The Amateur Parker Ö

Except for the Stealing Part Ö

July, 2009

By Melissa Bean Sterzick

Iíve been writing this column for quite awhile now, and I think itís time I made a confession. Or maybe a few confessions. Iíll just get it all off my chest at once:
1. I think Iíve made it pretty clear how bad I want my very own handicapped parking tag. Maybe readers have noticed how often I mention those empty blue spots. I covet them with a vengeance that is not at all politically correct. Theyíre so convenient, so luxuriously large and so available when thereís no other parking space in sight.
2. I steal parking. OK, itís not stealing when you check meters for a green window and park in the spot with the most minutes left. But I know there are those in the industry who would like to take away this little life perk.
I do, however, steal parking at pay-and-display lots. If someone offers me their ticket, I take it, and vice versa.
My justification for this dishonesty is a mixture of arrogance, sneakiness and generosity. I feel as if the P&D machine is too far away and too quirky. Itís not fair to expect us to use the device predictably when the device is not predictable. And itís always fun to beat the system, right? And I feel happy, even though Iím committing a crime, when I save some other parker $5. Iím not proud, but there it is.
3. The only accident I have ever been responsible for as a licensed driver Ė knock wood Ė occurred in a parking lot. And it wasnít your average ďput it in reverse, but forgot to look behind meĒ kind of accident.
The week after I got my driverís license many, many years ago, my mom conveniently bought a new sports car, and the old family van was mine, all mine. It was a gigantic metallic blue vehicle, with interior curtains, a couch that folded down into a bed, huge tires and seating for 12.
In the high school years after the incident I am about to relate, the van came to be known as the ďBean MachineĒ (see my maiden name, on the previous page). It was the subject of many student government motions and the chosen transportation for all when my parents infrequently gave me gas money. (I cannot discuss the things my younger brother did with the van and its couch after I left for college.)
So, the first day I drove alone, I was in an accident in a parking lot, except I wasnít exactly in my van when the accident happened. Letís say I learned the hard way about the importance of parking correctly and the magnitude of a certain gear called ďpark.Ē
I went to a youth group meeting at our church in the foothills of my hometown. We teenagers and our lone advisor had the place totally to ourselves, and we all parked willy-nilly, completely ignoring the painted stalls. It was probably the most rebellious thing any of us had done that day. I pulled in late, jumped out of my van and rushed inside.
When we adjourned, everyone headed out to the parking lot.
There I found myself wondering how someone could have moved my van without the keys. It was not where I had left it. As I attempted to absorb and assimilate this information, I scanned the rest of the lot to find my van ďparked,Ē 20 yards downhill of where Iíd left it, on top of a friendís tiny Honda Civic.
The Econoline had rolled backward and was actually perched, its back passenger wheel dead center on the hood of the devastated little hatchback, with the entire rear of the hulking van pointed up toward the sky. It was a David-and-Goliath, King Kong-and-that-blonde-woman totally disproportionate disaster.
My friend, and I use that word hesitantly, a nice guy with a tendency toward neither revenge nor forgiveness in this episode, was standing next to the carnage, covering his eyes with both hands, his lips pursed in pain, while our saintly youth group friends peeled away laughing and pointing, having realized my mistake long before I did.
We didnít need a tow truck. I drove my van off his concave car and told him my parents would call his parents and I was so sorry and sob, sob, sob. He was stoic but obviously disgusted. How could I have forgotten Park? There wasnít a single scratch on the Bean Machine.
Lucky for me, my parents were kind, said this is why we have insurance, and arenít we all glad the unfortunate Civic was between my van and the church or the Econoline might have gone through the wall and come to rest in the pews somewhere? Hmm?
Those are all my confessions. Since that accident, which my family and friends have never allowed me to forget, I have been an exemplary parker. Except for the stealing part.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is PTís amateur parker and proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.