barbarism of men?”

    This made me laugh. I assume you have never been a middle school girl? Let me tell you, girls can give barbarism a whole new definition that would take your breath away. By the time we finish with people we don’t like, they are wishing somebody had just beaten them up. It’s kind of politically incorrect to say, but women are not always the compassionate, gentle spirits, we are presumed to be. To make matters worse, we never forget anything. Ever. (Except why we walked into a room or where we left our car keys, but that’s a whole other story.)

  24. I agree that most people (including meter men) don’t start out as evil, power hungry, petty thugs, but the fact that we give them the POWER to run OUR lives to the extent that we do only gives every person with the job with even a tiny bit of power over someone else, the ability and eventually (for many) the chance to use that power, eventually most people (being people) WILL use and abuse it.
    I agree with TK that it is the system that is at the root of most of our problems in society. It would be really nice if people would turn off the TV and start paying attention and trying to come up with real solutions instead of sluffing off everything onto the politicians (who do NOT have our best interests in mind for ANYTHING)
    We need to get back to a system where people (normal adults) are responsible for their OWN lives and when I say that, I mean also that they are HELD responsible for their actions. We don’t do that anymore here in America, I don’t know about the rest of the world.

  25. we all have the urge to beat up someone from time to time. the key point, is to control it, and manage it

    • Yup, we all do. I used to tell abusive parents I worked with that the difference between an abusive parent and a non-abusive parent was this: We all have that flash of anger and that desire to drown the kid in the fish tank. The abusive parent acts without thinking. The non-abusive parent may enjoy the concept for a second, but they then control the desire and use the anger constructively. I approve your point. 🙂

    • And, as a wise man once told me, between the stimulus and the response lies our greatest freedom – the ability and right to choose!

  26. I don’t think the world would be all that different if women were on the top of the pile as far as leaders. There have certainly been times I wanted to pound someone into dust. However, I have a functioning judgment center and I used it. 🙂

    That being said, I have a Meter-Woman story. I got a ticket near a courthouse in Lawrence, MA and she was still there. I inquired politely – “Why?” She explained the ordinance in that town required I be a certain number of feet (I want to say 12 feet, but I could be wrong) from a hydrant and I was something like 10 feet.

    I thanked her for explaining the problem and inquired if she had a tape measure or something, because I’m not sure that I could tell the difference between 10 and 12 feet. She kinda looked at me sideways, but since I was being serious and not snotty, she said yes, she did have one, but after all the years she’s done this route she pretty much knows where 12 feet was and my car wasn’t there.

    Since then I use the parking garage across the street from the courthouse because I still don’t think I could eyeball 10 feet from 12 feet. 😉

  27. Reblogged this on Thoughts of Kat Canfield and commented:
    My thought on this? If humans would stop acting on initial feelings, take a breath, and think things through, we might all get along. how much of what is going on the world today is because we act too quick without thinking of the consequences.

  28. In the UK we call them traffic wardens. I bear no hostility towards traffic wardens, over here it’s a bit of a dated cliche and would be most base behaviour indeed. The ‘modern’ mind is drawn more to the scenario of some beef with his cockcar parked up in the bus lane, a school bus is stuck behind whilst our 4×4 prick buys his protein shake from the shop…the plucky warden tickets the ape and we all cheer

    Although, the real villains are the now very senior gents who placed barriers across WW2 bomb sites and called them National Car Parks.

    Good as always K

  29. I wrote a post the other day where my son was home for spring break and asked if he could change the channel. Of course he can, it’s okay. But deep inside it wasn’t okay, he was changing the channel from a show I watch every morning while I’m working! He was messing with my structure and routine! I’m not a free wheeling hippie during work hours!
    But, I tamped down the urge and managed to let him slide and change the channel. While, it doesn’t sound like it is on the same scale as your meter-man issue, for me it is. I still had the thoughts, I harbored anger and it really did take some time before I was okay with it!
    I did become okay with it and you managed to be able to look at the meterman without your blood pressure rising! I think that is what really matters! We overcame our baser instincts! Yay us!

  30. I have shared your hostility toward meter men and women! I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Philadelphia last year and how lovely to hear that you received such selfless “brotherly love” from a meter man! 🙂 Beautiful story, the rest of the post, I will leave for another discussion…

  31. Just goes to show you that we are all individuals. Gotta love that.
    I have a friend that was violently beaten when he was a teenager. He spent a good long while in the hospital and, until this day, he’s supported by the government. He was thought of as schizophrenic, but then they changed the diagnosis to some type of psychosis (or something like that). At any rate, he was totally messed up. He doesn’t have a job, and never will. He’s done some volunteer work and all, but earning a living no.

  32. What’s this? Further insight into why Jesus spent time with a tax collector? 🙂

    I don’t see why there is such hostility toward the meter people, they are simply enforcing the parking rules the way they are hired to do. Then again, I don’t see why people get so bent out of shape at people in retail either. Some people have difficulty understanding what the real source of their problem is and are unwilling to figure it out for them-self.

    That’s not to say there aren’t some people in these professions who seek to push people’s buttons intentionally!

  33. Well, he didnt skip me! I just got a $20 ticket for paying for the guy next to me to park, instead of myself!!:) Im glad your feelings were swayed in a positive manner.

  34. Another great entry. I think that initial “let’s beat him up” was just that…an initial reaction. After collecting your thoughts, your sense of decency kicked in. That’s the judge of a man’s character; his ability to reflect before acting on impulse. I am sure it took a lot, but that made it all worth it. Kudos. As for the second half of this post, it’s amazing what we learn from having a different encounter with someone. That rings true, especially when the previous encounter with a similar individual, was a rather negative one..

  35. You said ‘I really wanted to help my friend give the guy a good beating. Yet, just because we didn’t do it, I suppose I’m every bit of guilty for thinking about it….right?’ I disagree, you are not guilty, you had the thought, then thought better of it and didn’t do anything…that is called maturity. Having wild thoughts is not a crime, but acting on them may be.

  36. Loving your journey and your thoughts. Much thanks to you.

    I don’t think a woman is necessarily the answer, I have had to deal with thoughts of wanting to give people a good beating – hoping to teach them something. I think that you just taught the lesson in a much healthier way though!

    I’ve just been reading about the fact that ‘evil’ thoughts come up with all of us, but do we hate them? Or savour them like a tasty morsel of food? One may lead to self-control and a positive outcome, the other to thoughtlessness and abuse of some kind.

    Again, thanks for keeping us thinking.

  37. Thanks for sharing how this twist of fate helped deepen your compassion.

  38. I really enjoyed your post. Last week a man, about my age, approached me and had to tell about his run in with the meter man across the street. Apparently the machine on the other side wasn’t working so when he approached the meter man and he told him to get a ticket from the other side of the street. I guess this guy didn’t like his answer and he started to yell at him and threatened to go to his boss to report him, etc., etc.. I really didn’t get him and just thought “Hmmm, angry old white man!” Kind of reminded me of my late father-in-law who felt slighted by everyone. I wonder if meter people are trained to deal with hostile car owners? When this particular meter man drove past us he waved and called out, “Have a nice day!”.

    • That’s a really good question; do meter people have to go through courses on how to deal with angry people? I bet they have to deal with that kind of thing a lot.

  39. All i will say to your round the way post is that “God works in mysterious ways”. Don’t you think? 🙂 vw

  40. Have you read ‘I am the Messenger’ by Markus Zusak? It’s pretty much your story… Great book, Great story!

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