point of view
JVH goes off on a tangent
John Van Horn
Got a call the other day from a fellow in the UK. He claimed to be a reporter and had a story on a swing gate that had killed or maimed a few people in a parking garage. I told him to send me his article.
There the story begins -- the 3,000-word article accuses everyone except the Queen herself of malfeasance and of picking on the writer. When I wrote back to him noting that his strident style might not get the desired result, he came unglued and we began a one-day e-mail battle that ended when he told me to "f" off. He also copied practically everyone in the parking industry in the UK, plus the BBC, The Times and the British Parking Association.
The next day I received a note from a friend at the British Parking Association commiserating with me that I had been "attacked" by this character. Seems he is a known "nut" and causes so much trouble in the UK that there is even a Web site about him. (I will give you the name of it if you want to look at it -- contact me direct.) The Web site is subtitled: "A public information service to warn and educate about..."
It goes on: "This site is for people who have been unfortunate enough to encounter this telephone and Net menace firsthand, to share information and stories about him and his odd (but oh-so-annoying and offensive) behavior. Our goal is to have him sectioned in a mental hospital where he cannot use a telephone or a computer again to conduct his vile harassment of innocent people in the UK and elsewhere." There is a support group, a forum and a "what to do if he contacts you" information center, plus pictures, sound recordings and links.
I know you think this is a joke, but it isn't. My experience tells me this guy can be dangerous. And obviously many other people think so too.
The problem is that in this case he could have served a purpose and done some good. The subject is a barrier (actually just a bar that manually swings across a road to close it during off hours). If it isn't properly secured in the open position, it can be blown by the wind and if the timing is right smash through a windshield and literally behead the driver. It's happened at least a couple of times.
Of course, everyone is running scared of lawsuits over there and having the "telephone and Net menace" on their case may not help.
Naturally the solution is to be sure it's properly locked open. However, humans being what they are, mistakes can be made. My solution was to simply install them low enough so they would hit the front of the car and not the windshield if they accidentally blew closed. I made that recommendation to my "nutty" correspondent but I'm afraid he would rather attack than solve.
My "battle" with the UK muckraker included a comment I made when he noted: "Meanwhile, Mr. Farr's (the one killed in the incident) widow, Helen, is still asking why her husband had to die so unnecessarily in a Cardiff ASDA car park on a Spring Sunday afternoon." My comment, which set him off, was as follows:
"In the end, Mrs. Farr, in her search for an answer to her question, might be told that unfortunately, life isn't fair and accidents happen. It isn't pretty, isn't nice, but it's life. Of course I feel for Mrs. Farr, however, I believe my answer is the only logical, and frankly the only kind one to give. As bad as it must seem, bad things do happen to good people. Whether they are killed by a drunk driver, or shot in a drive by shooting, or slip and crack their head open on ice, have a gas tank blow up because of a poor design, or drive their SUV off the road because of bad tires, bad things happen.
"Mrs. Farr is not going to feel any better about the loss of her husband if someone gives her 100,000 pounds, or goes to jail. Maybe she would feel a bit better if she knew that someone else wouldn't be hurt in the same way. But in the end, she is one of the unlucky ones who lose their spouse before their time.
"What Mrs. Farr needs is consideration and help, but she doesn't need her anger and sadness fed by the people around her. What happened is horrible but cannot be undone. My experience with situations like this is that the people involved feed on their own despair and anger. 'I was wronged, so therefore my life is ruined.' They stew and get others to sign on to their despair, feel self righteous, and when normal problems in their life occur, they blame the 'incident.'"
No PT in July. Just the best directory in the Parking Business, PIP. See you in August.
Article Abstract from June, 2003