Tag Archives: parking

More Tales From the Parking World

Most of us in this “niche” business at one time or another say, “I should write a book”.  While I say “niche”, it’s a niche that brings in millions and millions of dollars.  You want niche?  I once went to a kite store.  A kite store!  I thought, March and April are pretty good months for you I’ll bet, but what are you doing in December?  Seems like it would be like having an ice cream shop in Maine. 

I imagine everyone has stories to tell about the business they’ve been in, but I don’t know.  There just seems to be something about parking that brings out the worst in people.  And Tallahassee is the worst of the worst. 

Before I got here, I was involved in municpal parking in three other cities, and this is…different.  For one thing,  the City of Tallahassee is way more sensitive and complaint-phobic.  Each city has a different character. 

One of those cities was Norfolk.  They were building a giant mall in the middle of the city, and they built the parking garages for them first–which was why I was there.  The construction people who were building it often hung out in my office during breaks.  (I don’t kid myself that it was my scintillating personality and good looks–my office was air-conditioned.)

One day a guy came in and said, when we’ve finished this thing, I am never coming back.  Why not, I asked?  He said, because you’re going to charge for parking.  That is completely ridiculous!  I can go to any other mall in this city and parking is free.  Okay, true I said.  But this mall is going to have stores you can’t find at any other mall.  Rainforest Cafe.  Nordstrom.  Ha!, he scoffed.  And who in this City can afford to shop at Nordstrom?  Okay, he had a point.  I can’t, I said, but there are people here who do, and the closest one is 200 miles north, in D.C.   Plus, I said, the cost is going to be $1.00 for the first 3 hours.  (That was decided on after several knock-down, dragout fights between the City and the private developer.  Three hours was determined to be the average length of time a person spends in a mall.)  If you can’t afford a dollar, you probably shouldn’t be at the mall in the first place. 

That isn’t the point, he said!  It’s the principle of the thing!  (Isn’t it always?)  Paying for parking is like going to Home Depot to buy dirt!  Parking, he said, should be free, like dirt!  Once I recovered from practically choking to death, I said, well, my guess is that you’ll come here at least once, for curiosity if nothing else.  He said, unfortunately, you’re right.  My wife cruises around the site at least once a day.  She can’t wait for it to open.  She’s like a buzzard circling a carcass.  So yes, unfortunately, I will be here. 

The first story I remember in Tallahassee was a woman who was picking up her child from the museum upstairs.  At the time, the first 30 minutes was free, and after that, it was $1.00 for the rest of the hour.  Are you following me?  ONE.  DOLLAR.  She had exceeded that time limit, and said the only reason she did was that she stopped to help another child, whose mother wasn’t there yet, go to the bathroom.  Very nice of you, I said.  $1.00. 

That’s also the fascinating thing about parking.  People act as if the cost is negotiable.  It’s like picking a $500 dress off the rack at say, Nordstrom, taking it to the counter, and saying, I’d like to buy this dress, but it’s too expensive.  I’ll give you $250 for it. 

So this woman says, OK, I’m going to pay it, but I’ll have you know that my daughter goes to school with the mayor’s daughter.  And as soon as I get home, I’m going to call him and tell him what you did to me.  “Please do”, I said.  You really want to be a fly on the wall sometimes.  I would like to have seen the expression on the mayor’s face when she called him and said, “You won’t believe what happened!”

That of course was just the first of many, many such incidents.  Everybody here knows the mayor, the governor, or one of their cousins. 

Just one more story.  The State Legislature meets here every year during the months of March and April.  It’s an excitng and nerve-wracking time.  When the garage begins to fill up, we have to deny daily customers entry because we guarantee that if you have a monthly access card, you will have a space.  One day this guy comes up to the gate and can’t get in, and he’s laying on the intercom and screaming.  (Oh P.S., there’s a sign that says “Full”.)  So I went outside to talk to him in person.  Sometimes that helps.  He said, I have a meeting with the governor in FIVE MINUTES!  You need to let me in RIGHT NOW!  Sir…I can’t.  There is no space.  (This was my first mistake.  People reach a certain point  where logic fails them.  You can’t, by definition, reason with them.) Well, let me in and I’ll take my chances.  No, I said. 

Then he got out of his car.  It’s a little crowded there at the entry lane.  He’s towering over me, which really isn’t that hard to do, and seriously invading my space.  I thought, this guy is going to hit me.  I looked around for my maintenance guy.  I looked in my office hoping someone was paying attention.  I looked for anyone, another customer even.  I was on my own.  At that point what I did was step forward rather than back, which is your natural inclination.  I said, Sir, here is what I need you to do.  Get back in your car, RIGHT NOW, and back up.  If you don’t, I’m calling the police, and we’ll let you explain yourself to them.  Amazingly enough, he did. 

Normally, though, my job is not that hazardous.  People behave only like mild lunatics.

Coming Out of the Closet…Er, The Garage

It’s time to reveal what I do for a living, because some of the funniest and most unbelievable things that happen to me don’t make sense otherwise. 

I’m a manager (in fact my title is “General Manager”) for a parking management company, or as my boss would say, “I park cars for a living”.  He says that because it’s almost impossible to explain to people what you do.  They’re like, you do what?  By my count, for example, twelve of my 36 Facebook friends already know what I do, and about half of them actually understand it.  Okay, maybe not half. 

But I needed to say that because this week we made FAIL Blog.  Don’t tell me you don’t know Fail Blog.  Although if you don’t, you’re in good company.  My boss, my client, my electrician, and my 25-year old assistant manager didn’t know it either.  To the latter, I said, what is wrong with this concept?  It’s my generation who isn’t supposed to know about this stuff.  To be fair, I know about it only from Fakesister, who is really from my same generation now that we’ve progressed beyond being teenagers, and I don’t know what her excuse is. 

So here’s how we arrived: 

An area the Assistant to the City Manager now refers to as the “Stairway to Nowhere”.  (I think it would also qualify as the “Stairway to Heaven”.)  We were all alerted to this because the son of the administrative assistant to the mayor circulated the picture.  Needless to say, the picture does not exactly tell the whole story, but telling the whole story would ruin the fun.  I managed to be suitably stirred to action, but it was pretty hard in between breaking into peals of laughter and falling off my chair.  So that was Friday. 

On Thursday, a temp employee I had hoped to hire permanently called me on my cell phone at 7:00 A.M. and left a message to say that she was sick and would not be in.  No surprise.  She was sick the day before and left early.  She asked that I call her back.  I did not.  I didn’t see the point.  At 8:00 A.M., she calls me back…from the office.  I said, “What are you doing there?”  I was confused.  She said she came in anyway because I didn’t call her back.  Okay…I can see where this is headed.  It’s my fault.  I said, Really.  You didn’t have to come in.  You don’t need my permission to call in sick.  You notified me.  That’s your only obligation.  Little did I know. 

She said, I just got a $250 ticket…and it finally dawns on me that she parked in a handicap space directly in front of the office.  I said, you did what?  But follow this logic:  if I had called her back, she wouldn’t have come in, and if she hadn’t come in, and if she wasn’t sick, she wouldn’t have parked in a handicap space and wouldn’t have gotten a $250 ticket, ergo, it’s my fault.  Little does she know.  Even if I could have helped her, I would not. 

My father spent the last 30 years of his life in a wheelchair, and I vividly remember trying to take him places and watching the last handicap space be taken up by someone who jumps out and runs into the grocery store or whatever.  Leaving me to wrestle the wheelchair out of the car in some distant parking space and wheel him further than should have been necessary.  There is almost nothing you can do that infuriates me more than parking in a handicap space when you aren’t permitted to do so. 

I asked her to let me get off the phone so I could get there and discuss it in person.  By the time I arrived, she’d left.  Probably wise.  Took me only a couple of hours to call the temp agency and tell them to tell her not to set foot on the property again. 

Meanwhile, the Florida Legislature is in session here in Tallahassee, and there is “nowhere to park”.  This is a complete joke.  There are plenty of places to park, they just aren’t right across the street from the Capitol. 

Fortunately, I have people who work for me who are very good at customer service.  Actually, so am I, but I’m sort of the appeal of last resort.  By the time you get to me, like five people have already said no nicely.  People get amazingly out of control over parking.  I once had a guy step out of his car, and he was all red-faced, and he said that I WOULD let him in a full, closed garage because he had a meeting with the governor in FIVE MINUTES.  I said, then you needed to have been here an hour earlier.  And if you don’t get back in your car and back out, I’m calling the police, and if you decide you’re going to hurt me instead then go ahead but I’m going to do some damage to you on my way down.  Maybe it dawned on him there wouldn’t be much glory in punching out a 5’2″, 110 pound woman.  He left. 

Amazingly enough, I never get complaints.  By the time they get to me, some part of their reptile brain recognizes they are wrong.  In order to complain, they would have to explain their own actions, and that turns out to be best left unsaid. 

Also on Thursday, a customer came through and insisted that I come to the window.  She said she would like to apologize to me because she was rude to me last week.  I said, You know, I don’t even remember it.  And she said, I don’t CARE if you don’t remember it!  I remember it!  So I’m apologizing!  I said, um, Thank you.  As she drove away, the office erupted in laughter.  The assistant manager, the cashier, the locksmith who was there…and the locksmith said, how dare you not remember her! 

And that of course is the thing.  Everything is all about you.

Don’t You Hate It When This Happens?

I have two scenarios for you. 

Let me set the scene for you for the first one.  You arrive at the grocery store, and either because the planets are aligned in a certain way, or the moon is full, 2,349 people chose the same day and time to go to the grocery store as you did, only they all got there a minute before you did. 

The only parking spaces left are in the Outer Mongolia section.  You know better than to cruise the rows of parking closest to the store, which will only waste gas and time.  And anyway, it won’t kill you to walk a bit, will it ?  Okay, so maybe you make a couple of passes.  But while doing so, you observe that while there are 2,349 cars in the parking lot, there are no people.  Not one person is exiting the store with their groceries even looking like they might vacate a prime parking spot.  Apparently, they all plan to stay inside until closing.  Maybe something inside is so exciting they can’t bear to leave.  Like maybe Elvis is there. 

You give up, and park in Outer Mongolia.  Before exiting the car, you go over your pre-flight checklist.  Snack food.  Check.  Water bottle.  Check.  Sunglasses and umbrella, check.  Sure, the sun may be shining now, but by the time you get to the door, hurricanes will have formed and come onshore. 

As you approach the door, somebody pulls out of the first non-handicapped space closest to the building. 

Scenario Number Two:  Every day you drive the same route between work and home, and somewhere along the way you’re driving on a three-lane road which at some point merges into two lanes.  You know EXACTLY where this is going to happen, and exactly how much time you have to get into a through-lane.  In Tallahassee, if you’re going north, you need to start that gradual movement somewhere around Tampa. 

Now the pavement arrows and signs are carefully devised by traffic engineers to give you the maximum warning for when your lane is going to end.  Traffic engineers are the kinds of people who, in grammar school, got that question right about if a train leaves Boston at 9:00 A.M. going west at 65 mph, and another leaves Denver at 10:00 A.M. going 75 mph, where and when will they meet?  Did anybody EVER understand that problem?  Traffic engineers, you are exempted from answering.  (And by the way, the answer is Moline, Illinois at 2:00 P.M. on Thursday.)

Inevitably, you have to let someone into traffic.  You’re annoyed.  You try to be charitable.  Sure, some of these people are deliberate line-jumpers, who race past you and squeeze a Cadillac Escalade into a space five cars ahead of you that a scooter couldn’t fit into, so that all of you have to screech on the brakes.  But some of them were just lost or got trapped. 

But here’s the issue:  The laws of karma state that some day you will be driving in an unfamiliar area, and you’ll find yourself in a lane that has to merge.  Your lane will have been designed by a Traffic Engineer on drugs, and marked by somebody whose divorce was final that day.  You will have about twelve seconds to grasp the fact that you’ve come to a dead end.  You’ll flip on your turn signal, which is a big hint that you’d like some help, but no one will let you out of your trap. 

The good news is, you will be able to get out.  A light will eventually turn red in Tampa.  But while you’re waiting, better go over that pre-flight checklist.