Things I’ve Learned Reading Parking Today


Things I’ve Learned Reading Parking Today

1. The English call a parking structure a “car park.” And while it makes total sense, it also conjures funny visions of cars, left behind by their owners, playing in giant sandboxes, on swings and slides, and flying kites in a huge park for cars. Drop off your car for a fun-filled day frolicking in the grass, rolling down gentle hills, making mud pies, and collecting sticks, including a picnic at noon and butterflies at 3.
Here in the U.S., we call them parking lots, garages and parking structures, and none of those words inspires such pleasant imagery. We have regular parks for children and amusement parks for adults who wish they were still children; and then there are dog parks for adults who want to step in/pick up dog poop all day. But no car parks.
2. Precast concrete can be fabricated to precise specifications and precast concrete double-Ts can be used to create fire-rated separations between parking and residential or commercial units. This is something I learned but have not been able to apply to my daily life in any meaningful way.
3. You can’t keep people from peeing in parking structures. This revelation came in the form of an e-mail from the administrator of a large airport garage that shall remain nameless. He said they clean and clean that garage, but, unfortunately, eau de urine parfum is the predominant scent in garage stairwells because those filthy people can’t stop themselves. I guess “mind over bladder” is not a much repeated mantra in parking garages.
It’s a sad and disgusting fact, and reminds me a little of a suburban myth I was told, and sincerely believed, as a child. Certain owners of pools in which I and many of my childhood friends passed our summer afternoons spoke of a supernatural type of chlorine that would turn green if it came in contact with urine. I believed this story, and the image of a green cloud forming under me as I swam, marking my shame for all to see and guaranteeing my immediate expulsion from, as well as barring any future use of, the pool, inspired me to faithfully use the toilet, however inconvenient.
If only the walls of parking garages could be painted with a similar substance, that when touched by urine would set off ear-piercing alarms, release a pack of Dobermans, switch on a recorded remonstration of “Pisser on premises!” or change color.
4. Water is the natural-born enemy of concrete. Do not let water touch your parking structure or it will crumble to dust before your very eyes.
5. The average Joe doesn’t know anything about parking other than how to do it – and doesn’t want to know anything about parking besides how to do it. The only time the average Joe is going to make himself aware of or become involved in parking is if, by some cruel twist of fate, a parking lot or structure is to be built somewhere near his home that will somehow inconvenience him, threaten a few old trees, or block his view of the nearby mountain/forest/beach. Just give us parking and nobody gets hurt, only don’t do anything that will affect our property values.
6. It’s kind of easy to steal from parking operators who don’t check in once in awhile or set up adequate revenue control measures. I don’t think I’m going to go out and get a job in parking so I can pad my income with “lost ticket” or “invisible patron” funds, but it sounds like there are people who do it. Watch out.
7. Everybody’s trying to think of ways to make parking easier. The garage people, meter makers, ticket printers and even bumbling city officials are trying to simplify the process. Credit card payment, e-mail alerts and talking signs are all innovations that help the parking public get around. I appreciate the effort and can reassure the industry that making it easy is the way to go. I frequently plan my errands and excursions around the ease and availability of parking where I’m headed. If I think I’m going to get lost, be confused or have to fight for a spot, I go elsewhere. So keep up the good work, everybody.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is PT’s amateur parker and proofreader. She can be reached at

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