Parking USA


Parking USA

Parking is different in every state – at least it is in the 6 different states I have lived in during my life: Utah, New York, Texas, Washington, Nevada, and California. So maybe it is different in those 6 states, and the same everywhere else, but I doubt it..
In Utah parking is plentiful and very minivan-friendly. In some areas there are actually parking lots as far as the eye can see: mountain range, parking lot, huge salt lake, parking lot, national park, parking lot. But after a big winter storm there’s snow as far as the eye can see and the parking lots are the best places to put all that snow. Snowplows deposit huge mounds along the entrances to lots along major streets and then they freeze over and you need 4-wheel drive to get to the grocery store. If you can get over the ice-crusted hill you will find inside all parking rules have been abandoned. Cars parked wherever at every angle and giant mountains of dirty snow here and there where it’s been piled to clear some space. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but at the time I drove a ladybug-sized Honda Civic hatchback with button wheels and a frozen double-A battery under the hood.
In New York, specifically New York City (so not exactly representative of the whole state), there is no such thing as parking, only double parking and something I’d call highway robbery, except you’re not being robbed on a highway, you’re parked and people are taking you for all you’ve got. In New York people camp out for parking spots the way people in other states camp out for concert tickets. But you can’t blame them, if they lose their spot it could be decades before another one opens up. You might have to park your car in New Jersey or Utah and take a taxi over once a year to check on it.
In Texas the parking lots are more than generous – even bigger than the parking lots in Utah – but you know what they say about Texas. Parking in the Lone Star State is pretty uneventful until the sky turns green and the weatherman (or woman) starts talking SOFTBALL-SIZE hail and then every car in the county is trying to squeeze under the only 10 covered parking spots available: two drive-through banks, five highway overpasses and three quarter-operated-carwash bays. In Texas you live with the risk that a tornado could wrap your car around a utility pole like flimsy tin foil (or deposit it unscathed 2 miles away). But you will do anything to keep your car out of the hail because your insurance company is never going to pay out enough to fix it if it’s covered with dents like some kind of vehicular chicken pox.
In Washington State, where I lived only briefly, the thing I remember most was the drive-through coffee hut in every single parking lot around: the bank, the gym, the hospital, the hardware store and even the elementary school. Apparently, in Washington, people need coffee the way their cars need gasoline.
I didn’t live in Nevada long either, but it doesn’t take much time to realize that parking, like steak dinners, school systems, and state taxes is just another thing subsidized by the great and gracious casino conglomeration. They practically pay you to park in Nevada. Your car gets as hot as the depths of hell, but it doesn’t cost you anything.
And that brings us to California, specifically Southern California (so not exactly representative of the whole state), where I was born and raised and unfortunate enough to leave for many years while I lived in the states listed above. (What fun would it be if I couldn’t play the part of an obnoxiously arrogant Southern Californian?) Here in California, the closer you are to the Pacific the less available and more expensive parking gets. I live in a coastal town and have to feed the meter to buy milk. I pay to park at the beach, I pay to park at the mall, and I even have to buy a permit to park my car on my own street. It’s a fair price for 72 degrees year round. If I want to park for free I can always get on the freeway.

Melissa Bean Sterzick is a writer, proofreader, mom and amateur parker in the Los Angeles area. She can be reached at

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