Temper, Temper Why do people get so mad about parking?
We are territorial
People are attached to their cars. It’s a relationship that comes in third after family and home. I wouldn’t dive into a freezing lake to save my car or get shot trying to fight off a carjacker, but I do feel strongly that my car is my property, my means of transportation, and a peripheral aspect of my outward identity.
That means I know it’s just a car, but I don’t want anybody messing with it. I get annoyed when my husband moves the seat and leaves NPR blaring on the radio.
My dad was a general contractor, and he had a truck completely decked out with racks, drawers, tool boxes, ladders, hoses and power tools. Here’s a man building 75 tract homes, and he keeps almost everything he needs to accomplish that task in his vehicle. He never let us drive that truck. He called it his “livelihood,” and said that if anything happened to it, he would not be able to work.
Some of us just keep extra coats, gym bags and trash in our cars, but we still need to get where we are going. But there are many, who, like my dad, consider their vehicle integral to earning an income, and they expect that reality to be met with respect. Any threat to the security of that vehicle is going to elicit a strong response.
A couple hundred years ago, horse thieves were hanged. Society recognized that if you stole a horse, you might as well have killed its owner. And I highly doubt it was OK to tow a horse, or boot a horse, or hold it hostage for a $10 valet fee. You might not have been hanged for any of those things, but I bet a bullet in the knee was considered fair.
We perceive the situation to be unjust
We’re in a hurry. We’re late. We’re excited/nervous/unhappy about where we are going. We don’t see the sign. There is only one sign, and we miss it. We read the sign that refers to weekly rates, but today’s Saturday. It’s probably our fault that we did not pay better attention, but we don’t feel as if we should be punished for missing something that wasn’t obvious in the first place.
My husband and I, some years ago, spent our honeymoon at a beautiful and well-appointed hotel. After six days, we gathered our things and stopped by the front desk to check out. We thought we knew what the bill would be, but had no idea the hotel charged $25 per day to park in its garage.
We purposely had not used the valet service, thinking that would save us a bit on our total, but neither of us recalled receiving the information about fees for self-park. We were new to the luxury hotel scene then, but these days, though not exactly world travelers, we would not be so stupid.
But the charges were completely unexpected and revealed at the end of our stay in a way that made us feel we had been deceived. We were angry, felt foolish, and shared our frustration with the cashier, who looked at us like we were absolute twits, and that was the end.
We’re already mad
We love the idea of getting in and out easily, so we fool ourselves into thinking that’s what will happen. Or we don’t expect to pay to park, and we feel imposed upon when we see there is a charge. Or we can’t find a parking spot. Or we can’t get out of the lot as fast as we want.
But none of this is enough to send people over the edge – if it does, it’s probably because they’re already standing on the precipice.
Parking problems are the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s like dropping a carton of eggs at the end of an already bad day. It’s like stubbing a toe after a fight with your spouse. It’s like getting some awful news and then having a friend call to complain about scuffing her manicure.
We’re suffering over the essentials and end up lashing out about the inconsequential.
I don’t think the parking industry is inconsequential, but I do think human nature makes it more complicated than it has to be. And that’s a part of the equation that isn’t going away.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is Parking Today’s proofreader,
occasional writer and amateur parker. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.