Parking Wars and Peace

Isaiah and Mathew laud the series Parking Wars in this month’s Parking Today. You can read it here. (go to page 36.) On the same pages are many bon mots about the series and my feelings about it. It’s a pick up from this blog of a few weeks ago.

The “Pop Culture” authors quote the series producers and members of Philly’s enforcement team. In all cases, everyone is sure that this documentary series brings good things to parking. The producers of course love it and tell stories about how it has changed minds and hearts about the parking industry. The PEOs comment as to how people see them on the street and comment on their scenes in Parking Wars. People tell how watching the abuse received by the officers gives then an appreciation of what they are going through, and they pay their citations faster.

The IPI, our largest trade organization put the series on the front page of their magazine this month and gave a number of pages to its producer who plyed us with propaganda about the success of the series. It obviously feels that all publicity is good publicity. Once again, I’m not so sure.

The producer comments that the Philadelphia Parking Authority has changed some of its policies since the series has been on the air. “Management doesn’t always have eyes on the street…Its helpful for them to see it.” Wow, what a testament to parking management. They watch people who have video cameras stuck in their faces then adjust their policies to fit.

As an industry we have become star struck. If Hollywood does it, it must be good. Isaiah and Mathew have written well about how pop culture feels about parking. Whether it’s “paving paradise for a parking lot” or the horrors of Valet Parking in Ferris Bueller’s Day off or losing your car in Seinfeld, or the horrible murders in the parking deck in Fargo, Hollywood abuses our industry to the hilt. And or members, and our organizations, seems to eat it up.

The authors argue that parking “wins” in each case, because if you step back and look at the issue with rose colored glasses, we seems to fair well. In every case, however, the theme was that parking and its venues are something to regard with a bit of a jaundiced eye. Deep Throat didn’t meet the Washington Post reporter in the park, but in a dark, shadowy garage.

I live in the belly of the beast. They were shooting a movie next door yesterday. Did I walk the dog through the set to see who was starring? Of course, I’m not dead. That’s what Hollywood is all about, being bigger than life. And who wants to miss out. I spent Sunday a week ago at the Oscars, brushing shoulders with valets and stars in the arrivals area – getting the “feel” of it for an article in April’s PT.

However my guess is that Chevrolet much prefers to see the stars of Hawaii 50 driving the new Camaro up Wakiki than seeing a Caprice wrap around a tree at 100 MPH. They pay a lot for that long shot of Danno leaping out of the sexy muscle car, and frankly, I want to drive one so I will look just like him. Chevrolet, or their ad agency, knows a lot about product placement.

Federal Signal, parent of Federal APD, makes, in addition to other things, light bars that go on police cars. These are extremely important to police chiefs and one of the items that separates “hick” departments from professional ones. Federal pays good money to be certain that when you see a flashing lights in a chase on the silver screen or on the TV, it’s one of theirs.

So, what do we see when it’s about parking – murder, mayhem, lost cars, valets taking wild rides and stealing, PEOs giving citations to priests who are inside giving last rites, serial killers living on “P2,” and of course residents of Philly and Detroit losing it over a boot or a ticket for blocking a driveway, or in our latest media blitz – taking away reserved spaces from movie moguls.

Sorry, to me that just doesn’t put forth the best foot.

I don’t know what it would take for the industry to coordinate with the location directors here in LA LA land to maybe have a few scenes shot in a garage with parking guidance reflecting the ease of finding a space, or stressing the benefit of checking for parking violations in the area of a crime (can anyone say Son of Sam). What about if Harry Met Sally in front of a P and D machine and they fell in love while paying for parking. How about a series about a PI who runs a garage by day and solves crimes by night. And remember that CSI Miami solved a crime with a Photo Violation Parking Meter. What if those new sensors in the street in San Francisco we able to tell just how long a car was in a space and that bit of info solved the crime. I loved the scene in I Robot when the car is grabbed by the garage and parked. That can happen in real life in New York City. Why not in a movie that isn’t fantasy, but reality.

It just seems to me that taking a more positive approach, particularly as an industry, would be preferable to screaming, cursing, customers and how we deal with them. Don’t get me wrong. There will never be a series about good things that happen, it will never be “green lighted” over at Fox or Paramount. However subtle positives can find their way in, if they had some help.

But then, I’m in media. If it bleeds, it leads. I just think it’s time we started driving pop culture, instead of pop culture driving us. But what do I know, I write detective stories about all the problems in parking.

JVH

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