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The Amateur Parker …

‘Parking Wars’: The TV Reality Show

Melissa Bean Sterzick

I thought I’d heard everything until I read about the latest reality TV show: A&E’s “Parking Wars.” I’ll be honest: When I first found out about a magazine called Parking Today, I was sure it could be published only quarterly. How much could be written about parking? Certainly not 40- 50- 60-pages worth every month. But it’s true: There is a lot to say about parking. Most of it is stuff amateur parkers like me don’t ever think about.
There’s the technology: lights, meters, P-and-D machines and signage. There’s the legal aspect including the workings of enforcement agencies, city ordinances governing parking, parking enforcement, and the building of parking facilities. There also are financial aspects always under debate: things such as supply and demand, cost analysis, inventory and Shoupism. That’s not to mention the many ins and outs of parking associations, trade shows, and industry-specific training and discussion.
But a TV reality show?
At press time, the first episode had yet to air, so I took a close look at the show’s Web site (www.aetv.com/parking-wars). A synopsis of the show and a few parking polls and Q&A forums were definitely interesting. “Parking Wars” follows enforcement employees of the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA). Individuals from Ticketing, Booting, the Tow Squad and the Impound Lot brave the metropolis with a camera crew right behind to document the challenges of parking enforcement – every conflict, epithet, argument and breakdown.
Brotherly love is not the theme. It’s the brutality and humanity of parking.
It seems quite a leap to call such a theme entertainment, but these days, Americans are thirsty for exhibitionism in all its forms. Name the industry or profession, plot a challenge, single out a family, and we television consumers are willing and ready voyeurs.
But it seems as if this show could be positive for the people and companies behind the scenes of parking. Exposure is almost always a good thing for a virtually unknown entity such as the parking industry – as long as it doesn’t go to your heads. Watching these parking enforcement officers do their work will be eye opening. Maybe parkers will have a better understanding of the challenges of the job and be less likely to inflict abuse when they are caught breaking the rules.
I myself came in close contact to a ticketing officer just the other day, and the “confrontation” went like this: My very thoughtful neighbor pounded on my door, and when I opened it, he said urgently, “You’ve got to move your car, like, right now. It’s street-cleaning day.” I shrieked, grabbed my keys and tore out the door in my robe and bare feet to the sight of an officer standing behind my car with his electronic clipboard in hand just about to take down my license plate number. Still shrieking I begged “Wait, wait, I’m moving, I’m moving!”
He very calmly stepped away from my car and said “OK.”
Maybe it was my “bed head” or maybe he was just being nice. Maybe he thought I looked like the hysterical type and didn’t want to mess with me. Either way, I appreciated his generosity. Now I wish I could have told him there was no way on this Earth that I would have yelled at him or cried. I might have kicked the grass and pleaded for mercy, but no yelling.
According to the A&E Web site, the show is “intense, humorous and always emotional.” Sounds like that 60-second interchange I had the other morning plus some strong language, threats, attempted bribery and all-around crazy behavior – mostly from the motorists. In the Web-site words of the show’s producers:
“They tuck tickets under our windshields and clamp yellow boots to our car wheels. They are called every name in the book. Some try to run from them. Others try to run them over. They are the people we love to hate, but never before have they been so fascinating. A&E’s new real-life series “Parking Wars” is a behind-the-scenes ride with the men and women of the Philadelphia Parking Authority as they manage the chaos that is every driver’s greatest nightmare ... parking!
“The car is an integral part of the American dream. It is one of the most tangible expressions of a person’s freedom and identity. When taken away, the response is often not pretty. “Parking Wars” is a first-hand and decidedly playful look at what happens when the citizens of Philadelphia come face-to-face with the PPA.”
Because of my involvement with this magazine, I’ve already taken a closer look at the realities of parking. Maybe this TV show will inspire some fraction of the rest of the parking public to do the same.

Melissa Bean Sterzick is a writer, proofreader, mom and amateur parker in the Los Angeles area. She can be reached at
Melissa@parkingtoday.com.

Article Abstract from February, 2008




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