Parking Is a Social Activity
Melissa Bean Sterzick
Just a few weeks ago, my mother and I attended a show at a theater in the city. The tickets were a gift and came with pre-paid parking. I’m not crazy about navigating dense urban areas, but I can do it. Still, I crossed my fingers, and hoped for light traffic and a straight shot from the freeway to the parking garage.
After a few loops around the maze of one-way streets around the theater, I found Garage W and rolled down the ramp. I flashed my parking pass, and a team of parking attendants calmly waved me through the aisles toward a spot. It was as easy as it could be. After the show, we headed back toward the garage with the other hundreds of theater-goers who had parked nearby, and with only the slightest confusion, we found the car and drove home.
A whole team of people made this parking experience possible. First, my husband, who knew I’d be worried about parking; second, Siri, the nice lady in my iPhone, who gave me directions to the garage – even though she’s not completely accurate about which streets are one-way; third, the parking attendants, who coolly directed me to an open parking spot. I was driving with my mother, but there were a lot of other people involved in the experience.
Sometimes, I rebel against all this connectivity, but when it works, it works well. Information is swirling all around us 24 hours a day in formats that are exceedingly accessible. At any moment, you can Google the news on any subject. Just now, I Googled “parking” and got 94,300,000 results in 0.27 seconds.
You can also turn to social media for detailed commentary on how individuals are feeling about their parking experiences today. None of it is quantifiable, but it’s still informative.
I once heard Facebook described as a cocktail party, and thought that was exactly how I’d approach it for all future use. It’s the kind of place where you share the most peripheral and superficial aspects of your life, but nothing truly personal.
Your friends want to be entertained, not depressed or annoyed, by your posts and comments. So I have avoided political and religious statements, complaining about repetitive housework and the quirks of my children, all inspirational quotations, and invitations to play stupid games.
That leaves me with almost nothing to say, but I feel safer knowing the rules. If I wouldn’t say it at a cocktail party, I’m not saying it on Facebook.
Just now, I logged in to my Facebook account and typed “parking” in the search field. First up, a friend of a friend has posted this comment with a photo: “Who hangs meat from a tree in public parking?”
Further down the feed are friends complaining that their parking complex isn’t enforcing parking rules; local restaurants sharing in-depth parking suggestions for dining at their establishments; news about crime in parking lots; and an article about a string of fallacious parking tickets in a nearby city that got 444 “likes” and 92 “shares.”
Maybe, I’m wrong. Maybe this stuff is quantifiable.
Twitter is a social medium that’s easy to navigate. If you have only 140 characters to get your point across, you’re not going to be able to get into the details of your recent gall bladder attack in any meaningful way.
You’re also not going to be able to convert anybody to your philosophies on life, major social issues, or the importance of vaccines. I think of Twitter as the one-liner circus. Comments are short and usually funny, worthless or poignant – and sometimes all three at once. The point is people just get to the point.
For the parking industry, Twitter is another scale for measuring attitudes and behaviors that pertain to parking. Just now, a Twitter search showed these tweets about parking:
Cars, trucks, vans, and even bikes are having a hard time finding parking in Boston. #boston #parking#parkhere
Think before you park on the pavement. Can someone in a wheelchair/pushchair or blind get through? #parking
How we found the worst place to park in New York City – using #bigdata #datascience #parking
#LACity Parking enforcement blocking the intersection #LosAngeles #parking #terrible
Parking is a social experience, and it’s widely discussed on social media. For anybody who wants to know what people outside the industry have to say, the feedback is there for the taking.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is Parking Today’s proofreader, occasional writer and amateur parker. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.