The Amateur Parker
Never On Sunday
Melissa Bean Sterzick
In San Francisco, Jan. 6, 2013, marked the beginning of Sunday parking meter charges. About 11,000 verbal and written warnings were given on the first three Sundays of the year, and nearly 1,800 meter tickets were written on Sunday, Jan. 27.
When I was growing up, Sunday was not a regular day. We went to church; we came home and took naps; we had roast beef for dinner. Family gatherings were acceptable, birthday parties were not. We did not buy groceries or watch TV or eat at restaurants. Even if we’d wanted to eat out or shop, most places were closed on Sundays. Maybe ours was a stricter household, but I seem to remember most of my friends had similar traditions.
My children are having a much different experience. We go to church sometimes, and we eat roast beef never. We try to make Sunday a family day, but that doesn’t stop us from going out to eat or attending a play. Every store and restaurant is open for business, youth sports leagues schedule a good portion of their games for Sundays, and here in Los Angeles, Sundays are slower than most days, but still pretty jam-packed with events that we can’t stand to miss.
Regardless of our intentions, cultural norms regarding Sunday activities have changed and no longer reinforce the idea of Sunday as a “day of rest” – at least not in our community. I’m sure there are places where traditional attitudes and practices are still supported.
In San Francisco, at least, it’s no longer sensible to shut off meters on Sundays. Years ago, when the policy was created, most businesses were closed and city employees, besides police and fire crews, did not work. Now people are out in full force all week and all weekend – if they want to eat and shop and so on, they have to pay for parking to do so.
I don’t know what people in San Francisco think, but I bet they are used to the intense parking climate of their city and will adapt quickly. And if parking officials are ready to put their staff on the streets seven days a week, so be it.
My fear is that Sundays and weekends are disappearing. I’m writing this column on a Sunday. My husband is expected to answer texts and phone calls from work on Saturdays and Sundays. My children are invited to Chuck E. Cheese’s birthday parties on Sundays, and the birthday child’s parents look at me like I’m a mental patient if I share the real reason they will not attend. Chuck E. Cheese’s, on a Sunday? I might not be as devout as my mother would like, but I still can’t stand the idea of going to a place that loud, dirty or aggressively commercial on Sunday (or any day, really).
We do not rest the day away, but we still want it to feel like a day set apart. And if you take away any religious connotations that statement might have, don’t we all want a day here and there, once week, once a month, twice a year, that is different from the others?
I doubt any of us wants to reach a point when there is no such thing as a “traditional” Saturday or Sunday – a day when most people are off work, a day when children play soccer and their parents watch, a day for brunch, a day when families gather, a day when it’s OK not to be productive or lucrative or take initiative.
My argument for free Sunday parking is not about the money; in fact, it seems fair to charge every day of the week. What I wish is that those who wanted to observe an old-fashioned Sunday still had the support of their communities.
Parking norms reflect social norms, and this evolving trend in parking is just an indicator of a major cultural shift.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is Parking Today’s proofreader, occasional writer and amateur parker. She can be reached
Article Abstract from March, 2013