Amateur Parker

Great Expectations

April, 2018

Melissa Bean Sterzick

On a good day, I donít enjoy parking. I call it a success if I park and there arenít any issues. Things are going great if no one dents my doors, if I have enough spare change for the meter, and/or I donít lose my parking stub. Just finding parking is a positive outcome because my expectations are moderate. I donít plan on parking being a great part of any experience Ė I just want to get it done.†

I was out the other day and found myself in a part of my city called ďOld Town.Ē Geographically, this area is farther from my home than the downtown business and shopping districts of two other cities. I stick with my north-south trajectories and only head east if Iím going to the freeway. Iíve been ignoring Old Town for 16 years.

Lunch with a friend drew me to Old Town. After some excellent Mexican food, I decided to look for a bookstore and a bakery Iíd heard were pretty fantastic. Iím not familiar with the area, so I gave myself some time to wander, get a little lost and make a few U-turns. That was fun for about 45 seconds. A map of Old Town is all triangles, one-way streets and dead ends.

Finding my way around was getting stressful, so right after I almost turned the wrong way down a one-way street, I figured it was a good time to park. Nobody wants to meet the front end of my Highlander, and I wasnít sure how to get on to the right side of that one-way street. Lucky for me, I managed to park within walking distance of both my destinations.

As soon as I parked and got out of my car, I felt delighted with my surroundings. It could have been the anticipation of an enormous lemon bar, but there was more to it. The buildings in this area have that classic scroll work along the roof line and huge windows. Every business looks like the owner lives upstairs. I strolled along and considered the luxury of parking in a downtown business area for free. I reveled in the knowledge that I was close enough to several points of interest that I could enjoy them all without the need to return to my car and park again.

It felt good parking in a spot that made everything around it accessible.

I know this is hard to duplicate. And in some settings, itís impossible to duplicate. Iím not going to get this experience at the mall. Sure, I can park pretty close and go in and visit several stores. But if for any reason, I need to return to my car, and then go back to shopping itís going to take me some time.

Itís not possible to provide this kind of experience at a grocery store, because a grocery store is just too big. The doctorís office is the same; most of my favorite restaurants are the same; my gym is the worst. My expectations are reasonable, so Iím not complaining.†

What I am doing is trying to think of other parking experiences that have given me such good vibes. One was the convenient and affordable pay and display lot I discovered near my local beach. Another is a restaurant called Sonic Drive-In, where you park your car and someone brings you slushy floats, greasy hamburgers and tater tots.

My car is my portable home. Itís got more trash in it than my house does, as well as most of my sweaters, and assorted odds and ends that belong to my kids whether they know it or not. There are blankets, tissues, and a hairbrush for emergencies. My phone charger and hand sanitizer are in there. There is a sense of security that comes from keeping these things close by.

Itís no news to the parking industry that people like to park close to their destinations. I have always chalked that inclination up to laziness, but it looks like itís also about a sense of security and opportunity. I donít expect much from parking, but it turns out, there are things about parking that exceed my moderate expectations. Itís not always a neutral experience.

Sometimes itís awesome.