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In search of the female parking valet

In search of the female parking valet
If you pull up to a parking valet station, there’s little chance you will find a woman taking your keys. (Photo by Dave Hansen)

Let's just run down the list real quick: Women can vote, own property, earn equal pay (allegedly) and enjoy dozens of other rights.

But apparently women can't park a Ferrari in Laguna Beach.

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In an unscientific but thorough search of parking lots, hotels and restaurants along this 7-mile stretch of luxury, there isn't one female parking valet in sight.

According to a helpful lad at Las Brisas, however, he knew of one young woman but she only worked part-time during summers because she was in school.

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None of the male valets wanted to go on the record with speculations about why there were few females in the industry.

Invariably, they looked at each other and hemmed and hawed. They knew what they wanted to say but were smart enough to keep it to themselves.

I was able to glean, off the record, that in this rarefied air of coastline, where million-dollar supercars are common, drivers do not want to hand over the keys to a "girl."

And it's not just in Laguna. Newport Beach and other expensive locations have the same perception.

The internet is rife with examples of valets struggling with supercars. In fact, there was a prank last year at a nice restaurant in Newport Coast where a popular automotive video blogger and his colleague drove up to the restaurant in an exotic, custom Lamborghini.

Seeing a woman parking valet, the team decided to convince her that she needed to keep the "prototype" car running with its gull-wing doors open near the front of the restaurant.

After she obliged, and the pranksters went into the restaurant, they quickly came back out and told her it was a joke.

She shrugged it off but anyone could tell she didn't appreciate the patronizing.

And that's really what we're talking about here: the chauvinistic, alpha-male with his expensive toy. God forbid a woman gets behind the wheel.

What should happen is the National Parking Assn. — yes, that exists — or the newer Women in Parking group should hire racecar driver Danica Patrick for its own prank.

Have Patrick don a valet vest and take the keys from one of these alpha males with a fill-in-the-blank supercar and watch as she drifts around the parking lot.

She can write "Girls Rule" in rubber.

Officially, it's really unclear why there are so few women valets — or women working in the parking industry as a whole.

Women in Parking admits it's a problem. It wasn't until 2011 that the group even formed, acknowledging that the industry needed to "narrow the gap between men and women in terms of promotion." Its mission statement says that "the abilities and talents of women are underutilized in the industry."

According to several industry experts, it's not a conspiracy or inherent sexism.

"If you are wondering why there aren't more women valets, it's because women don't apply for the jobs," AmeriPark, a national provider of parking services, said in a press release. The company said about 5% of its valets are female, but they would like to see the number increase.

Of course most valets are trained, men and women, including how to handle a variety of cars. There's actually a professional certification that's available. Plus, most valet shops have an unwritten rule that if a supercar does arrive, only the most experienced gets to touch it.

There are insurance concerns, plus the reputation of the company, restaurant, hotel or other commercial location.

No one wants to pull a "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" with a rare Ferrari.

Besides, nowadays, with a bevy of internet-connected devices in cars, there's little chance of a valet getting away with anything.

The reality is most supercars that pull up to restaurants or hotels barely move. They are gently guided to a semi-circle of car royalty that graces the entrance.

Nonetheless, I would still like to see Patrick prank someone.

Just because it's the right thing to do.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at hansen.dave@gmail.com.

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