A Parking Services Parable

At my college, Parking Services is like mosquitoes. They’re always there, they bite you before you even notice them, their neon yellow hoodies are annoying like the buzzing of a mosquito, and if you wear bug spray–or have a parking pass–they may leave you alone, but you can still get bit by them. They’re relentless.

I’d like to start off by saying that the parking options at my university are not superb. Campus is incredibly sprawling, and so you can have classes that range what feel like a mile apart. So you can have one class in a building on one side of campus, and your next class fifteen minutes later could be on the total opposite side of campus, and the luck of it is that you probably have another class after that class 3+fifteen minutes later in the building back where you started. And as you progress in your major and classes start to become more specialized and more relevant to your field of study, you’d think that they’d all get grouped into one building–for example, all your upper-division English classes would take place in the English building–but somehow things get shuffled around for the fun of it and you end up with English classes scattered all over campus.

Anyway, so as I’ve discussed before, traffic around campus is a pain in the butt. And they’re working on it! They’re actually amidst a huge project of renovating the road along one side of campus to help reduce traffic. The only issue with that is that in order to accomplish that, they have to do construction, and construction has basically taken the entire length of my undergraduate program, so… It’s been a major pain in the butt even more so because of that.

So the strategy is to park in one place for the day and just trek all over campus until the end of your school day so that you don’t have to drive everywhere. But sometimes, on a day I don’t have class, I have a meeting with a professor at one specific building.

The parking passes work like this: you pay a ridiculous amount of money (on top of the ridiculous amount of money you pay for tuition) to get a parking pass that allows you to park only in certain lots. The thing is, there are like four parking lots that are just mass lots, and then there are several others that are in actual convenient locations but are much smaller. And so the way it goes, is that the students can park in the super general lots, but the professors and faculty have access to park at the good lots. Which makes sense, I suppose, but it’s still frustrating. There are not nearly enough parking spaces for everyone who has a parking pass for the big lots, and because they’re doing construction, there are actually even fewer available parking spaces because they’re seriously minimizing the size of the one lot.

Anyway, so a couple weeks ago, I had a paper I needed to turn into my professor. He’s one of those dudes that requires a hard copy, and can’t just print it off at the department office if you email it to him for whatever reason, so I had to print it out at home and personally deliver it to him on a day I had no classes. Well his office is in a building way far away from every student parking lot, and I wasn’t about to park across campus just to walk all the way to his office, slide it under his door, and hike back to my car. And it was early enough in the day that there was virtually no one on campus yet–the parking lots were sparsely filled.

So I had a decision to make: waste my time and energy, or take a risk.

I took the risk.

I parked my car in the lot right outside his office building. I put up my parking pass in my rear-view mirror as a temporary decoy to buy myself some more time–it was a parking pass, but one for a different lot. At least if Parking Services glanced at my car, they’d see something hanging from the rear-view mirror. I grabbed my paper, took a deep breath, and ran inside.

I don’t run very often. I assure you, though, I did run.

Parking Services is the organization on campus that makes sure everyone’s parking where they should be. Even though they’re not necessarily cops or anything, they most certainly can issue very real and very annoying parking tickets–and they do. They are omnipresent and they are merciless. I’ve seen stories of people leaving notes on their car like, “I’m sick, I’m dying, and I just need to park here for fifteen minutes so I can talk to my professor so I don’t fail this class,” and if that person doesn’t have the proper parking pass, they’ll still get a ticket. I’ve seen people try to outsmart Parking Services and stick an old ticket under the windshield wiper so that the Parking Services employee thinks they already received a ticket for that parking violation, but they’ll check and they will issue you another one. The parking tickets are only about $15 each, but they can pile up real fast and I know several people who have a legitimate gallery of unpaid parking tickets.

I didn’t want a stupid ticket. I had already spent my hard-earned cash on a parking pass, and I only needed to drop off this paper. Trouble was, my professor’s office was on the third floor of the building, and so I ran up three flights of stairs and across the building to get to his office. My blood was pumping. I slid the paper under his door and turned around. I was making good time. There was no way I would get a parking ticket for this. Plus, I had done a preliminary survey of the area and tried to scope out any neon-yellow-hoodied Parking Services employees before I started my mad dash, and I didn’t see anyone.

I still ran, though. Well, I speed-walked through the hallways, and dashed down the stairs. But as I opened the door of the building, to my left, I saw that telltale neon yellow hoodie approaching the general area of my vehicle, strolling past the couple other cars in the entire parking lot, and you know what?

I ran.

It was shameless, truly. The guy was headed towards my car, and I’m sure he saw my incorrect parking pass, and I’m sure he knew I was running because if I could get to my car and drive away before he could input and print that ticket, then I’d have gotten away with it. There he was, approaching my car like a shark, Jaws theme music playing and everything, and adrenaline was soaring as I tore up asphalt and leaped into my car before he could get there. I turned that sucker on and peeled out of there, blood pounding.

And I’m not even kidding you, I was probably in that building 60 seconds. A full minute. That’s how ruthless Parking Services is.

But, this is a story of overcoming the odds. Of defeating our bullies. Of pushing through even when you don’t think you can run any more or any harder because you’ve been kind-of-running for about 60 seconds. Of sticking it to the man. Of getting away with something you shouldn’t have done in the first place but it’s a stupid rule anyway and the system isn’t always right even if it’s “law.” Of feeling the blood race through your body and remembering what it feels like to live. Of risking it all for the sake of a dumb hard-copy paper in the convenient digital age that old people refuse to let happen. Of believing in yourself and your abilities. And most of all, of not letting Parking Services take any more of my money and funneling it back into the money-eating institution that claims it’s necessary for the success of my future when really it just wants to set me up for lifetime debt and encourage me to spend even more of my money to go on to grad school.

So what’s the moral of this story? The moral is: Parking Services sucks. Have a great day, folks.

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