Fear and Loathing in the Parking Garage
By Astrid Ambroziak
Astrid Ambroziak, an author and fitness guru, is writing periodically for PT on parking from a “different” point of view. The description garage she demolishes below has been changed to protect the guilty. Maybe next time we can get her to expose us to her favorite parking garage. Editor
As a shopaholic, not only do I have plenty of experience in consumerism, but I also am an expert on mall and shopping center parking. I used to think that only my self-indulging purchases could fracture my sprit but recently have realized that it is often the parking that causes more harm.
What a difference that perfect parking structure can make to a girl’s morale. After all, for most women, shopping isn’t just about the necessities of life. It is all about therapy. Indeed, retail therapy is a common practice for majority of female species. That perfect parking scenario can be the determining factor where we shop.
If I need to pick up some lip gloss or some sexy stilettos, will I head to a place where it takes me an hour to find a parking space or to a little innocuous shop where I can get in and out within half the time? How often have I abandoned my shopping expeditions because the parking is horrendous?
One place where I truly despise going is the major shopping center near my home here in LA. Getting into it is like getting into the mob: Once you get in, you can never get out.
Not only are the exit signs confusing and impossible to find after one actually discovers the exit ramp, it’s a disaster to get on. It seems that in Los Angeles, the common courtesy of allowing others ahead of our car isn’t a practice. Considering that Angelinos see themselves as a pretty spiritual bunch, why do they ignore the laws of parking karma?
At this shopping center, if you have deep pockets, you can simply valet. Otherwise, bring your sense of humor with you, and patience.
The center has five parking levels. It has three entrances. I use the entrance that makes my parking most pleasant even in this despised structure.
First, check out the design of the entry lanes. I can only barely manage to pull up close enough to the ticket dispenser and secure the parking ticket.
Then I quickly realize that I must go on a diet or I won’t be able to get out of my car. The parking spaces here are built only for midget cars. Anything bigger causes claustrophobia, and dings on your door.
One is never too thin nor too rich, and this parking structure proves it.
Yet, this shopping center has joined the information age. Every parking level welcomes the customer with an announcement: room here for another 20 or 222 poor souls. If I manage to pay attention and not run into any ubiquitous stop signs and get close enough to one of the three snail’s pace elevators or one of the two escalators, I am in luck.
After finally securing that parking space in a section nearby – while remembering if I have parked in 4G blue or 4C orange – I say every prayer I have ever learned, lock my car and proceed to leave this parking dungeon while holding tight to my purse. Even on the brightest and sunniest LA day, this particular parking garage reminds one of the darkest levels of Dante’s Inferno.
When my shopping fix is over, I must face the daunting task of getting out of this dark parking jungle.
The first stop is a pay station. The signs that one must spend more money and pay for this parking privilege are ubiquitous. First four hours at a buck per hour. Any additional hour is $2, with the maximum of $10. A lost ticket pays the maximum.
The best news is that while paying for parking with coins or a credit card, one can stay well hydrated. A cold-beverage vending announces its presence.
$1, a bottle of water. $2, two-hour parking. $1,200: a shopping fix. Knowing that I will be out of this parking hell soon, priceless.
Of course, that’s if only I can remember whether I parked in 4G or 3B. Does anyone bring a pen to note her parking space? Or does my iPhone have an app for that?
When I find my car, my search for an exit begins. I have to drive my oversized vehicle without hitting any overhead beams or low-hanging security cameras, which are supposed to keep me and my new “it” bag safe.
This structure does have one amenity: a carwash. However, you never notice its presence until getting lost looking for the exit. Empty wallet and a clean car would have been good for my morale. But too late now.
At the exit, parking karma says yield to the upcoming and outgoing traffic on that ramp. Finally, there is the gate. No attendants, just a cold machine that seems to be out of order. To back up or not to back up, ‘tis the question. Finally, the gate miraculously lifts up, and I am back on the crowded streets of LA.
My shopping high has been replaced by the lows of my parking defeats. I’m going to choose a different shopping center next time.
Hunter Thompson announces his presence in my parking-ravaged mind. “Fear and Loathing” in this garage has driven me to the nearest bar. I have missed the carwash. Might as well wash away my parking anxieties with a cold beer while my truck is parked at an old-fashioned meter under open LA skies.
Astrid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Article Abstract from June, 2010