Lost in the Parking Garage

I wish I could say this was the first time I ever did this: riding in a golf cart with a nice young man named Jeff as we try to find my parked car. First time in this particular garage, however.

“What kind of car is it?” Jeff asks.

“A Volkswagen Passat wagon,” I answer. “Dark brown but everyone thinks it’s black.”

“They’re nice cars,” he says. “My mom used to have one. Not the wagon, though, the sedan.”

“Yes,” I say. “We’ve had quite a few of both. But they’re not going to make them anymore.”

“I guess you’re right,” he says. “Are you sure you parked on the fourth floor?”

“Pretty sure. And when I pushed the lock button on the clicker thing here, I could hear my car beep.”

So we ride up and down the aisles pushing the clicker and listening for the beep. At one point a colleague of Jeff’s stops to lend advice.

“No,” he says, “don’t push the lock button. Push the panic button. Hold the thing up high and hold down the panic button.”

We can hear my car’s distress…somewhere. And suddenly, many car alarms go into panic mode together. Pandemonium reigns throughout the garage for a few moments.

Jeff decides the car might be one floor below or one floor above, so we try those places, and finally on the FIFTH floor, we see my car. I’d already told him about the stickers on the back window that read “Yes, I voted Obama” and the new one, “Proud Democrat.”

“I just put that one up this morning,” I say. “I thought maybe people should know I voted for Obama and I’m glad I did.”

“My Mom’s a Democratic legislator,” he says and he tells me which state.

“Well, tell her hello from me and say you rescued a ditsy old lady Democrat today in the parking garage.”

“I will,” he says. “Glad I could help.”

By this time the free parking ticket is no longer valid. I have to pay $3 to get out of the place.


In the Pink? Never!

pink parkingA shopping mall in China has been accused of sexism after introducing special pink parking spaces just for women. The spaces at the World Metropolis Center in northeastern Dalian are about 11 inches wider than normal spaces and painted hot pink. Denying that the spaces insult women’s parking ability, mall officials said their larger spaces were designed “for practical purposes,” according to a report in the Shanghai Daily. “It doesn’t mean that women drive less well than men.”

Other cities in China have pink parking spaces, as does Seoul, South Korea, which has 5,000 spaces near the entrances to malls and other buildings. The explanation there is that they are provided as a convenience for women in high heels. The Korean spaces include a mini-skirted female figure as a graphic element. And in Germany, the city of Baden Wurttenberg mandates that at least 10 percent of parking spaces in large garages be for women; in Brandenburg it’s 30 percent. German officials say it’s to make women feel safer and less open to sexual assault.pink  parking 2

I am reminded of an incident soon after we’d moved to Los Angeles when I was rushing alone to church and hurriedly pulled into an unattended garage that is made available on Sunday mornings. As I turned into a space, the sound of a large crash reverberated through the garage and a man walking toward the exit spun his head around but then kept going. I got out of the car to inspect the bumper of the car I’d hit and then straightened my own car and locked up. At the corner, waiting for the traffic light to change, was the man from the garage and a woman I know. “Just so you know,” I told the man, “the other car was undamaged.” And then to the world in general I muttered, “I don’t know, ever since I moved here I have trouble with parking spaces.” “It’s because they are smaller,” the woman said.

If you think about it, parking garages in older cities – or in cities unlike Los Angeles with its old penchant for tearing down structures and building new ones – have spaces that were designed for older, bigger cars. Newer garages were designed with today’s smaller cars in mind. So I’m not a bad parker, just still living in the past, something that seems to come up more and more frequently these days.

Ed is the proud owner of a handicap tag, granted some years ago because of walking difficulties stemming from back problems. He will insist I drive all the way around a parking lot, passing several perfectly good spaces, to get to the handicap-designated one. It was only recently that he told me why. “These spaces are much roomier,” he said, “so there’s less danger of the driver next to you smashing his door into your car.”

Ah, so what we all need are wider parking spaces. Just please, don’t paint them pink.

[Photos: abcnews.go.com; news.kron4.com]