It will soon to be Christmas in Babel. Snow and slush are gathering in grey and muddy piles along Dunlop Street. The merchants of the town gather atop the more sturdy piles looking east and then west in search of the elusive last-minute Christmas shopper. A knot of the more aggressive Babel shopkeepers have met in the middle of the street to discuss their concerns.
“Where are the shoppers?” queried the ladies wear emporium owner. “We only have hookers for lookers these days.”
“Where are the drinkers?” complained the bar owner. “Shopping is dry work and we are waiting for shoppers to quench their thirst with us.”
“We must go see the Mayor,” said the guy who owns the pour-your-own-wine store.
That decided it. They were off to see the Mayor. Gathering strength in numbers as they went, from up and down Dunlop Street, the merchants marched in unison to City Hall.
There was hardly room for all of them in the Mayor’s office so he met with them in the neutral ground of the main rotunda. “What’s yur problem?” he demanded to know.
It was the ladies wear emporium owner who had been chosen spokesperson. “Where have all the shoppers gone?” was the wailing response.
“Is that your problem?” the Mayor asked the rhetorically. “We have a solution to that and all other problems of our citizens. We just turn the problem over to the Wise Men of Babel. They are also known as your City council.”
The call went out to the City Councillors: ten Blackberries vibrated simultaneously, nine male councillors struggled with their costumes to retrieve the irritant while the lone female watched her 19th Century handbag dance across the floor. They had been in the middle of a lovely rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen for the shoppers at Bayfield Mall. Their carolling ended, they headed quickly for the bus to take them back to City Hall.
The Mayor had moved everyone to the Council Chambers as he thought he looked his best in there. The councillors, as they were in the right costumes, danced a quadrille into the chamber, gathered in front of the Mayor and broke into a rousing version of Good King Wenceslas.
“Shut up and siddown guys,” demanded the Mayor when they finished. “This is an emergency meeting of council to help our downtown shopkeepers find some Christmas shoppers. They seem to be missing,” he told them.
Council quickly went into committee of the whole and then into an in-camera session, without the shopkeepers listening in.
The Mayor came out to announce the decision:
“Hear Ye, hear ye,” he proclaimed. “The wise men of Babel have convened and determined that shoppers have been going to the malls instead of downtown because there is lots of free parking at the malls. Therefore from this date forward until New Years, the downtown parking lots owned by the City will not charge for parking. It is free for the Month of December.”
The shopkeepers left happy and only one elderly gentleman was left sitting in the council chamber. One of the councillors went over to see if he was alright. The old man grabbed the councillor by the wrist and said, `What are you guys doing? You need the revenue from those parking lots to balance the books for the year. Now you are giving it away to please a lot of shopkeepers who don’t know the future is in the malls.”
“Not so,” said the councillor with a smirk. “People will think we have forgiven all the meters downtown as well as the parking lots. We’ll make a killing on ticketing the expired meters. And besides, half of our downtown is bars. If we encourage people to park around the bars, the cops can nail them when they start to drive off after being in a bar. It’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel. Merry Christmas.”
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