Small towns are comfortable because of the warmth of the people and the hospitality they tend to offer. Santa Monica is a small town in many ways and it is those ways that make living here so enjoyable.

A couple of weeks ago I was getting my hair cut at Tel’s on Pico Boulevard and in the chair next to me is my landlord. We’ve both been regular customers at Tel’s for years and it seems like most of the clientele is in the same boat. It has that old time feel to it. There are three generations of men working in the shop, and when you walk in they greet you by name.

This little bit of Mayberry life was a poignant counterpoint to what was going on the day of my visit. That day the street parking had been blocked off as the new sensors for the electronic parking meters were being installed. If you haven’t heard yet, the new electronic meters will automatically reset when a car that was parked in the spot is moved.

The old days of finding a parking meter that still had time left on it from the previous parker have been relegated to the trash bin of history in Santa Monica. And just to compound the pain, if you are parked in a spot, you cannot go out and renew your meter without moving your car. The new sensors lock the meters from adding additional time, but they’ll take your quarters just the same.

I realize one of the reasons for the new meters is that it causes a turnover in the parking spots and we need that. It creates greater flow and increases availability for the heavy tourist crowd that we attract.

The new meters that take credit cards are also a very convenient way to pay for the time I use a meter and I imagine it will not be much longer before they only take credit cards and that will result in yet another savings in the staff who now have to collect the coins, total the coins and send to the bank.

The future is not just paperless, but it also requires far fewer people. The staff reduction is a cost savings and the increased revenue from the new meters means that the city will be in better fiscal condition.

But all of this cost savings and traffic flow improvements come at a cost to civility in my mind. There seems to be a loss of hospitality to me. It just seems un-neighborly that I cannot put a quarter in a meter that has run out, to save someone from a parking ticket just because they are running a few minutes late.

There is a generalized loss of civility I am feeling as we grow into a more roboticized society. As we need people less and less, we are losing our humanity and I despise the loss.

So, in an effort to increase the neighborliness of our city, and in a tip of the hat to our humanity and helpfulness, I am offering two free tickets to the first 50 people who e-mail or call me. Your name will be put on a will call list to the Thunder Soul event this coming Saturday, Aug. 4. Jamie Foxx will be appearing at the Broad Stage to attend a private screening of the movie “Thunder Soul.” This is a documentary about high school students who return after 35 years to honor their music teacher who brought them to a championship win. The event begins at 6 p.m. with a reception by The Harmony Project playing light jazz. Appetizers and drinks will be available and at 7:30 p.m. the movie will screen.

Please come and enjoy some great jazz, see a wonderful movie, and help Jamie Foxx support our organization. This will be another great opportunity for mixing and mingling with some of the fabulous people who make up our great city, and it’s a chance to help out an organization that is doing tremendous work in changing the lives of our at-risk youth.

David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on fathers’ rights and men’s issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at or (310) 664-9969.

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