Point of View
Holidays, Driving, and ‘A Positive Light’
John Van Horn
As I write this during the first week in November, I realize that it will be read the week or so before Christmas. So I’m trying to get my thoughts wrapped around the holiday season and all the feelings that go with it.
Stores are filled with Christmas gifts and decorations (Costco had its holiday decorations up the end of September). I walk though malls and see snow, angels and even the odd Santa. But it’s difficult to get in the spirit, just yet.
Do we send out cards to our customers? How about a nice email card? Now that’s the true meaning of the season, and if we do it right, we can automate the process completely and not have to think about who is getting the card or why.
Ah, the wonders of modern …
At The Temecula Group last month, we spoke about technology but kept circling back to policy. The “people” involved were more important than the electronic beasts that open gates and collect money. What we are trying to accomplish was more important than the way electrons flow through silicon.
From where I sit, that should also be true about the upcoming holidays. The people we see and the feelings we have are more important than the electronic cards or even the nicely printed ones we businesses use.
Strangely, I really like getting long letters from acquaintances. We get one each year from a family that writes the letter from the point of view of the family dog. It’s rather clever, and it brings us up to date on that family. (My god, do you mean that little Jimmy is in college!)
I have a friend in the UK who makes it a sort of hobby to send cards to people on their birthdays and at Christmas. They are beautiful on the outside but blank on the inside. He writes a personal message in each one. He says it forces him to think about his friends, even if for only the few minutes he takes to write in longhand.
I wrote last year about giving the gift of time, but perhaps it’s also good to give a gift of thought. “I was thinking about you and thought I would call or write.” Asti in the UK gives a bit of himself with every card he sends. My friend with the dog does the same in a different way.
Can we send personal messages to hundreds of customers? Perhaps not on a corporate level, but perhaps individuals in the company can send them to the people they deal with regularly. The people in order entry, or sales staff who have business relationships, or the CEOs who know other CEOs. Why not?
If we start now, or had started then, back in November, we could make a positive effort to personalize the holidays. I wonder if I will.
When I was a kid, we couldn’t wait until we could drive. I think it was 15 and a half, and I got a learner’s permit. I was driving when I was 16 and never looked back. I couldn’t imagine not having a car, ever.
I learn now that in Vancouver, BC, 26% of the households don’t own cars, and in many cities in the U.S., upwards of 10% of the families don’t have cars. I guess it’s true, as my oldest son and his family have never owned a car. They seemed to have survived just fine on foot, bikes, buses and shuttles. But they live up north near Seattle, where everything seems to be close by.
As the current generation moves back into lofts in the central city, and abandons the ‘burbs to us oldies, they are rethinking their lifestyles.
We were told by a keynoter at the NPA convention that suburban office buildings had a much lower occupancy rate than their urban cousins, because young workers want to work, play and live within walking distance. Those huge parking lots around suburban high-rises are going empty. Smart companies are locating in central cities that have all the stores, clubs, restaurants and apartments their employees want.
What does this mean for parking? First, many of the rules we believed about having a certain number of parking spaces per square foot are going by the wayside. Those huge garages may not be filling up. On-street requirements change, too, as customers walk to the bar or restaurant, rather than drive.
Is it time to sell our buggy whips and start hawking sandals to the young walkers? How would I know?
It saddens me to think that the youth of today don’t have that wanderlust and independent spirit that we had as kids. We wanted to get in the car and drive, whenever we wanted, which was usually as far as we could get and then home by curfew. Today’s kids seem perfectly content sitting in front of a computer, tapping on their smartphone, and “chillin’.”
I would probably be horrified if my children had done some of the things I did when I was a teen. But, frankly, now I’m a tad concerned that the youths of today don’t even want to.
Elsewhere in this issue of Parking Today, we are running an article about USC and its project to let off first-time parking violators if they take a test designed to give them more information about the parking program at the university.
One offender who took the test was Teresa M. Hudock, Director of the school’s Center for Active Learning in International Studies. She wrote a note to the parking office telling them how much she appreciated the program and its “different” approach to enforcement. She ended the message with this line:
“The positive light is almost blinding.”
Article Abstract from December, 2013