John Kelly's Washington

John Kelly: Parking meter gambling and joking about animal death

Graduated parking fines sounds like a fun way to roll the dice.
Graduated parking fines sounds like a fun way to roll the dice. (James Parcell/the Washington Post)
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By John Kelly
Thursday, November 12, 2009

There are few pleasures greater than coming back to your car after you know your meter has expired and finding that you don't have a parking ticket. It's like getting away with murder.

Note: By using the expression "It's like getting away with murder," I am in no way condoning murder. Murder is wrong.

So is speeding. Speeding is wrong. And embezzlement. Torture is wrong. Bicycling without a helmet is wrong. Walking on railroad tracks is wrong. Frying ants with a magnifying glass is wrong.

I feel the need to point these things out because I'm still smarting from some of the reactions to my column earlier this week in which I "interviewed" various zoo animals to get their "thoughts" on Sunday's deer/lion dust-up.

"Quite honestly I'm appalled by your attempt to bring humor into this sad event," e-mailed a reader named Pam.

"Your sick attempt at humor was sophomoric," e-mailed a reader named Barbara. "I was thoroughly disgusted."

A reader named Janet e-mailed: "I see nothing humorous about the terror and agony that deer must have experienced and frankly, was offended by the lack of sensitivity and humanity that column indicated. Please, do not attempt again to elicit laughter about the painful death of a sentient being."

I don't know how to respond to such criticism. Just saying, "Hey, ladies, it's a joke" seems somehow inadequate. Because, of course, they know it's a joke, and that's what upsets them. I wouldn't joke about a child being mauled by a lion, so how can I joke about a deer in a similar situation?

I'm afraid I do believe in a great totem pole of life, with viruses, bacteria and mold spore at the bottom, chickens somewhere near the middle and humans at the top. This is not to say I think humans are better than chickens or mold spore, just that I find myself caring more for humans than for chickens or mold spore. I'm sure the opposite is also true. I'm sure the mold spore community is bereft every time I clean my shower but yawns when I cut my throat shaving.

I don't think people should be cruel to animals, but if it comes down to a choice between saving my life with a pig's heart valve and saving the pig, it's bye-bye, Porky. If confessing this forces PETA to send some of those naked fashion model protesters after me, well, so be it.

But, of course, the column wasn't about animals at all. It was about humans.

I guess I'm just particularly sensitive this week because of a voice mail I received from a reader named Marge. She called to say that while she usually enjoys reading my column, she doesn't like the fact that she has to look at my fat face twice a day: once at the picture that runs on the front of the Metro section, once at the picture that runs atop my column.


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