The Amateur Parker Ö
No Parking Like Snow Parking
By Melissa Bean Sterzick
The temperatures have dipped here in the Los Angeles area, and I have stopped wearing flip-flops and traded my T-shirts for a light sweater. Occasionally, I catch a glimpse of the news from other parts of the country and see that people out there are freezing their tails off.
I grew up in Southern California and had no idea what our carís defrost button actually did. And I never realized that the entire purpose of a garage was to keep your car out of the snow to save you the trouble of walking in snow or scraping it from your windows.
My education in snow was quick and painful. I went to college in Utah. Those days are a distant memory now.
When I think of college, I remember that I spent all my time working, playing, studying, sleeping and dating a long list of jerks. When I think of snow, I remember my nose hairs freezing, the crunching sound it makes when you walk, and the awful inconvenience of having to get around in it.
One of the many inconveniences of snow is parking your car on the street and having it completely buried by a snowplow. My car was snowplowed into oblivion once, and luckily the nice snowplow driver, on his way down the other side of the street, stopped plowing and got out to help me push my Honda to dry land.
One bitter Utah winter, my neighbor was forced to abandon her VW Rabbit for several months. Her poor car was tiny and white and parked on the street. After a huge snowstorm, the Rabbit was rendered invisible and immobile, first buried by the indomitable snowplow and then frozen solid by plummeting temperatures. The car was impossibly stuck until spring arrived and the glacier began to melt.
The city of Chicago disallows nighttime parking on 107 miles of its streets during the coldest winter months. I am guessing this is done to prevent a remake of my neighborís snowbound Rabbit drama. Iíve read the streets included in the restriction are vital to the successful function of the cityís emergency services and deployment of its snowplows.
My imagination is not up to the challenge of envisioning a place so cold and so jeopardized by the weather that such a dramatic parking ban is required. And where are all those people going to park until the end of April?
Snow is pretty when itís falling. Snow is lovely when youíre hiding under a down comforter with a good book and a cup of cocoa by your bed. Snow is also enjoyable when you bundle up and go outside for a short walk Ė no destination Ė just cold, quiet, peaceful snow thatís still soft like a bubble bath. Raging snowball fights are terrific fun. Snowboarding is pretty great, too.
But these great moments in snow are of limited duration, and the next thing you know, your car is a giant ice cube or the curb is mounded so high youíre parking in the middle of the street.
My husband grew up in Idaho, where itís so cold everybody just goes numb and thatís why they all seem so easygoing. In Idaho on any day during the stateís eight months of winter, you cannot park your car outside for more than five hours and expect it to start again, ever.
For the employed or otherwise engaged, this means lunch is not time for soup and salad. Itís time to go to the parking lot, rub the ice off the keyhole, start your car (if youíre lucky), and run it for 30 minutes so you have some hope of getting home that night. Enclosed parking in that climate is highly desirable.
People compare Californiaís earthquakes to the natural disasters that strike other areas, but I say thereís no comparison. Snowstorms stop everything, including something as basic as parking. Tornadoes have a similar effect on traffic patterns.
Earthquakes donít really affect you unless youíre right on top of the epicenter. If you are unlucky enough to be in that spot, youíd better keep your fingers crossed while youíre trapped under your china cabinet and hope they get you out before the next aftershock.
Thereís no warning system for earthquakes; they just happen and then they are over. If youíre at the grocery store and hear the seismic thunder as the quake approaches, and then the cacophony of hundreds of bottles and jars rattling against one another, it can be scary (speaking from experience).
Itís scary no matter where you are, but itís over quickly and you never saw it coming long enough to alter the course of your day. If you happen to be in a parking lot and a quake opens up a huge ravine right under your feet that swallows you whole, then it was just your time to go, because nobody can stop that kind of destiny.
Iím not equipped to do anything in the snow anymore. Iím barely equipped to handle temperatures higher or lower than 72 degrees. This admission, I know, will not earn me respect or admiration from anyone reading this column, but itís the truth. I tried snow and Iím not a big fan. I donít mind looking at it, but I sure donít want to park in it.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is PTís amateur parker and proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com
Article Abstract from January, 2010