This morning, a neighbor and I swept the south end of the 42nd Ave overpass and steps at the Hollywood Transit Center, something we do three or four times a year. Today we had extra time so we cleaned up the bike/wheelchair ramp.
The garbage bags were heavy with cigarette butts and leaf debris and there was too much to put into our garbage cans at home so I drove to the Hollywood Senior Center because Amber Kern-Johnson, the director there, has been so kind to offer up dumpster space when we’ve cleaned the Hollywood Business District in the past. Today was no different in that regard. Amber confirmed that we were welcome to use the dumpster because it was a community service. We thanked her for her generosity.
Sadly, in the time it took for me to park, go in and ask about the dumpster, and get back to my car, the Diamond-Parking-Attendant and his parking-attendant-in-training had taken a picture of my license and were completing their info entry to process a parking ticket.
When I pleaded that I was bringing garbage from cleaning up the overpass, he curled his lip and said “garbage?,” pressed a button on the ticket machine, watched with a sneer as it reeled out of the printer and, with a flourish, placed the $41 ticket on the windshield of my car.
I emptied the heavy bags from my trunk into the dumpster and drove home analyzing the situation. I was on their property, it is marked, I was technically in the wrong. My motives were good, I was cleaning community space for no profit of my own. However, the parking attendant swooped in aggressively, a lot like a vulture guarding his road kill, moments after I walked into the senior center. Maybe he works on commission and therefore it’s not in his best interest to listen to my story or sympathize with my situation. He might have to shut off his emotions to the plight of others in order to make a living.
Only after I’d written a check and put the envelope out for the mail carrier did it occur to me that the situation wasn’t that different than the predatory nature of insurance companies and hospitals. Their mission is always lofty: to care for us, including the poor. However, most wellness and prevention strategies are not a covered benefit. It’s the rare insurance company that really focuses on the best interest of their insured.
By the nature of the way our system is designed, hospitals and the insurance companies benefit when we are sick. They make money off of us when we have problems. They compete with other insurers to get our business when we are vulnerable and can’t make other choices.
The hospital that sits in our midst, Providence Portland, has long deserved a reputation for being a little different, a little more altruistic, a little more caring of the neighbors.
That no longer seems true.