Thanks to a perfect storm created by too many ballot initiatives, dipwad voters, Proposition 13 and Republicans so steeped in ideology that they'd rather watch the world's eighth largest economy tank than—God forbid!—compromise, or worse yet, embrace some sort of socialistic shared sacrifice, California is officially in the shitter. But we got sunshine! And majestic state parks! Oh, wait—.
Roughly 235,000 state employees recently accepted a third furlough day each month and now face the threat of a fourth from Gov. Recalled-The-Other-Guy-For-Bogus-Reasons Schwarzenegger, who is effectively sticking these folks with a 20-percent pay cut. That's not weekly-latte territory. That's desperate Jean Valjean territory. That's murder-suicide territory. What's The Terminator's salary again?
Hardly unexpected, this long-in-the-making hose-job has finally snaked its way to the doorstep of our state universities. Both Cal State and UC—I work for the latter—voted recently on the best ways to close breathtaking budget gaps, and the results are not pretty. A nauseating combination of fee hikes, class-size increases, enrollment reductions, pay cuts, furloughs and layoffs are the wave of the future. Excuse me while I go lay down for a sec.
Every cloud has a silver lining though, and UCSD's arrived in the form of a notification last week from the Office of the Chancellor, an announcement that Transportation Services has a plan to save the day. Well, that might be a bit dramatic, but you know me: I go for cinematic over catatonic every single time. Look alive, people. Stay with me.
Citing a desire to “ease our common financial burdens”—a wholly laughable and transparent phrase given the source—Chancellor Marye Anne Fox announced in a dour tone befitting both the collective mood and the scope of the proclamation, that the parking czars had “identified a way to provide some relief for faculty, staff and students through a temporary decrease in parking-permit fees.”
I'd like to say I read this e-mail with piqued interest. The truth, however, is that my eyelids drooped and my mouth smirked and I sighed as I read about this so-called relief, which wouldn't pertain to me anyway since I got “relief” by canceling my $81 monthly parking pass in June. But I digress. I read without an ounce of inspiration about the 5-percent reduction in fees that Transportation Services would be offering to UCSD employees over the coming 11 months.
Now, I'm not great at doing math in my head unless it comes to working out a tip. And while I got an A in calculus during college, I cannot to this day balance a checkbook without being reduced to tears.
It doesn't take intimate knowledge of the Archimedean Property to know that 5 percent of $81 isn't even enough to buy the average married couple a weeks' worth of condoms. Barring contraception, it isn't enough for one 24-ounce can of Nestle Good Start Baby Formula or a travel pack of diapers. You picking up what I'm laying down?
Still, I wanted to include an accurate number for the piece of mind I intended to send the chancellor, so I got out my calculator and clarified that 5 percent of $81 is $4.05. A month. That's a grand total of $44.55 a year, 45 cents shy of one campus parking ticket. These are not exactly numbers that will alleviate murderous impulses borne of financial ruin. Then again, it is 10 Big Macs, and perhaps 5,400 extra burger calories would make even the most desperate person too sluggish for violence.
To be fair—or, to be fairly ridiculous depending on your point of view—$4.05 a month can totally make a difference, and I suspect this is the logic of those generous folks in Transportation Services, who regularly pat themselves on the back for their creative altruism.
They must know, for example, that $4.05 can buy one pint of Häagen-Dazs ice cream from Vons, provided you possess one of those evil Club Cards that track your shopping habits and DNA and proclivity for pop-culture and porn. If Skippy peanut butter is on special for $1.49, you can get two jars and still have a little change left over for the couch cushions. Ramen noodles are generally a safe budgetary bet, as are SPAM and Campbell's Soup. But most beer is out of the price range, so you'll have to gag down Two Buck Chuck if you intend to drown your sorrows. A pack of smokes is out of the question, but you should really quit anyway since $4.05 won't begin to cover the co-pay for emphysema treatments.
What $4.05 will cover, for now at least, is that extra gallon-ish of gas, which will subsequently get you to your parking spot, which will subsequently get you to the office, where you subsequently won't be paid for your time thanks to imminent pay cuts, which will be offset by the rather insulting, condescending, seriously disingenuous reduction in parking fees gussied up to look like relief. I think I need to get horizontal again.
Had I been consulted on how to alleviate some of the burden, I would have suggested a meaningful 25-percent reduction in fees for an entire year and an increase in the fees associated with parking tickets. But what the hell do I know? I'm no good at ledgers and whatnot.
“With this meager discount on parking,” I wrote in my e-mail to the chancellor, “you might as well say more plainly what you disguise in sympathy: Let them eat cake.”