The powers that be at my employer, bless their hearts, delivered me an “Interoffice Memo” the other day. As I began reading, I discovered that it took the writing of an entire memo and a full sheet of 8-1/2 by 11 inch paper, complete with a detailed map, to inform me that they were changing my assigned parking space — from space No. 234 to space No. 233.
As you, astute reader, might guess: That means the place I am supposed to park my car in this two-acre expanse of asphalt is now roughly 10 feet farther to the east.
No, I don’t park my bike in this spot. I usually don’t park anything in it. So what does this have to do with bikes?
Well, if you ride your bike a lot you probably think about our car culture now and then. And this vast plain of asphalt is about nothing if it’s not about car culture.
First though, I thought I’d show you the memo, carefully redacted to protect the innocent:
“We are structuring our current parking assignments”? Hmmm. Perhaps memo-writing has been outsourced to a secretarial sweatshop in China?
But I really like this part: “Contact Human Resources or your supervisor immediately if you are unsure of where to park.” You got that? Immediately! Can’t you imagine the scene if they had forgotten to inform us of this: Bewildered employees circling the lot in dazed confusion, unsure of where to park. “Oh, MY GOD,” they wail, as they drop their heads into their hands and roll to a stop as their car runs out of gas at around lunchtime.
Do they think their employees are complete idiots? And, man, anyone who believes bureaucracy is exclusive to the government clearly has not spent enough time in corporate America being handed memos like this one.
But what is the point of assigned parking spaces to begin with? Preventing the sheer chaos that would result in their absence? Can you imagine the riots? Or perhaps it’s just a way of reinforcing the well-established corporate hierarchy? It ain’t the janitor who gets to park closest to the door.
In fairness, I give my employer credit for providing a very nice area in which employees can securely park bicycles. (And there are, to my great relief, no assigned spots in the bike rack. We can hope they never read this, just in case there are no assigned spots in the bike rack only because the idea hasn’t occurred to them yet.)
A couple of years ago there was a raffle at work, in which many prizes of various sorts were given away to anyone who had pledged a donation to the United Way. I was informed that I was a winner. Now, I certainly don’t expect to be given anything for deciding to make a charitable donation. But there it was. And I was told that my prize was one month’s use of the “United Way Parking Space.”
The “United Way Parking Space” — actually there are two of them, according to this handy map of the parking lot I have been given — is among the closest to the employee door.
But why is this a reward? Why is this a perk? Why do we give to people as a “prize” the chance for them to take even fewer steps during the day? Why imply that it is some kind of privilege to expend as little physical energy as possible in getting one’s ass from the comfortable padded seat of one’s car to the comfortable padded seat at one’s desk, where it will park itself while one stares numbly into a computer for eight hours. This is a prize? Talk about perverse incentives.
Meanwhile, this company has had to reduce the quality of its health insurance plan and push more of the premium costs onto employees because the old plan was getting too expensive (which I don’t doubt in the slightest).