Monday, April 7, 2008

09 Rant Street Parking - Part 1

If you live in the city and don't pay a bundle of money for a reserved parking space, I think you'll really relate to this entry. If you live in the burbs with a fancy driveway that fits 4 cars nicely, this will make you realize and be thankful for what you've got. And if you live on a farm where your entire front lawn can become a parking lot for an annual pig roast, well, just understand we’re in two totally different places here.

Being a city dweller has its ups and downs. One up swing is that we can park for free on the city streets - assuming we pay about a hundred dollars a year for a parking sticker and don't park in an illegal space or on the wrong side of the street during street cleaning days or within 15 feet of a fire hydrant or within 10 feet of a stop sign or ... you get the point. One down side is actually being able to find a spot that your car will fit into, and having the parallel parking skills to squeeze into it without damaging the surrounding cars.

With that said, you can imagine my excitement when I find an open space right in front of my condo, or even within 10 car lengths. It's like winning the lotto. And if you move the car everyday and are lucky to do so when there is a lot of turnover on the street, you feel the lottery winner high most days. However, when you can't find a spot, life starts looking bad. Very bad, very quickly.

Having a child has complicated this immensely. Before baby, if I was parked a block over, so what. Now if I’m a block over it’s a question of “Can I carry her and the car seat that far without the stroller or do I have to make this a huge production?” “Can someone go get the car for me?” “Do we really need to run that errand today?”

And getting to the car isn’t always the issue. If the car is right out front, my fear is giving up such a great spot and not being able to find one that is a similar distance from our home. When I get home I wonder “Will I be able to carry her, the car seat, and whatever we may have collected or purchased on our adventures back into the house with me?” And then I think, “Should I take the stroller with me just in case we don’t find a good spot when we get back?” It’s a lot to consider.

Last Friday I took Ada to see the doctor for her second cold of her life. She’s three months old mind you. I started the trip asking the usual questions. The car was parked right across the street and I decided to chance getting a similar spot on the return so I didn’t bother dragging the stroller out with me. We went to the Dr.’s office and returned an hour later to a complete lack of parking options. I drove around the block hoping something would open up as it usually does. No luck. I drove around again, and again, and again. Finally on the fifth time around our block, I pulled over to the side, put my hazard lights on and sat and waited for someone to pull out of a space in front of our house. When a car finally pulled out of a fifteen minute loading zone, a car passing me had the nerve to consider pulling next to the space and trying to take it. Then he correctly realized I would kill him if he took the spot and that it was only a loading zone so he moved on. I didn’t want the fifteen minute spot either since I live on this block and fifteen minutes just won’t cut it. So I give up and circle the block again. This time I notice the woman in the car that is parked half in the fifteen minute zone and half in the regular street parking area is about to move. I quickly line up behind her and turn on my signal. She pulls out and I pull in. I move the car as far up as possible and rest against the bumper in front of me hoping that if the ticket guy sees that more than half of my car is in the regular street parking zone he won’t give me a ticket for the back half of my car being in the loading zone.

I unload the baby, the car seat and the diaper bag and return home through the outer and inner vestibule doors. I get the baby settled down for our afternoon routine and periodically peak out the front window to see if I’ve been ticketed or if a fully legal space has opened up. After checking on the car ten times, I decide to risk it and just have my husband move it when he gets home since I can’t really move it without taking Ada in the car seat with me. It’s almost worth the $50 ticket not to have to deal with all of that.

It’s nearing the end of the day and I’m waiting for my husband to get home. I put Ada in her crib and turn on her mobile so I could go wash my hands from changing her. Just out of curiosity I peak out the front window. Oh my goodness! There is a spot! Right in front of the spot I’m sort of in that is halfway legal! Think fast. What do I do? Quick. Get your sandals on. Grab the house keys. Grab the car keys. Baby’s fine in her crib. Go. Fast.

I whip open the front door, the inner vestibule door, the outer vestibule door, down the three steps to the sidewalk, full out sprinting the twenty feet to the driver side door while clicking the unlock button. I hop in, turn on the ignition and pull the car forward a whole eight feet! Yes! I got it. I put it in park, turn off the car, get out, push the lock button as I sprint back to the building, up the three stairs, unlock the outer vestibule door, then the inner vestibule door, then the front door and do my little happy dance. Ada is still cooing in her crib while watching her mobile spin round and round. Woohoo!

Meanwhile, outside the people in traffic on my street are wondering why some crazy lady just sprinted out of her house and moved her car eight feet while in house slippers. After all, it’s just a parking spot.

Moral of the story: Watch the Cubs game schedule when trying to park in front of my house on the first Friday in April, whenever in doubt opt for the stroller, and don’t ever try to take a spot from a woman trying to park with a screaming baby in the back seat as it may very well just cost you your life.

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