Debby Waldman's Blog

Can We Solve our City’s Parking Conundrum?

Can We Solve our City’s Parking Conundrum?
May 4, 2008
Edmonton Journal

I’ve never liked big vehicles. I still remember feeling acutely embarrassed when one of my aunts made a rare visit to our house during the energy crisis of the late 1970s. You remember the energy crisis – when the price of crude oil reached a then-unprecedented high of nearly $40 a barrel?
Anyway, my aunt drove an enormous black Lincoln Continental sedan. It took up our entire driveway. I stayed in the house while she was visiting so I wouldn’t have to make excuses to the neighbors about why we were entertaining the driver of a gas-guzzling behemoth.
I thought about that a few years back when my husband and I decided to buy a mini-van to accommodate our carpooling duties. We picked the smallest van on the market. It still feels enormous to me, especially lately, when it seems as if parking spaces are shrinking even though vehicles just keep getting bigger and bigger.
It’s gotten to the point that I want to drive the van only on long trips. You can pretty much almost always find a parking space at a highway rest stop, but at grocery store and shopping centers around town, it’s nearly impossible.
A few weeks ago when I went to fetch my son at his guitar lesson, the parking lot was  packed. I wouldn’t have minded parking at the far end of the lot – according to my former Weight Watchers leader, it’s a good way to earn points — but there was nothing, anywhere.
And then I saw it, a fraction of a space between two gigantic vehicles. The truck on one side had drifted over the painted yellow line. The SUV on the other was about two inches from its line. Fortunately I was driving our little Toyota. But even so, I was so close to the truck, which had backed into its spot, that the only way the driver would be able to get in would be through the passenger side door.
I felt sort of bad about that. I also felt sort of vindictive. Serves you right, I thought to myself as I slammed my door. Don’t drive such a big truck. Or if you do, find a better parking space.
Mostly, though, I figured I was safe. I was just running into the building to get my son. I’d be out before the driver returned.
I was wrong. When I returned to the parking lot, the truck was gone. There was a note on my windshield. I can’t tell you exactly what it said, although I do recall that it rhymed. But the language was so vulgar I crumpled it up and threw it into the trash before my 10-year-old son had a chance to see it.
I wasn’t surprised to get a nasty note. I’ve gotten nasty notes on my windshield before. But they were always handwritten. This one was photocopied. I was flummoxed. What kind of person distributes photocopied “learn how to park your car” notes? Did the truck driver keep a stack in the glove compartment? Or had someone put it on his (or her) windshield and instead of tossing it, he (or she) had left the note in the truck until it came in handy?
Ultimately, I suppose it doesn’t matter how many windshields, if any, the note landed on before it was deposited on mine. If Edmonton area drivers are encountering so many bad parking jobs that they have to keep a stack of photocopied, nasty notes in their cars, we’ve got a serious problem.
The logical solution is bigger spaces. But given the recent increase in gas prices, a more practical one would be for everyone to start driving smaller cars. Carpooling may become more challenging, but at least we’d all be parking more easily. And we wouldn’t have to worry about finding vulgar notes attached to our windshields, either.

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