Freedom: Choices in Parking… and Choices in Life…


Freedom: Choices in Parking… and Choices in Life…

 “I must have a prodigious amount of mind; it takes me as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up!” – Mark Twain
One of my most vivid memories of my teenage years is from our first days on moving to the United States, in December 1983, going to a St. Paul, MN, grocery store and my mother having a meltdown. My organic chemistry scientist-mother went to pieces in the dairy aisle and threatened to divorce my father, after 20 years of marriage. 
All of this came out of the blue, although I am sure the stress of a political-asylum immigration and beginning life in a new country was at play. 
When I asked my mom why she was hurting, upset, and about to end her marriage, she calmly said: 
“Your dad brought us to a country where there are too many choices. Just please look at the yogurt selection. There are so many of them, while I simply want to buy a plain milk, acidophilus and bifidus yogurt to feed my children.” 
It is often said, like mother, like daughter. 
Lo and behold, about a month ago, I had a similar kind of meltdown – but this came over having to choose an airport parking facility. 
I was traveling to San Francisco to visit my boyfriend to enjoy Valentine’s Day weekend with him. He organized my plane travel and came up with romantic, fun adventures for my visit. He was so gracious as to suggest some parking garages near LAX where I could leave my car. 
None of them were to my liking. I decided the best option was to seek guidance from the Yelp app, which gives crowd-sourced reviews about local businesses, and see what my fellow Angelenos deem the best airport parking in Los Angeles, then decide what was the best option for me. 
The minute I read all the reviews, I regressed to the same kind of behavior as my mother did in the dairy aisle of Rainbow Foods in 1983. No, I didn’t threaten to leave my boyfriend. 
Yet, I had something of a meltdown because there were too many choices, and all I wanted was a simple, convenient, inexpensive, “friendly bacteria” parking facility to house my car for four days. 
Twain had a “prodigious amount of mind,” while my mind became scrambled. Nevertheless, I had to make up my mind now, and not a week later. 
Whenever I travel out of LAX, I usually take a shuttle to the airport and a taxi back home. The taxi fare tends to be about $60, while the shuttle is $30. Recently, there’s another option – taking less-pricy ride-sharing Uber to the airport, but Uber is not allowed for pickup at the airport for a trip back home.
I am Generation X. My millennial friends practically live in Uber. Some of them are even giving up their cars since their MO is “by apps I live and by apps I die,” or at least get around. 
Are these kids in their 20s and early 30s more pliable and adjustable than this “set in her ways” woman in her 40s (aka me)? My observations leave me with a conclusion that they are. Sadly, rigidity is a disease that creeps into our older years when a plethora of choices and cornucopia of novelties leave us rigid, or as some might say, in dis-ease.
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. … The worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt 
So, I had to make a decision where to leave my car near LAX. It wasn’t a life-and-death decision, but too many choices obviously paralyze me with anxiety. I have more than 150 pairs of Manolo Blahniks and clearly know which pair to wear on any given day. Yet, these parking options weren’t the same as which pair of stilettos I am in the mood to wear. 
Being a Buddhist, I had to chant for wisdom. After 30 minutes of my meditation, I realized that with all of these choices, I had to pick one factor that was most important to me, and hence select the right parking garage or lot for me. 
First, I resolved that I wanted to spend as little money as possible. Cost was the primary requirement. The second factor was the proximity of the parking facility to LAX. 
In the past, I have often used WallyPark. However, it’s rather pricy, and I prefer to spend my money on Manolo Blahniks or books for kids. So I decided to make reservations at LAX Park on Bellanca Avenue. It was only a bit farther from the airport than WallyPark, but there was a huge final cost difference. 
On the day of my travel to San Francisco, I had some trepidation about my parking situation. Therefore, I left my house earlier to give myself extra time to park at this “strange to me” parking facility. I was determined to expect only the best. And the best is what I got! 
The minute I arrived, walked into a small front office and gave a printout of my reservations, a friendly shuttle person was available to take me to the airport. 
(At Wally’s, I choose the cheapest option and park on the roof. To get there is quite a carousel journey. Elevator ride down, and there is always a Wally shuttle ready for the airport drop off.) 
LAX Park on Bellanca is a parking lot, ground-level only. I dropped off my car; they parked it for me. They took me to the airport, and on my return, I was to call them and request a pickup. Hence, four days later, I did as I had been told. 
It was a tad frustrating watching Wally’s shuttle picking up other passengers, while I had to wait for mine. It was an opportunity for developing more patience. 
Fifteen minutes later, the LAX Park shuttle driver showed up. The driver, with a smile, assisted me with my luggage and dropped me off at the front office. 
They brought out my car. I paid the agreed amount, which was $38.90 (four days), and was on my way home, appreciative of my great time in San Francisco with my wonderful boyfriend, great service at LAX Park, and a savings of almost $20. (A previous two-day roof parking venture at WallyPark had cost $39.56.)
“The mind of Caesar: It is the reverse of most men’s. It rejoices in committing itself.” – Thornton Wilder
All’s well that ends well. There is comfort in familiarity. And there is assurance in trust. Nevertheless, we live in a world where choices abound and discernment is a necessity. 
Thirty years ago, my mother came from a country where choices were very limited. Where there was no freedom of speech or thought. Thus, she found the variety of yogurt choices overwhelming. She was looking for simplicity, and being an organic chemist, for the best nutritional value for her family. 
Choices are freedom, yet too many choices can also enslave us with indecisiveness and, subsequently, steal our time. 
With the wisdom of a Twain, the daring of a Teddy Roosevelt, and the mind of a Caesar, we all decide. And it is by these choices that we rejoice, and thrive. By these choices, we live and die. That’s because a choice is the ultimate freedom. A choice is the beauty of life! 
Astrid Ambroziak is editor of and sometime contributor to Parking Today. She can be reached at

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