Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Robin Hood and His Merry Men versus Keene and its Meter Maids
Keene is a beautiful city of about 23,500 in New Hampshire. Like most cities, large and small, it derives substantial revenue from parking meters in the downtown area, and the parking tickets issued for not paying the meter. The state motto of New Hampshire is “Live Free or Die.” A few residents of Keene are living up to the state motto. They are part of the Free Keene group. They’re also known as Robin Hood of Keene or Robin Hooders. Either they have found their meaning in life, or they have nothing better to do in the idyllic Connecticut River Valley of New Hampshire. They patrol downtown Keene looking for cars parked at expired parking meters. They then reach into their pockets and feed the meter, leaving a card on the windshield wipers: “Your meter expired; however, we saved you from the king’s tariff’s, Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Please pay it going forward.” They also provide a mailing address to send contributions. They claim to have forestalled the issuance of 4,000 parking tickets. They are especially elated when they can get to a meter before the three Keene parking enforcement officials, also known as meter maids, reach the vehicle and issue a ticket Keene, or at least its officials, are upset at this public act of rebellion. There’s not much they can do about it directly. Also frustrated are the three meter maids. Keene filed suit against six Robin Hooders, accusing them of taunting and harassing the not so merry meter maids. The language used in the encounters may or may not include some old Anglo Saxon expletives. The slings and arrows are verbal, pointed and sharp. The not so merry meter maids complain of emotional distress, but care not of the emotional distress they inflict on the owners of the cars they ticket. The meter maids versus the Robin Hooders is not a friendly rivalry. Robin Hood versus Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham is more like it. Both sides are using video cameras to record the festivities. Santa Claus traces back to the 4th Century, but history tells us naught of the historic Robin Hood – so little in fact that we know not if Robin Hood ever existed. The video camera will probably tell us more than we ever want to know of the modern Robin Hoods. The named defendants do not include Robin Hood, Robin of Loxley, Friar Tuck, Little John or Maid Mariam. The city seeks injunctive relief prohibiting the Merry Men of Keene from getting within 50 feet of the not merry meter maids of Keene. The effect of the injunction would cripple the Robin Hooders since it is often a race to the meter between the opposing forces. The moving fifty feet exclusionary zone would give the meter maids an insurmountable head start in the small town. Robin Hood won his war with authority. The Robin Hooders have a good chance of winning theirs.