As my roommate Elizabeth and I moved into our new apartment in
Burbank, we found ourselves confronted with a question that needed a
quick answer before it destroyed the harmony of our living
arrangement: Who would get the garage space?
The tenants in our complex are allowed only one parking spot per
unit -- additional cars have to park on the street. I didn’t want to
have to park on the street, and neither did Elizabeth.
But smelling an opportunity, I used the garage space as leverage
to get what I really wanted -- the big bedroom (or bigger bedroom,
really -- the apartment is a two-story linen closet). Go ahead and
take the parking space, I told Elizabeth magnanimously. I’ll park on
the street and take the larger bedroom as a consolation prize.
Elizabeth smiled and readily agreed. Score! I mentally shouted. I
get the big room! All she gets is a measly parking spot. And she
thinks she’s so smart!
I quickly learned that I had made a huge mistake. Before I cut my
deal with Elizabeth, I had taken a look around and saw plenty of
available parking up and down our block. But what I failed to realize
was that we had moved in on a weekend, and moreover, in the daytime.
So at 7 p.m. Sunday, after I had finished unloading the last boxes
from my car, I drove around to the front and -- slammed on my brakes
in astonishment. Parked along the street were cars, nose to bumper,
as far as I could see. You would have thought a neighbor was hosting
a Rolling Stones concert.
And so my parking headaches began.
I found that if I get home early enough from work, I might find a
parking spot reasonably close to the apartment. But if I work late or
run errands before coming home, I’ll be lucky to find parking in the
same time zone. This is only a slight exaggeration.
The worst time for finding parking is, of course, on
street-sweeping days. I’ll get home and see an entire side of the
street devoid of cars. But this, I learned much to my wallet’s
chagrin and the city treasurer’s delight, is an optical illusion. The
truth is that gorgeous expanse on one side of the street isn’t a
bunch of available spaces. It’s a marketing ploy by the city’s
parking enforcement division.
“Look, I just need one space,” I tried explaining to any city
official who would listen. “Ten feet of space, is all I need. I’ll
sweep it myself, I swear.” But to no avail.
On street-sweeping days, it doesn’t matter what time I get home --
there’s just no parking to be had. I tried a few times to park on the
wrong side of the street, checking throughout the evening to see if a
spot had opened on the other side. But, darn it if at least 20 of my
neighbors weren’t doing the same, and as soon as a space freed it
became a mad race to see who could grab it first. Even then, I might
have had a fighting chance if my married neighbors hadn’t worked as a
“Honey! A spot! Quick! Stand in the street and save it for me!”
Which wasn’t right, but what was I to do? I doubted a jury would
be sympathetic to me running over someone in a bathrobe and curlers
just so I wouldn’t have to walk a few blocks.
On nights when I come home feeling particularly tired and am
loathe to spend the next 20 minutes searching for a spot, I’ll park
my car on the empty side of the street and promise myself I’ll get up
early to move my car to the other side.
This is extremely risky behavior, and I don’t recommend it to
anyone. For starters, I have to remember to move my car in the
morning, when my as-yet-uncaffeinated brain hasn’t kicked into gear.
After two parking citations, I finally started taping a note to my
alarm clock that reads: “You’re parked on the wrong side of the
street! Get outside and move the car, you fool!” It takes a sense of
urgency for me to get out of bed early.
But I’ve also discovered that daylight doesn’t necessarily mean a
spot on the legal side of the street will be available. I live close
to the Burbank studios, so most of my neighbors are in the acting
business. In other words, most of them don’t have jobs, or regular
ones, anyway. So on many mornings I’ll read the note on my alarm
clock and rush out to the street, only to find that not a single car
has moved from the night before. On those mornings it’s everything I
can do not to start banging pots and pans together to get those lazy
“Wake up! Early bird catches the worm, sleepyheads”
Just a couple of weeks ago, I woke up to the sound of rain
pounding furiously against my window. Ah, I thought to myself. No
need to move my car. Who’s going to street-sweep during a major
Pacific storm? I rolled over and went back to sleep, not realizing
just how seriously the city takes its revenue streams. When I walked
out to my car awhile later, there was my pink parking ticket,
carefully wrapped in plastic to protect it from the rain.
I’ve recently taken to prodding my neighbors to try to maximize
the use of the space we have. I’ll slip little sticky notes under the
wiper blades of cars that say, “Hey! If you pull up closer to the
driveway, you’ll free up four extra feet of much-need space!” or “Try
parking nearer to the end of the street! Parking is at a premium
around here, and we all need to work together!”
So far, my efforts have yet to yield encouraging results. But I’m
going to give it awhile.
If my sticky-note campaign fails, my next step is to start writing
letters to City Hall, demanding that officials do something about the
terrible congestion on my street. I figured I’ve paid them enough
money in tickets by now to at least put a down payment on a parking
garage. I even have a great idea on how to finance the rest of it:
Build the garage on a spot where there’s street-sweeping, and in a
few short weeks, it will have paid for itself.
* DAVID SILVA is the city editor of the Leader’s sister paper,
the News-Press. His column runs Saturdays. Reach him at 637-3231, or
by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.