Believe it or not, my only college-era clash with school authorities erupted because the campus was experiencing growing pains. Your cash-strapped author received a ticket for parking on the grass when I simply couldn’t find an authorized parking spot in time for class.
So, I guess it was only natural that my interest was piqued by a USA Today article about America’s parking crisis. The AVERAGE American motorist spends 17 hours a year searching for parking spots. The quest adds up to an estimated $345 per driver in wasted time, fuel and emissions. (Of course, in urban areas such as New York City, the problem can be five times worse.)
It’s a frustrating stalemate. Retailers, government offices and entertainment venues refuse to provide adequate parking or convenient hours. (“How were we to know those dadgum horseless carriages would catch on?”) Motorists refuse to utilize mass transit or carpooling. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has hinted at asking the Israelis and Palestinians to help the feuding parties find a non-nuclear answer.
Some problems come about because developers try imitating a bipartisan congressional deal. (“We have zero customers when we’re closed. We anticipate 100 customers at peak hours. So, we’ll compromise and build 50 parking spots! After a 2-week recess, we’ll commission a study to see why our sales are only half what we expected.”)
Set-asides are another problem. I have no qualms about convenient spots for the disabled; but some venues get carried away with Reserved for staff, Reserved for delivery trucks, Reserved for electric cars, Reserved for Amelia Earhart, Reserved for The Once And Future King...(“Waiting for Godot? Here’s his reserved spot.”)
Let’s not overlook the problem caused by motorists who return to their vehicle (thus raising the hopes of those jockeying for position) and proceed to take a sloth-like approach to pulling out and going home. Preparations no longer stop with “Is everyone buckled in?” Now it’s “Has everyone checked for irregular moles and unusual breast lumps?” Instead of making sure all electronic devices are recharging, the savvy shopper makes sure the audiobook of “War And Peace” works flawlessly from beginning to end before pulling away from the bookstore and risking a second trip.
Spooked by the presence of unsupervised four-year-olds, speeding teen drivers, runaway shopping carts and smartphone-obsessed pedestrians, motorists understandably overcompensate with their defensive parking, although only 24 percent use the AAA’s recommended safer method of BACKING into a spot. (“Use my rear-view mirrors? Park BETWEEN the lines? Do I have to cure cancer and world hunger next?”)
Of course, some people bring problems on themselves, like the discriminating motorists who circle endlessly, looking for a spot 10 feet closer to the shoe store. News flash: if that’s your life philosophy, those new track shoes are probably going to stay in your closet.
More than just causing stress and road rage, the parking problem is subtly altering the parent-child relationship. Instead of listening to hear if baby’s first word is “Mama” or “Dada,” parents hope the infant will chime in with “I call dibs on Row 6, Spot 7.”
Let’s find a solution to the parking dilemma before it gets worse. It’s bad enough that sprawling lots leave us saying, “Remember where we parked.” We’re on the verge of shifting to “Remember where we parked ---- and quit playing with that flag Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted, Junior!”
Danny welcomes email responses at email@example.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”