by Jim Harris
Recently, I had a rough day,
and was anxious to get home. I put my paid ticket in the slot
at the exit of the high-tech parking garage but nothing happened.
I pushed the "call attendant" button. No one came. Being
a man of action, I jumped from my van and lifted the arm of the
traffic gate. It broke in two, one piece falling to the ground
and the other left jutting from the lift mechanism like a sorry
I stood for a second, stunned
at the mindless destruction I had wrought. Before I had time to
repent, a very tall young man came around a corner, walked right
up to me and said in a thick accent, "Why you do dat?"
I briefly considered running, but then remembered that my van
was behind him in the garage. Meekly, I spoke, "What? That?
It was broken when I got here. I was trying to fix it." I
realized that my whole sordid attack on the barricade had probably
been seen on surveillance cameras, but that was the best lie I
could come up with on short notice.
The young man just kept shaking
his head slowly and repeating, "I not know why you do dat"
as he bent over and gingerly picked up the broken arm. I felt
like the heavy in a Shakespearean tragedy. Not one to act out
of character, I jumped in my van and made for the Northwest Territories.
As I drove, I thought about the time when I myself was a parking
It was 1980. I was just back
from four years traveling with a rock band. This had left me with
bad habits, various afflictions, and no worldly assets whatsoever.
I needed to let some healing begin. I needed a steady job that
I could do literally in my sleep, and the position at EZ-PARK
seemed just what the doctor ordered. The job, however was not
as EZ as I thought.
The next 10 months were chock
full of customers losing keys, me losing keys, patrons blocking
other cars in, people trying to bargain with me over prices, or
trying bust out without paying. One would-be escapee got hung
up on a concrete barrier and kept gunning his engine so hard that
it blew up. I remember thinking that if he ever caught some traction,
he would have blasted off directly into outer space.
The surrounding abandoned buildings
on Vine street were populated with street people whom I came to
know and fully expected to be living with before long. One such
unfortunate was "Whitey", a quirky old guy who weighed
about 90 pounds, twenty pounds of which was hair. One day I spotted
him crawling commando-style on his belly between the rows of cars.
I watched, bemused, wondering what he was up to. Suddenly he sprung
to his feet and began tugging at the side-view mirror of a brand
new Mercedes. Now, if anyone ever needed a mirror, it was Whitey,
but I knew I'd be in trouble if I let him take it. I ran toward
him just as he wrested it from its moorings and took off. Unfortunately
for him, the mirror was connected to the car by a steel cable
which only let him run a few feet before it went taut and yanked
him into the air like a roped calf. He quickly got up and bolted,
sans mirror, across six lanes of traffic and disappeared.
Needless to say the owner of
the Mercedes was not pleased, nor was he mollified when I pointed
out the "Not responsible for items lost or stolen" sign
posted at the lot entrance. He took us to small claims court,
but I knew we would probably come out okay when I noticed a sign
on the courtroom wall that said. "Not responsible for items
lost or stolen". We won the case.
A short time later, about 100
attendees at an "EST" seminar all got out at the same
time and descended on my lot for their cars. I couldn't process
them quickly enough to avoid a huge gridlock situation, and a
bunch of them surrounded me and started preaching about - of all
things - responsibility. I promptly walked off the lot and out
of the parking business forever.
I clearly did not have what it
took to make it in the fast-paced world of parking cars, so it
was a good thing that I retired early. As we all know, without
parking lots, civilization would cease to exist, and without competent
attendants, lots would quickly degenerate into murder and mayhem.
So here's to all of those courageous employees who have to deal
with insane commuters like you and me on a daily basis.