Did you enjoy your class?
Parking tickets in downtown Iowa City when I was growing up were two dollars. To pay the ticket, the driver inserted the money into the envelope that the ticket written on and dropped it in a street-side payment box near the courthouse. Parking tickets were an irritation, but not of great consequence.
When the rate doubled to four dollars, akin to about $24 in today’s economy, I remember the pushback among the grown-ups. Going downtown became less desirable, a boon for the newly opened suburban mall with its free parking. Over time the pain wore off, and Iowa City’s citizens resumed tucking their fines into the ticket envelopes and thinking little of it.
My mother, Eighty-Nine, has long ascribed unexpected financial annoyances as “today’s parking ticket.” Lose a library book and have to replace it? It’s a parking ticket. Break the cable on your headphones? A parking ticket. Pay the Visa after the deadline? A more expensive parking ticket, but ultimately a parking ticket just the same.
Some parking tickets hurt way more than others, though. In the category of expensive but replaceable, I’ve had two car stereos stolen from parked cars in New York City, items lifted from my dorm room freshman year, my first bike purchased when I was 27 removed from my garage, and $8 belonging to my daughter taken from our bulletin board by a child invited into our house. In each case, I felt dishonored by the crime and powerless to restore my losses.
During those same years that parking tickets cost four dollars, we belonged to a dairy where we bought milk, eggs, butter, and cream so thick I could turn the bottle over with no lid on and the cream wouldn’t pour out. Everything at Moss’s Dairy was on the honor system—we were members, paying a lifetime membership fee about equivalent to one parking ticket. Eldon Moss or his wife might be in the dairy barn when we drove in, but the place might be entirely deserted as well. We would select our items, write a list and the prices of what we were taking on the sales pad, and put the money on the counter, making our own change. If we didn’t have enough cash one day, we could write the total debt on the calendar on the wall and crossed it off next time.
Community classes at Radiant Om Yoga are modeled after Moss’s Dairy. It’s just five dollars to drop in for an hour of yoga or Nia or forty minutes of our newly added meditation practice. There’s a basket and participants are invited to make their own change. Of the twenty classes on our weekly schedule, more than a quarter are designated for people to have a studio experience without paying studio prices.
The first time you walk through the studio doors, your class, whichever one you have chosen, will be free. So it was that at the beginning of May I told a mother attending community yoga with her grown son that their class that evening was on the house, a gift from the studio because I was glad they were there.
She directed toward her son the folded up twenty she had been starting to hand to me, and before he could stretch his hand over to take it, softly shook her head and crumpled the money into her fist. I directed them up the ramp and into the studio, after indicating where they could leave their shoes, and mentioned what props they would need for the practice. A few minutes and several nearly late arrivals later, we were under way.
About twenty-five minutes into class, the son—tall with a thick head of dark hair and what looked like full-arm tattoos emerging from under his shirt, stopped practicing. He sat tall on his mat, feet together, knees out, holding his ankles. His mother on the mat next to him struggled with the poses, looking lost as students new to my teaching style sometimes are. Ten minutes later, the son rose, crossed the room without looking left or right, collected his personal belongings, and left the studio. I did not hear the door to the street close.
When a student leaves class, a yoga teacher’s first concern is that he may have suffered an injury. At the moment he departed, I was mid-pose and couldn’t extract myself easily to follow him. It was a few minutes after when I did look to see if he was waiting for his mother in reception and I found no one there. Then I was unsettled—because of course I took his departure as a critique of my class. But it’s important to stay present for the students who are on the mat, so I shook off the incident as best as I could.
After class, two students came up to chatter with me and a third made a point of crossing the studio to welcome the mother. With a big smile I heard him ask, “Did you enjoy the class?” Her worried look diminished and she smiled back as they spoke amiably. She seemed in no hurry to follow her son out the door. Then the conversations subsided and I finally made my way from the studio to reception; the crowd had thinned to just a couple of students and the teacher for the next class. And then I gasped: The money from the Community Yoga basket was gone.
At this moment in the drafting of this piece, my cat elected to barf newly eaten food. I can’t think of a more perfect response to the events that I’m narrating. I did not, however, barf when it happened. Nor did I call the police, as one person suggested I do. Nor did I use the intake forms of mother and son to contact them. I could not be 100% certain that someone hadn’t whispered open the door and swept the basket clean, and I did not like to accuse or even stir the pot, there was so much weirdness there. I did look around to see if anything else was missing and found to my great relief that my purse, keys, computer, inventory, and cash box were all unruffled. Beyond notifying the teachers at the studio, there was nothing else to do.
I called the loss a parking ticket. I learned I have to put the money away before heading in to teach class. And I mourn the time before it happened when I could be a joyful host, welcoming in anyone without misgivings.
It’s a new moon & I’m ready for new tidings. This happened three weeks ago, and I’m sorry to say the events that followed haven’t been much better. I hope things are happy where you are, and I wish that we might all move into a lighter summer mood together. With thanks, as always, for your love & support on the journey, Rxo