The Amateur Parker

Parking is Prestige

June, 2011

By Melissa Bean Sterzick

Itís my observation that parking Ė like the label on a purse, the insignia on cars and the square footage of a house Ė is a bit of a status symbol.
If Iím right and people really do feel only as important as their parking spot, then the parking industry wields a hefty amount of power over the self-esteem of the parking public. If only it would use that power for good.
Make parking a perk, an incentive, a reward or a prize, and people will like parking with you.
Several months ago, I read that ringside parking spots at Cowboys Stadium during the Super Bowl went for $1,100 apiece. Sometime last year, a parking space in Boston sold for $300,000.
People with high-profile jobs or titles of consequence often have a personalized parking spot worked into their job description. When ordinary married couples such as my husband and I go out for a nice dinner, we splurge on valet. Parking is prestige. The place where we leave our cars when we are not using them makes a statement about our status.
I have experienced the hierarchy of parking from the day I started driving.
As a junior on my high school campus, my parking choices were limited to the street and the far end of the lot past the tennis courts and next to the old newspaper recycling container.
As a senior in that same parking lot, I had an assigned spot painted with a number that no one else could use between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays. That marked spot was right up under the eaves of the gym and just a few skips from the schoolís main entrance.
I didnít pay for any of this parking, so it didnít make anybody any money to set up the rules this way; it was just a perk for upper-class students. It worked; we felt awesome.
In college, I had no car for several years and was therefore at the absolute bottom of the parking pecking order. I would have liked to have needed a place to park, but that was not the case.
When I finally got a car Ė a huge and ancient silver Chevy Malibu my dad bought me, but which my roommates thought had been left to me by an aged and recently dead relative Ė I paid extra rent to claim the single covered parking place assigned to my apartment.
My roommates didnít have cars, but it was still a privilege to have the parking spot for myself, especially considering the snow and its annoying way of sticking, melting and freezing onto everything it touched.
If I had had competition for that parking spot, I would have paid more for it than I did.
During my full-time career days, I never had a job where I was important enough to merit a parking spot dedicated for just my use. However, as a newspaper reporter, I had a badge to hang around my neck and a tag to hang on my rearview mirror that let me park almost anywhere and barge in on almost anyone for the purpose of covering the news.
Usually, city council meetings and chamber of commerce meetings are easy to get into, so I didnít have to use my badge for those media moments.
I did use my badge one time to park and enter, unwelcome, the campaign headquarters of a losing city council candidate. While there, I was forced by my deadline-fixated editor to badger the devastated former math teacher into making a statement regarding his loss before his wife had even stopped crying.
Another time I used the all-parking-possible pass to get up close and personal with the police investigating a multi-car accident in a nearby canyon. Fortunately, the bloody carcass in the middle of the road was the deer that had caused the pile-up and not an actual person, and all the humans involved were relatively OK.
On happier days, I used my pass to get into Alan Osmondís Fourth of July Stadium of Fire in Provo, UT, and the 2003 FIFA Womenís World Cup Final in Carson, CA, to name a couple. No matter where I parked as a reporter, I felt important, nervous, and fully aware that my presence was sometimes an honor and sometimes a curse.
These days, my parking options are the same as the average person, and while I do miss the excitement of covering the news, I am glad I donít have to barge into places Iím not really wanted and purposefully witness the gory messes caused by politics and stray wildlife. Now I park at the store, at the school, at church (sometimes) and everywhere else I go just like the rest of the public.
Each year, my daughterís school raffles off two parking spots to the highest-bidding parents. Those privileged families have reserved places in front of the school next to the principal and the handicapped parking.
I would like to be the owner of one of those special spots, but that would deprive me of a large quantity of money I need for other things, as well as a short walk thatís my only exercise most days.
The school made an undisclosed amount of money on those premium parking places and put it toward something worthwhile, Iím sure. And Iím also sure those families felt pretty great about where their money went and what they got for it.
Parking is a necessity and a luxury, a chore and a reward, an unimportant task that means a great deal.
Most of the time, people define themselves by what they do, what they own and whom they love. And whether it makes sense or not, people sometimes define themselves by where they park.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is an Amateur Parker and PTís proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.