Fargo (Part One)
Parking vs. Pop Culture is a series of articles dedicated to significant parking references found in pop culture. The winner, either parking or pop culture, will be determined by whether the parking reference ended as a positive or negative experience in the particular pop culture reference. This issue’s parking reference will be taken from the 1996 film Fargo. Although, there are two memorable scenes related to parking attendants in this film, this issue will focus on the less violent of the two in which Carl Showalter, portrayed by Steve Buscemi, argues with the parking lot attendant at a fictional airport parking garage for charging the minimum rate of four dollars. Showalter, arguing that he simply drove in and decided not to park, goes on to say, “I guess you think you’re... you know, like an authority figure, with that stupid [expletive] uniform, huh buddy? King clip-on-tie there, big [expletive] man, huh? You know these are the limits of your life, man. The rule of your little [expletive] gate here. Here’s your four dollars, you pathetic piece of [expletive].”
The American Film Institute denied the Coen brothers auteur, dark-comedy, Fargo, entry into its most recent Top 100 Films list – a decision which caused Roger Ebert to rebut with, “What? No Fargo?” On a list that allows Titanic a spot of glory, really? And with scenes like the aforementioned tirade to the parking lot attendee, Fargo juxtaposes violence and humor but not without its fallout, staying true to the Coen brothers style and tone. The film stars William H. Macy as a car salesman named Jerry Lundegaard who hires two criminals, Carl Showalter and Gaear Grimsrud, to kidnap his wife in a plan to collect the large ransom. The plan eventually collapses underneath the weight of Murphy’s Law – cinematically displayed by the Coen Brothers – and the keen, home-spun investigative efforts of Marge Gunderson – brilliantly portrayed by Frances McDormand.
Many parking facilities include a “grace period” anywhere from five minutes to thirty minutes which gives the parker time to exit the garage without payment in the event they decided not to park, could not find a parking space, or were simply picking up a friend. It is not certain how many minutes Showalter parked, but the reason for his visit to the parking lot is certain – to steal a license plate from another parked car covered in snow. Regardless of the procedures or why they are in place, everyday customers curse under their breath or gawk at the dollar amounts printed on parking facility signs. Many have mentally spoken a piece of their mind to those in charge of setting the parking fee structure or even those enforcing these fees. Something inside of a lot of people applauds Carl Showalter’s expletive laden rant against the smiling parking lot employee, and considers him a hero for his stand against petty parking rates. The problem is that Showalter is not a hero. Carl Showalter is a misfit – an obnoxious, vulgar, albeit funny, misfit and murderer. Showalter’s tirade gives perturbed parking patrons a guide to releasing their own frustration to parking employees; therefore, parking loses this battle to even up the tally at two apiece.
Parking may have lost the battle, but it wins the war. Showalter may spew sewage at law and order, but he cannot outrun its proverbial long arm. He ends up, like all Coen brother characters, paying the fee for his defiance. Likewise, he also cannot outrun the proverbial long parking access gate arm and ends up paying the four dollar parking fee.
Isaiah Mouw, CAPP candidate, currently works for Republic Parking System. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413.231.4411.
Mark Botts attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in New York and is a graduate student in Regent University’s MFA program. He can be reached at email@example.com.