On Cass Avenue in Detroit, the parking meter screen is dark, blank.
No city budget. No city democracy.
No parking tickets to be given, or attendants, anyway.
Some broken things, like this limping city, have their advantages.
In “Cadillac Place,” former GM World Headquarters, lives:
The Unemployment Insurance Agency Problem Resolution Office.
This is where poor souls come, when –
(1) hours of telephone holds, (2) weeks-unanswered emails, (3) and
plain old howling at the moon has not resulted in resolved problems.
The marble corridor opens up like a cold tunnel,
Ornate mosaics glittering down from the arched ceiling.
Only the state seems to take up residence here:
Secretary of State, and other places of slow, inefficient state business.
Broken, largely vacant paean to Motor City glories past.
A spacious relic of a more assured time.
12 golden elevators, lined up six on each side of the corridor.
Only two of them ever open and close, ding bells and flash lights for service.
Near the grand front entrance is the UIA PRO – as it likes to be called.
What a strange greeting at the front door of this glorious place.
Facing “Grand Boulevard.” At least in theory, everything about it is grand.
In the office, there are 10 service cubicles. Only one is populated.
One person on duty to help this roomful of out-of-work souls.
One security guard, one person of unknown duty also sitting near the front door.
Endlessly repeating video instructions on an overhead monitor.
“Now Serving” sign stuck at 512.
Placed in my hand, ticket 597.
For a full 30 minutes, the numbers on the red screen don’t change,
But the crowd continues to dwindle.
Odd announcements are made on occasion. It’s a weird, slightly criminal,
Highly surveilled kind of atmosphere.
“If you have to go to the bathroom, check the parking meter, make a phone call, go shopping, do it now.”
Suspicious scent in the air. People in waiting seats stare at the carpet, or stay mesmerized by smartphones.
The woman at the desk lifts her nose to the air every now and then,
As if to detect its presence.
“Last day of work?” heard over, and over, and over again.
For my own case, stuck in a familiar limbo:
“School Denial Period.” Could take months to resolve.
A statute intended for school bus drivers and crossing guards,
Who might sneakily try to claim benefits for a seasonal job.
Somehow, inexplicably, accidentally applied to college professors.
I’ve heard it all before. It’s an office mistake, but one I’ll have to accept.
No easy answers to be given or had.
“I’ve helped you with everything I can today.”
I return to my Jeep,
Parked on the street,
Happy that, at least,
I don’t have a parking ticket,
From the broken machine.