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Filed Under , on February 9th, 2019

Meter Mensch

By Seth Kabala

A co-worker of mine dropped her bus pass in the hall. Someone picked it up and handed it to her. She thanked the person, saying she was sure glad she hadn’t lost it for good. I poked my head out of my office and said, “You just ruined a fare inspector’s day.” Got a good laugh, and it got me thinking. What if you had an Extreme Fare Inspector who thought of himself as, and always referred to himself in the third-person as, the Meter Mensch? How can we game that out?

You’ve got civil servants of all stripes. Some want the paycheck. Some want the power. Some want the money and the power and the fame and glory and oh Lord they think they’re inside an alternate universe where civil service is the surest path to world domination, or at least domination within their slice of the multi-verse.

Let’s take this Extreme Fare Inspector idea further. This person loves his job. He knows he’ll never be mayor or a state senator or governor or be an executive assistant to those power positions (and have real power), so he’s going to hold onto all the turf he can. His employer needs the money the fares generate to ensure adequate maintenance of the existing transportation system and capital investment into expanding and improving the system. He believe his efforts to ensure compliance with fare laws are of paramount importance to ensure the government meets its funding goals, and he’s going to do everything in his power–and within his large, scary body–to make sure that no scofflaw goes unpunished.

Try this scenario on for size:

Michael Mendelsohn (aka Michael the Meter Mensch Mendelsohn) awakes at 4:30a. Not to shower. Oh, no. That’s not what this dedicated civil servant has in mind. The Meter Mensch has to practice Meter Mensch’s defensive three-point stance takeoff. It’s a move Meter Mensch has perfected in an effort to catch downtown parking meter scofflaws before they have a chance to get away and disappear into the ether of due process. Meter Mensch plods from Meter Mensch’s bedroom to the living room of Meter Mensch’s apartment, shaking the walls and everything attached to them. Dust falls from shelves and, soon thereafter, figurines of Meter Mensch’s favorite NFL defensive ends tumble likewise to the floor. Meter Mensch is okay with this. When Meter Mensch’s practice is over, Meter Mensch get daily lower-back stretching when Meter Mensch picks up the figurines and replaces them.

Meter Mensch reaches Meter Mensch’s desired spot and looks across the room (or downfield, in Meter Mensch’s mind). Stood on-end at the other end of the room is a castaway couch that someone threw out. It’s Meter Mensch’s 48th couch since starting these drills. Meter Mensch abuses them, so they don’t last long, but they do serve a purpose.

Meter Mensch assumes the three point stance, left fingertips barely resting on the floor, quads tensed, belly taut, calves flexed, raises Meter Mensch’s right arm behind Meter Mensch, slightly cocked. Then Meter Mensch bursts forward, swinging Meter Mensch’s right arm up and spinning it into action with Meter Mensch’s left. Left-right, left-right, left-right–Meter Mensch pumps Meter Mensch’s arms and brings Meter Mensch’s legs into synchronous motion as Meter Mensch picks up speed and closes the distance to the couch. When Meter Mensch is within six feet of the couch, Meter Mensch draws all Meter Mensch’s power into Meter Mensch’s belly and legs and launches Meter Mensch’s body at the couch. Meter Mensch hits the couch, wraps Meter Mensch’s sides-of-beef arms around it, sending Meter Mensch and the couch skidding backward and slamming into the wall.

Prior to outfitting the wall with thick foam padding, this move would have broken Meter Mensch’s neck, but Meter Mensch thinks ahead. Meter Mensch prepared the room. Meter Mensch is always prepared when it comes to protecting the key public funding resource that is parking revenue.

Meter Mensch disentangles himself from the couch, steps back a couple paces, and looks at Meter Mensch’s quarry. New springs poke through the faded plaid material along the back. Puffs of padding sprout new blooms to join the bouquets already in the garden of the cushions. Meter Mensch figures Meter Mensch has got a couple more weeks left of this couch dummy before Meter Mensch must walk the streets at night for signs of someone moving, renovating, or, having just caught their significant other doing the nasty on it, pitched the offending third-party supporting the traitorous act out the window and onto the traitorous former-partner’s car. As one relationship ends, another begins–with Meter Mensch.

Meter Mensch kept Meter Mensch’s training the same after Meter Mensch’s supervisor temporarily reassigned Meter Mensch to the fare inspecting division of the city’s light-rail system. The forum is different, but the need to protect the public funding source is the same, as is the prevalence of scofflaws.

Later that morning, Meter Mensch spots Meter Mensch’s first offender. She is dressed as a grandmother, long and shabby coat, hunched shoulders, wrinkled skin, pushing a two-wheeled shopping cart onto the train while brazenly bypassing the fare reader. She thinks she got away with it, Meter Mensch thinks. But Meter Mensch sees all. Hunched shoulders? Easy to fake. Wrinkled skin? Nothing a $2 make-up kit from The Dollar Tree couldn’t produce. Oh, ho, ho. Grandma, if that is her real name, is about to feel the pain.

Grandma takes her seat.

Meter Mensch assumes Meter Mensch’s three-point stance.

Disclaimer: this scenario was fiction. This scenario was patently ridiculous. Can we all agree on that? Yes? Good. I’ve never met a fare inspector who exhibited behavior remotely resembling what I’ve made up. They all seem to be dedicated civil servants, upholding the law. Talking point: if they behaved this way, however, maybe they’d get more applicants. They could bill it as training ground for American Ninja Warrior. Are you listening, transportation authority? Gotta think outside the box-car.


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Seth Kabala

About: Seth Kabala
Seth is an entrepreneur, writer, and musician. He lives with his wife and three children in Portland, OR.

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