Long Live Parking Lots…

Asphalt Parking Lot

I’m a woman so I can say this: what is up with women in parking lots? What happens to our brains when we park our car? Do they shut down? Do we go into a stage of unconsciousness? Do we think, “Ok, now, right before I park, I can begin ignoring everything around me.” Something happens deep within. We park. We forget. The end.

I have stood in a parking lot convinced that my car was stolen about twenty-two times. I am thirty years old. I started driving when I was 18. That means about twice a year, every year since I started driving, I found myself standing in a parking lot, about to call the police. The thing is, that doesn’t count the number of times I found myself in a parking lot, confused, roaming around and wondering where my car is…no. This is the number of times I found myself CONVINCED that the ONLY possible explanation was that my car was stolen. Not that I didn’t remember. Not that I didn’t pay attention at all when entering the parking lot. Those were not options. Not for me. The only option was that someone took my 2003 green Honda. Let me tell you in 2015, the last time it happened, not even a thief would look twice at that car.  It had over two hundred thousand miles and looked like the present-day version of Sylvester Stallone.  Except penniless, and with a black eye.  But even that was more realistic than me (me!) forgetting where I left it.

Dude, where’s my car? Not a comedy. A sad drama for womankind.

When I lived in Texas parking lots were huge, like amusement parks for cars. All these levels curling up toward the sky. I never had a problem parking anywhere. I used to joke that San Antonio was like one big parking lot where cars go to find love. Seriously. I used to joke and joke about how the city was being covered up with parking lots.

I was naïve. I was young. I was lucky. Now I live in Oakland where finding a parking spot is like finding a venue for your only daughter’s wedding: demanding, fight-provoking, and emotionally draining.

I miss parking lots. I miss getting lost in them. I miss knowing that I can jump in the car and go anywhere without budgeting an extra thirty minutes for “finding parking.” Street parking sucks. No sugar-coating. No cherry-on-top. S.U.C.K.S!

Street parking is a form of mental punishment I am forced to endure on daily basis.

First of all, people “shark” you, they honk, the flick you off and scream absurdities. They are like rabid animals, upset that you found something while they continue their search. I have been cussed out on a weekly basis.  By old ladies, young men, new mothers with infants in the back seat. You name it.

But, honestly, the desire for limited parking spaces changes you.

I’ve thought awful thoughts while parking, while waiting for someone to come out of a spot, while watching someone take a spot I dreamt was mine… thoughts that, if karma did exist, would greatly compromise my “being a good person” idea of myself. Parking spots are rare artifacts for me now. And I miss them. And I want to go get lost in them. I want to lose my car inside them. I want to be a good person again knowing that I won’t lose my sanity, that spots are always available.

If I could never parallel park again in my life, I would consider my life a success. Paralleling park is the most difficult thing I’ve had to learn. I say “learn” loosely. Very loosely. Like the-pants-I-wear-when-I am-bloated-loosely. I use a “one-turn-one-move” method when parallel parking. That literally means that I toss my car inside what I consider to be the spot. I’ve never been good at geometry. Shapes don’t make sense to me. I can’t envision squares and rectangles, let alone understand how big my car is in comparison to the parking spot.

Frankly, those are life lessons I never learned. My parents immigrated to this country for a reason. Better life for their children. What’s up with those children having to squeeze themselves into those tiny spots? What better life choice is that honestly? We should’ve stayed on the other side of the Atlantic.

The way I parallel park is exactly the way you would toss a basketball with both hands from mid-court hoping to make it in as the last seconds count down. Not gracefully. Not like Tim Duncan.  It’s like Cookie Monster playing basketball.

Also, what’s the deal with charging people to parallel park?  The trauma is enough. Why must I pay for feeling stupid? Why should I pay for leaving my car in the middle on an exposed alley on Monday afternoon? Those meters stick out like sore thumbs, outlining streets for miles, sucking up your coins like bandits. They’re like garden gophers coming to claim their carrots even though they didn’t do any of the hard planting work.

I need parking lots. I miss them like one misses a crazy one-eyed aunt who constantly gives you gifts. I promise to never make fun of them again. I promise to respect them. I promise to always remember where I park my car and never call the cops in a panic. One time I called the police and an officer named Hank came to the mall parking lot to file the police report and take me home. I was in tears. But he knew. They always know. He told me that I should just walk around the structure with him. “Often,” he said, “car burglars park in the same structure.” That is such a load of crap. But as a poor nineteen year old, convinced someone took your car, you’ll follow any train of thought.

We found the car in fifteen minutes on level D-12, spot F. The officer did not laugh. He didn’t make me feel bad or stupid. He just went on his way.

Even that experience is better than parallel parking. Long live parking lots!