The Amateur Parker
Bring Back the Drive-Ins
Melissa Bean Sterzick
I recently read an article about “minimum parking requirements” and what a challenge they can be for downtown areas, new buildings and new businesses.
Providing parking is an important aspect of any profitable venture. Most people are going to try only so hard to visit a new restaurant/boutique/dog salon, and, hopefully, a lack of parking isn’t the reason they give up.
During the hot days of August, my family made one of our many trips to the Palm Springs, CA, area to visit my parents. We enjoy their company and make the most of their 100-degree days and cool backyard pool. And we always stop by the local Sonic drive-In for our favorite – the fruit slush float.
Many years ago, when my husband and I lived in Texas, we would head to Sonic late at night when the temperature had gone down by three degrees and we could bear the thought of leaving our air-conditioned apartment. It was always a fun date to sit in the car with the hot and sticky air pouring in the open windows and a frozen drink to slurp away.
Our most recent trip to Sonic, in Palm Springs, where once again the oven-like temperatures and an icy-cold slush float made for a sweet and sweaty combination, gave me a moment to consider the very efficient way parking is provided at a drive-in.
You drive in, you park, you order -- the things you want are delivered to your car where you then sit and enjoy them. You are parking and patronizing a business concurrently.
I started to think about what an ingenious idea the drive-in really is. I looked around the restaurant and saw only three parking spots at each end, presumably used by employees. All customers pulled up to the building and ordered by intercom.
The drive-in is where your business model and parking plan unite and make each other simpler, more direct and very customer friendly.
The drive-in movie is another example of an efficient parking plan/business model. Customers don’t need a parking garage, valet or validation. They show up in their cars, and they stay in their cars. They can eat, talk, text, make out, and throw their trash on the floor, all in the comfort of their own vehicle.
Maybe the drive-in movie theater seems like an outdated venue, but maybe a little privacy is what we all need these days. And considering the comfort and stereo systems in modern cars, it would be pretty easy to match the experience to that of a walk-in theater.
There’s another drive-in I visit regularly. It’s my local Oil Stop. I take my car several times a year, usually two months after I’m supposed to, and it’s always a good experience.
I drive into the oil-change facility, and they wave me over a giant hole in the ground where some troll, I mean technician, waits. I turn off the engine, pop the hood and they get started. There’s tapping and a little tugging, a glug glug here and there.
The nice Oil Stop employee at ground level talks me through the procedure, gives me a cold bottle of water, washes my windows, and oils my door hinges and locks.
When no one needs me to turn on the engine or approve some special formula designed to get the dirt out of my “flywheel head gasket turbo prop,” whatever that is, I read a magazine or clean out my purse.
I find it very relaxing and nothing like the awful hours I used to spend at a Jiffy Lube, sitting in a greasy lounge that smelled like rubber and old coffee, never knowing when and if they would really get started on my car.
And once again, there is very little need for parking at Oil Stop. They have three bays and room for at least three cars to line up. There are three parking spots total on the lot itself.
The truth is, I am comfortable in my car. I have the radio, my CDs, a book, and my cellphone, and the driver’s seat is set just to my liking.
I would rather wait in my car than in a lobby. I would rather watch a movie from my car than sit in a packed theater where I am enveloped in the perfume smells of 100 other people and must listen to their assorted crunching, slurping, sneezing, coughing and throat-clearing noises, not to mention their whispering and cellphone calls.
I can’t say I always want to eat in my car, but it’s a novelty and more than tolerable when someone else prepares the food, provides napkins and takes away the garbage.
Besides the drive-in carwash, there have to be many other businesses that could offer me their services while I’m parked. And this would eliminate the “minimum parking requirement” challenge.
I’m sure my theory is full of holes, but I like my car, and I’m sure a lot of other people feel the same way.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is an Amateur Parker and PT’s proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.
Article Abstract from October, 2012