The Amateur Parker

ĎBig Brotherí Parking

January, 2012

By Melissa Bean Sterzick

I have read about cellphone apps that make parking easier. Apps that tell you where the next available parking space is, or where to find the nearest parking lot, or where to find the lot thatís cheaper than the one you already found, and so on. And when I hear about these apps, I get that feeling I have when I dream Iím being chased by a homicidal maniac and my voice will not work above a whisper.
What I want to ask all the creators of these apps is how can a driver possibly use one without crashing into a telephone pole? Sure, a friend could be in the car looking up parking spaces, but Iím betting that isnít exactly the scenario. What I imagine is Joe Schmo driving around looking for parking while he taps away at his phone for help finding a spot. Thatís actually illegal in some states. And while offering parking availability information online is a great idea, encouraging people to surf their smart phones while at the wheel is a terrible idea.
What might be a better, safer option would be to upload all this parking info to a GPS device, and instead of dabbling away at a smart phone, you could ask your dashboard where to park. Then that strange, robotic and overly solicitous voice could first give you all those nice directions: ďTurn left in 500 feetĒ or ďDrive 1.75 miles.Ē And then it could tell you where to park: ďThereís one right there, you idiotĒ or ďOops, you just passed another one.Ē And ďPlease, just park somewhere already.Ē
No, really, the GPS could actually keep track of parking availability and be a centralized, safe and timely source for that information. What better than a computer that knows exactly where you are and exactly where the parking is to guide you to the best spot? And itís all hands-free for the protection of telephone poles and people.
Iím a little behind in the technology area myself. I mean, I can use a computer, my cellphone, my camera. I can program my DVR, manage a blog and not embarrass myself on Facebook (or so I think). I can do all the important things; I just donít have a smart phone or an iPad, and I realize that makes me a bit of a dinosaur.
Iím not averse to owning and using these devices. I just donít have the need to be connected to the Internet or my bank account or any other resource every minute of my life. I use all my technology at home, and when I leave home, I concentrate on what Iím doing. I donít want my phone ringing off the hook while I drive, so I donít give out my number to very many people. This might edge me out of a few lunch dates, but Iím OK with that.
I love the idea of the iPad, but once again, I donít need remote access to anything, and I like real books. If iPads cost $50, sure Iíd buy one and enjoy it, but the actual cost is an amount I canít currently justify.
When people (my husband and father) bug me about my limited connectivity, I say what I have always said, ďI do not want to be accessible 24 hours a day.Ē There are so many moments when I would prefer my location to be unknown. I seriously wish my children could not find me all the time, especially when I go to the bathroom.
I feel the same way about my friends and family. If Iím working, grocery shopping or playing tennis, I donít want to talk. Thatís why I leave my cellphone in the car and ignore the house phone.
But itís not just a matter of privacy and convenience anymore. Does it alarm anyone else that all these apps and smart phones and social media posts tell everybody your exact location?
My mother is technically a member of the Baby Boomer generation, but when it comes to social media, she is more like a newborn. Sheís still forwarding emails full of heartrending stories and political rumors that arenít actually true. I tried to tell her about Snopes.com, but she forgot.
One thing she did remember was my suggestion not to tell anyone on Facebook where she is, where she is going, and when she is taking a vacation. Itís fun to brag on social media, but itís also a good way to get robbed.
There may come a day when I want my cellphone to help me find parking or automatically post my new location every time it changes by more than 500 feet, but this is not that day. I read ď1984Ē in high school, and it made an impression.
While I love the constant stream of information available to me from various electronic sources, I donít want information about myself to be shared the same way. So for now, I will rely on dumb luck and quick wits to meet my parking needs.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is an Amateur Parker and PTís proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.