The Amateur Parker

Parking Through the Snow on a One-Horse Open ...

December, 2008

BY Melissa Bean Sterzick

My wish list is a mile long. For starters, Id like the economy to stabilize, my house and investments to regain their former (higher) dollar value, my kids to do what I tell them, my husband to take a few days off and those are just a few of the things.
I would probably settle for new shoes, dinner and a movie, shrubs for my front yard, and someone else to cook Christmas dinner. Too much?
As long as Im revealing some of my innermost hopes and dreams, there are things I want from the parking industry, too. For starters, Id like a free parking pass, valid anywhere, for the rest of my life, and applicable at any metered, pay-and-display or valet site.
While Im at it, a reserved parking space anywhere I want to park for the rest of my life would be great. Too much?
Next, Id like a gigantic golden trophy for being the only woman I know who can parallel park a large SUV with terrific ease (except for the woman who taught me, a friend, whose father taught her). Theres no counting the women who have told me, I just cant parallel park my husband/father/boyfriend/pet Labrador has to do it for me, (hair fluff), sigh. Im so proud of my parallel parking ability, Id like the world to know about it.
Last, it would be great if the parking industry would invent a magical shield I could activate when I park so that the things that go bump in parking lots never go bump on my car. Still too much?
Well, tis the season, so I am going to make an effort to set aside my selfishness. Instead of thinking of all the ways the parking industry could make my life as an amateur parker easier, Im pondering acts of kindness that I, as a member of the parking public, can show others during this holiday season.
1. Drive in the right direction. Sorry, this applies to December only. Those crazy parking lots with the diagonal spaces that alternate direction from row to row really irritate me. I know they make for more spaces or better traffic flow, or something, but I dont have time to waste doing switchbacks in the mall parking lot.
2. Put the cart away. No ones car gets dented and the bag boy doesnt have to gather carts in the bitter Southern California cold.
3. Give better tips. OK, OK, some of us are good tippers, some of us are not. But this time of year, everybody could use a few extra dollars, especially valets. That said, if I can actually bring myself to pay someone else to park my car, even though Im an excellent parker, parallel or any other, I will be sure to tip the nice guy who gets my door and has to jog back to the kiosk. Of course, no one in the hospitality industry in California is impressed with 15% anymore, so I will have to cough up 18% to 20% to show real seasonal cheer.
4. Signal.
5. Load quickly. Granted, kids and shopping bags are going to take awhile to load, but if theres a line of cars waiting, I will absolutely refrain from making any phone calls, reapplying lipstick, fiddling with the radio or loitering in general, and get the heck out of the way.
6. Reverse with caution. Ive been driving and parking for 20 years now, and during that time Ive watched at least six accidents in parking lots where a car going in reverse crashed into another vehicle. Three times I literally watched (my vocal cords and car horn totally paralyzed) as the driver in reverse accelerated without even looking back. One of those negligent drivers was a co-worker who backed into my car and subsequently paid for my new bumper. In another instance, I the innocent bystander was called upon (by my own angered sense of justice) to defend a terrified teenager from a man who reversed right into her passenger door and then insisted the accident was her fault.
7. Go slow. Who are those drivers going 30 mph or faster in parking areas? The speed bumps are hard enough on the suspension, but a loaded grocery cart isnt going to go under it gracefully. I know its easy to go from street to parking area and forget to decelerate. Besides that, parking garage ramps bring out the racer in all of us, so Ill be extra careful all year.
8. Squelch the temper. Im only occasionally an angry parker. Sometimes I get frustrated and mutter things such as idiot! and what are you doing, you butthead? under my breath, hoping my children dont hear me. Usually, I find it serves me best just to go with the flow and park a mile away if I have to. A little walk never hurt anyone, especially during the holidays when calories flow like chocolate fountains.
If I could have just one thing I really wanted at the close of this year, I guess it would have to be world peace (no, I was never in the Miss Universe Pageant) or the lifetime free parking pass either one would do.
Happy holidays, wherever youre parked.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is PTs amateur parker and proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.