Opinion by JVH
Parking Wars, and Peace
Isaiah Mouw and Matthew Clay lauded the TV series “Parking Wars” in the March issue of Parking Today. On the same pages were my bon mots about the show and my feelings about it.
The “Parking Vs. Pop Culture” authors quote its producers and members of Philadelphia’s parking enforcement team. In all cases, everyone is sure that this reality series brings good things to parking.
The producers, of course, love it, and tell stories of how the show has changed minds and hearts about the parking industry. The PEOs note how people see them on the street and comment on their scenes in “Parking Wars.” People tell how watching the abuse received by the officers gives them an appreciation of what they are going through, and they pay their citations faster.
The IPI, the industry’s largest trade organization, put the series on the front page of its magazine last month and gave a number of pages to one of its producers, who plied us with propaganda about the success of the show. The IPI obviously feels that all publicity is good publicity. Once again, I’m not so sure.
The producer commented that the Philadelphia Parking Authority has changed some of its policies since the series has been on the air. “Management doesn’t always have eyes on the street. … It’s helpful for them to see it.” Wow, what a testament to parking management. They watch people who have video cameras stuck in their faces, then adjust their policies to fit.
As an industry, we have become starstruck. If Hollywood does it, it must be good. Isaiah and Matthew have written well about how pop culture feels about parking. Whether it’s paving paradise to “put up a parking lot” or the horrors of valet parking in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” or losing a car in a parking garage on “Seinfeld,” or the horrible murders in the parking deck in “Fargo,” Hollywood abuses our industry to the hilt. And our members, and our organizations, seem to eat it up.
The authors argue that Parking “wins” in each case, because if you step back and look at the issue with rose-colored glasses, the industry seems to fair well. In every case, however, the theme was that parking and its venues are something to regard with a bit of a jaundiced eye. “Deep Throat” of Watergate infamy didn’t meet the Washington Post reporters in a park but in a dark, shadowy garage.
I live in the belly of the beast. They were shooting a movie next door yesterday. Did I walk the dog through the set to see who was starring? Of course, I’m not dead. That’s what Hollywood is all about, being bigger than life. And who wants to miss out? I spent a Sunday a few weeks ago at the Oscars, brushing shoulders with valets and stars in the arrivals area – getting the “feel” of it for an article in April’s PT.
However, my guess is that Chevrolet much prefers to see the stars of the new “Hawaii Five-O” driving the Camaro along Waikiki than seeing a Caprice wrap around a tree at 100 mph. They pay a lot for that long shot of “Danno” leaping out of the sexy muscle car, and frankly, I want to drive one so I can look just like him. Chevrolet, or its ad agency, knows a lot about product placement.
Federal Signal, parent of Federal APD, makes, among other things, light bars that go atop police vehicles. These are extremely important to police chiefs and one of the items that separates “hick” departments from professional ones. Federal pays good money to be certain that when you see flashing lights in a police chase on the silver screen or on TV, it’s one of theirs.
So, what do we see when it’s about parking? Murder, mayhem, lost cars, valets taking wild rides and stealing; PEOs giving citations to priests who are inside giving Last Rites; serial killers living on “P2”; the opening scene of “NCIS” proving the point that PEOs are jaded; and, of course, residents of Philly and Detroit losing it over a boot or a ticket for blocking a driveway; or in the latest media blitz, taking away reserved spaces from movie moguls.
Sorry, to me that just doesn’t put forth the best foot.
I don’t know what it would take for the industry to coordinate with the location directors here in LA LA land to maybe have a few scenes shot in a garage with parking guidance reflecting the ease of finding a space, or stressing the benefit of checking for parking violations in the area of a crime (can anyone say “Son of Sam”).
What about if “Harry Met Sally” in front of a P-and-D machine, and they fell in love while paying for parking? How about a series about a PI who runs a parking garage by day and solves crimes by night? And remember that “CSI: Miami” solved a crime with a Photo Violation Parking Meter.
What if those new sensors in the street in San Francisco were able to tell just how long a car was in a space and that bit of info solved a crime? I loved the scene in “I, Robot” when the car is grabbed by the garage and parked. That can happen in real life in New York City. Why not in a movie that isn’t fantasy, but reality?
It just seems to me that taking a more positive approach, particularly as an industry, would be preferable to screaming, cursing customers and how well we deal with them. Don’t get me wrong. There will never be a series about good things that happen in parking; it will never be “green-lighted” over at Fox or Paramount.
However, subtle positives can find their way in, if they have some help.
But, then, I’m in media. If it bleeds, it leads. I just think it’s time we in the parking industry started driving pop culture, instead of pop culture driving us. But what do I know? I write detective stories about all the problems in parking.
Article Abstract from June, 2011