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Love triangle: you, me and a parking permit

Special to The Times

I live in Santa Monica -- blocks from the beach, fabulous restaurants, fun bars and great shopping. I also happen to live on a street that requires a permit to park.

You know how it’s such a big deal to give someone that you are dating the key to your house? You labor over the decision; after all, giving up that key is a sign of true intimacy. Not the case in Santa Monica. What is much more coveted is the ever-worshiped parking permit. Good for a two-block radius in each direction, parking on my street can be a very valuable thing when going to the beach in July, running the stairs or hitting the Promenade for a movie on a Saturday night. I’ll give anyone the key to my house. It’s my parking permit that requires true love and devotion.

They start out real subtle, these permit hoarders. They make dinner plans and casually say, “Could you just bring the permit out to me when I get there? That would be much easier than having to park, come in and get it, and go back out and put it on the car.”

True, that would be easier, but the inevitable always happens. As if by magic, they forget to return it at the end of the evening, and even if you didn’t want to, you are forced to suffer through yet another date with them simply to get the pass back. Even better is when you actually start to date them on a regular basis, and they think that just because they come over once a week they should be able to hang on to the permit so they don’t have to deal with that “horrible parking.”

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I once dated a doctor who “forgot” to return my permit so many times that I actually had to send a self-addressed stamped envelope to his office to get it back. Did I mention that he was a therapist? One would have thought he could sense my missing-permit angst.

Another time I dated a restaurant owner who “lost” my pass, so I sent one of my guy friends disguised as a courier to fetch it out of his convertible during his shift at the restaurant. And many a make-out session at my front door has been interrupted by my gentle murmur, “Thanks so much for a really wonderful evening. Hey, do you think I could get my parking permit before you go?”

These permit predators aren’t relegated to gender; my girlfriends are also guilty of parking-pass pilfering. “I’m going shopping on Montana and don’t want to deal with the parking,” they say. Or, “I was going to go to the beach on Saturday and the lot is always so crowded. Do you mind if I use your permit?”

Yes, actually I do mind. I really, really mind. Even my cleaning woman is guilty of parking-permit poaching. Her perfect English suddenly disappears when I ask if she could put the pass back in the kitchen drawer before she leaves. Who knew that all my years of French in high school and college wouldn’t matter and what I really needed to know was how to say “parking permit” in Spanish?

So why is this silly piece of plastic such a big deal to me? My logical side tells me that it’s not really that important, that it’s merely $15 to replace it if I lose it, but it’s the principle of it all. It’s my trump card, my ace in the hole, my lucky rabbit’s foot, my golden ticket. It’s my passport to the promised land, and it’s going to take the love of a good man to give it up. Or a move to Malibu. One of the two.

weekend@latimes.com


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