Valentine’s Day Letter to Parking
By Melissa Bean Sterzick
Valentine’s Day does funny things to me. I eat a lot of chocolate and pink-frosted food, listen to sickeningly sappy music on the radio, and generally radiate sweetness for the entire month of February. Sure, just ask my husband and children – it’s all candy hearts and cupids for 28 days – except this year, when I embrace my warm and fuzzy side for 29 days.
Some people say Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday created to generate more money for the flower, candy and travel industries. Some say Valentine’s Day just tortures the single and lovelorn (although it can be torturous to couples and married folks, as well) and demolishes their self esteem.
And others say love should be demonstrated every day – not just on a silly over-hyped holiday. I say all of those things, but despite that, I don’t mind celebrating Valentine’s Day. I have no problem with flowers or chocolate, however they come to me.
I spend the entire month in a marshmallow-flavored cloud of kindness, acceptance and gratitude, and it really shows in the way I park.
All of my bad parking habits mysteriously vanish. My fits of impatience and exasperation, and most of my swearing, go by the wayside. I wait my turn – sometimes even waving on other drivers to let them go first. I drive slowly in parking lots. I put my shopping cart away. I drop a few extra coins in my meter so the next person who parks there feels good about his or her day.
I valet with cheer, instead of my usual grim reluctance, because if you can’t enjoy valet on Valentine’s Day, then you might need a little Prozac. I treat every cashier and valet with a tip and a smile, and congratulate them on a job well and quickly done. I even offer them a nice piece of gum from my glove box.
Instead of bitterly wishing I could somehow finagle myself a handicapped placard, I acknowledge that I am proud to live in a country that offers special parking privileges to those who need it most. I say a prayer over each empty handicapped spot and hope it will soon be of use to some legitimately handicapped person.
When I’m out running errands, I marvel at the efficiency of my city and its leadership in providing such sound parking legislation and policy. I’ve been to Paris, and they might have great clothes, amazing food and incomparable art, culture, architecture and history, but parking is a fiasco. Here, there’s parking pretty much everywhere I need it and I barely have to lift a finger to get it.
I feel grateful in this day and age, when I am taxed to death and have the life billed out of me, that wherever I go I can still park for “free” – most of the time. And by free I mean no quarters or credit cards required, because I do understand the connection between my taxes and parking opportunities.
At pickup time, I relish the walk toward my daughter’s school, and inside my head I don’t make fun of the parents who arrive 20 minutes early just to park 80 feet closer to the gates. With the sun on my face and the wind in my hair, I appreciate the chance for a little exercise and the absorption of some much-needed vitamin D.
I ponder the experience and effort that go into building the various parking garages I frequent and admire the sensible way they are designed. I consider the slope of the ramps and placement of the elevators, and wonder if I should have studied engineering, instead of journalism, so that I, too, could construct structures of stone and steel that, although not beautiful, provide such necessary service to so many.
I think about the many places I park and how easy it is to get around. I think about all the hardware, such as curbs and bollards and signage, and even the really menacing-looking tire spikes, which are put in place to keep me safe when I park. Sigh.
Oh, Parking, there are so many things about you to love. But come March, it’s right back to complaining.
All my love,
Melissa Bean Sterzick is an Amateur Parker and PT’s proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.