The Amateur Parker Ö

Itís Just a Parking Spot?

May, 2009

By Melissa Bean Sterzick

Parking is one of those important but mundane things that most of us would say are not important at all in the grand scheme of life. Itís like toilet paper, croutons, running water, an umbrella or stamps. No oneís getting poetic about their 2-ply or writing songs about indoor plumbing. No oneís obituary mentions a love for that extra crunch in a salad or cheap postage. We donít know how much we need or want these things until they become scarce.
We donít think about parking much because it has become part of the wallpaper. We donít think about it until we need it but canít find any. And when we need it, we donít just need it a little, we need it a lot.
They say actions speak louder than words, and although I canít be sure who ďtheyĒ are, I believe the clichť is true. These are some of things Iíve seen that show me parking is extremely important to many people.
The fine print
Iím sure my numbers are low, but I believe five magazines (including this one) published in the United States (with the obligatory websites, of course) are devoted entirely to the parking industry and its professionals. Thatís a lot of paper and Internet space and a lot of people reading a regular publication thatís all about parking.
The temper tantrum
There are some crazy people out there behind the wheel, and the crazier they are, the more important a parking space will be. Some people are always crazy, some are just teenagers, and some are occasionally temporarily crazy because theyíve had a rotten day and need a head of lettuce in a hurry.
Weíve all seen it happen Ė two drivers going for the same parking space Ė a winner and a loser, but somehow both are exceedingly angry. One is smug and self-righteous, the other outraged and highly victimized, and the insults fly.
I once watched two average-looking women shriek at each other over a parking spot in a tight lot. I though the minivan driver was going to jump out and attack the PT Cruiser lady. I found a parking spot myself just then and missed the conclusion of the confrontation.
My observing eyes saw both women in the store a few minutes later, and I wondered if theyíd notice each other and begin the scream fest again or pretend amnesia and smile sweetly as they passed the dairy case. I couldnít exactly follow them around, but I didnít hear any commotion. I guess they didnít renew their ďdiscussion.Ē
The cost
Parking is so important that there are people who pay hundreds of dollars a month for the privilege. Some of us are lucky enough to live in places with high-volume, low-cost parking; others pay through the nose. If my sources are right, we all pay for parking, directly or indirectly, whether we like it or not.
The debate
As much as we like to park, we donít want a gigantic parking structure blocking out the sun and leaving our home in apocalyptic darkness. People in my city are going round and round with a big developer over the size and height of a garage soon to be built within a soon-to-be medical center. Wanting to have your say in the mechanisms and locations of parking in any form, especially when itís near your home, could almost be a natural human instinct. And itís just another sign that parking is of great consequence.
The quest
Sharks hunt for food, people hunt for parking. Itís important to find the ďrightĒ parking spot. The criteria change with the errand or the day. When I go to the gym, I look for the spot as close to the door as possible, because I really need to exercise and my time is very limited. I need to get in and out, and I donít have time to waste walking in a parking lot. But I have plenty of time to look for a good spot, get a sip of water, check my ponytail and find a magazine to read on the treadmill while I walk nowhere.
For a person outside the industry, parking is an afterthought that frequently turns into a minor concern and occasionally rears its head as a serious concern. Whether that concern strikes at the pocket, the persona or the daily planner, it is real for only the short Ė or long Ė time it takes to be aware of the need for parking and the parking itself.
We donít all think of parking as a subject of vital importance, but the parking industry can rest assured, based on our behavior, that itís something we value with a vengeance.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is PTís amateur parker and proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.