Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
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 ended as a positive or negative experience in the particular pop culture reference. This issue’s parking reference is taken from the classic 1986 John Hughes film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
"Relax. You guys got nothing to worry about. I’m a professional,” says the valet parking attendant in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” shortly before taking a restored 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California, owned by the father of one of the lead characters, out for an on-the-clock joyride. We cannot count the number of times someone has told us they couldn’t drop off their vehicle with a valet service without thinking of that movie.
Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), a street-wise high school senior, elaborately stages an illness to take the day off from school, along with his best friends, Cameron (Alan Ruck) and Sloane (Mia Sara). To complete the potentially perfect day off, Ferris persuades Cameron to let them use his father’s idolized Ferrari to take a trip to downtown Chicago.
After arriving there, they drop the Ferrari off with a parking valet service, which ends up in two of the attendants taking it out for a joyride. After several memorable moments in Chicago, Ferris and his friends return to the parking garage, only to discover the enormous amount of mileage that has been put on Cameron’s father’s prized possession.
Ferris tries to solve this problem, among others, while also trying to avoid school Principal Edward Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), who is convinced that Ferris is faking his illness and will do anything in his power to prove it. …
Several sources point to valet parking service beginning sometime in the 1930s. As urban areas grew larger and larger, parking availability in these areas grew smaller and smaller, making finding a parking space a challenge, hence the need for valet parking. Since then, valet parking has become an integral part of the parking industry and proving invaluable to businesses such as restaurants, hotels, casinos, theaters, airports, hospitals, shopping malls and special events.
However, with its enormous success comes negative attention. For example, in a September 2010 CBS-TV “Early Show” report, “The Risks of Using Valet Parking,” a married couple left their BMW sedan with a valet service near JFK International Airport. When they returned from their trip 11 days later, the odometer displayed an additional 724 miles.
Also in the report, several ex-valet attendants soaked up their 15 minutes of fame by claiming that taking customer vehicles out for joy rides is common practice. Said one: “Depending on how busy it was and what (make and model) car it was, there was definitely a lot of joyriding going on.”
Thankfully, the same news report offers helpful techniques for customers to consider when dropping off their vehicle with a valet service:
“Mark down the mileage when you park, and make sure the parking attendant knows you’re marking it down,” said CBS consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen. “Try to be vague about how long you’ll be gone. And give a tip when you drop off your car keys, and make clear there’ll be another one coming when you return to pick up the car – if it’s been properly handled.”
Ferris Bueller did tip the valet attendant (“a fiver”) when dropping off the Ferrari, but he forgot to make clear he would be giving another tip on picking it up, which may have been the ultimate reason the iconic car was abused.
We have no doubt that joyriding in valet vehicles does happen – just search it on YouTube – but it should not be considered common practice. And yet “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” does not help overcome the implication that it is.
Listed by Empire magazine in 2005 as the No. 1 teen movie of all time, it also has been described by Chicago film critic Richard Roeper, in 2009, as having “one of the highest ‘repeatability’ factors of any film I’ve ever seen. … I can watch it again and again.”
People are going to continue to watch “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and they are going to watch it again and again. And the more they watch it, the more they will be reminded of what could happen when they drop off their vehicle with a valet attendant. Pop Culture wins again.
Isaiah Mouw, who works for Republic Parking System, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Leighton Trent, who attended the Los Angeles Film Studies Center, can be reached at email@example.com.