Magazine

The Amateur Parker …

Happy Parking Day

By Melissa Bean Sterzick

There are days for everything these days. It’s not just Memorial Day anymore – we have Secretary’s Day and Boss’s Day, Earth Day, May Day, National Coming Out Day, Patriot Day, and Take Our Daughters to Work Day. If only we got all these days off we could really enjoy them.
A whole slew of days are dedicated to parents: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Parents Day, Grandparents Day and, would you believe, Mother-In-Law Day, of all things. The children get the really good days that are guaranteed to come with gifts, candy and costumes, such as Halloween, Christmas and Easter.
And it’s not just enough to have a day anymore – we’ve got whole months devoted to things such as deaf history, alcohol awareness, older Americans, the environment, diversity and breast cancer. But I’m not arguing that these issues do not deserve a month of action, reflection and commemoration.
The older I get, the more some holidays seem worthwhile and others create anxiety instead of enjoyment. I think we all have our own ideas about which holidays are great and which absolutely suck, so I will keep my opinion to myself, in this instance, and say that the days might be different for everyone, but the pain is the same.
Imagine my surprise to read about PARK(ing) Day – held at the end of September. I wouldn’t have thought about it myself, but it makes sense, what with all the other special days out there, that there would also be a day for parking. Instead of a holiday that relives soggy memories of parking days of the past, or vigilantly proclaims parking the next endangered species, this one is about having fun and making the world a better place.
According to www.parkingday.org, “PARK(ing) Day is an annual, worldwide event that inspires city dwellers everywhere to transform metered parking spots into temporary parks for the public good. Citizen activists around the globe turn parking spaces into mini-parks for a day to demonstrate the need for more urban green space. The annual event is organized online, but staged offline in dozens of cities on every continent around the world. It’s a demonstration of the power of social media and international collaborative activism… and a great way to have fun and relax.”
In addition: “The name ‘PARK(ing) Day’ is a registered service mark of Rebar Group. Founded in 2004 in San Francisco, Rebar is an internationally recognized art and design studio operating at the intersection of art, design and activism. The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat … at least until the meter runs out!”
What you do is turn a metered parking spot into a park for as long as you can get away with it. There are permits to be had, licenses to procure, and even a manual and manifesto to be purchased from the founders. Parkingday.org also sells T-shirts and has an interactive map for parkers to post locations.
The first PARK(ing) Day was held in San Francisco in 2005. Ten rolls of sod, a bench and a potted tree lasted two hours, and then the meter ran out and everybody went home. According to parkingday.org, last year, citizens of the world celebrated the day with 700 mini-parks in 21 countries. This year, the group reported, there were first-time parks in Paris, Tehran and Hangzhou, China, to name a few. There were many incidents where participants were forced off their spots by aggressive and envious drivers or misguided and confused city officials. In general, the holiday was carried out peacefully, the group said.
I can only guess what PARK(ing) Day participants did around the world. San Franciscans, growing suspicious foliage on their spots. Parisians, French-kissing and eating baguettes. New Yorkers, praying that cab drivers didn’t run them down. In Southern California, we borrowed water from Colorado to irrigate our PARK(ing) Day landscaping.
The idea of turning a parking space into an actual park, however impermanent, is a good one. For example, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, parking lots in my city are turned into farmers markets. Vendors roll out their awnings and tables and put out the most beautiful produce. The popcorn stand fills the air with a nutty scent, and the strange steel-drum guy provides the background music. I go every week.
I appreciate the novelty of PARK(ing) Day and have many ideas about things I would do with a parking spot if I were to participate some day. A putting green, lounge chairs and a wading pool, picnic table and industrial-sized trash can. You could even go so far as to hire somebody to make balloon animals or tell fortunes. You could dress in formalwear and play the piano, hold a teeny-tiny soccer game, put on a fashion show. In a parking spot. The possibilities are mind-boggling.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is an Amateur Parker and PT’s proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.

Article Abstract from November, 2010




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