Reader's Rite: Parking
Many years ago, during the first week of class in my first year as an Canisius College assistant professor, I remember parking my car — a Toyota Tercel with a manual transmission I still miss — in the Eastwood lot for the first time. I was in my 20s, and this was my first full-time teaching job. I had a brand new briefcase with a sheaf of brand new and extremely detailed typed notes for my first classes. At the top of each class plan, I am pretty sure it said, “Write name on the board,” and, in the interest of thoroughness (or perhaps as insurance against extreme stage fright) I believe I had in fact typed out my name. You know, just in case.
There was a public safety officer patrolling the lot that day who spotted me as I got out of my car. “Hey pal,” he shouted at me. I waved, genially, the way I imagined assistant professors waved. He approached me slowly, smiling, and I knew I was going to get busted for something. “This is a faculty lot,” he said, putting a little spin on the word, imbuing it with a sense of exclusiveness — letting me know he’d taken my measure, and that word didn’t describe me. Except it did. I showed him my brand new ID. That was the last time I got carded trying to park, but not the last time I felt it was a privilege to be a member of the Canisius College faculty.
I have lived on Blaine Ave for about four years now. It is a nice street, pretty quiet and comparatively clean for a college neighborhood, though I can not deny delighting at the abundance of beer bottles I find scattered across the lawns of the colorful houses as I walk my dog early each Sunday morning. 25 cents a bottle adds up quickly.
I must admit, despite the numerous benefits of living on Blaine (such as Mayor Byron Brown’s constant personal police detail), there are a few drawbacks. For one thing, I often feel insurmountable guilt upon hearing my classmates recite their woes of being unable to find parking near campus, or receiving innumerable parking tickets. I want to offer them refuge in my driveway, though that would be impossible given its crowded state, packed with my four roommates’ cars — our parking area has already extended onto the lawn.
Furthermore, as a biker, I have survived a few near-death experiences as a byproduct of the long lines of cars stationed from one curb to another. From Monday to Thursday at 6 p.m., a blind spot materializes on the south western corner of the street as a result of cars parked with their rear end nearly sticking out into Jefferson Ave. Accordingly, on my bike, I frequently find myself staring into the windshield of an oncoming car when I make the final turn on my ride home.
This was exactly the scenario the last time I saw my ex-roommate. It was a Friday night at the end of June, and I turned the corner a bit too fast, coming to stare directly at the janky bumper of his beige Toyota Highlander, held together by an overstretched bungee cord. Frightened, I jumped out of the way and looked through the windshield to see him, likewise spooked, jerk the wheel right with widened eyes. I arrived home (safely) to find his room vacant, and his side of the fridge empty. Luckily, we haven't had a similar encounter since.
Though unrelated to Canisius, I remember this one guy from high school who was a parking lot legend — at least to me. It was when my brother would drive me, as a seven-and-a-half-minute ride of silence (no traffic lights), staring through the little triangle of unfogged glass by the base of the windshield in order to see the road ahead.
I think his name was Jonah, because my brother talked to him one time, but his car was more interesting than he was. It was an SUV with four differently colored doors — not due to artistic choice, but rather as a result of needing a complete reconstructive door repair at least three times — and it was impossible to tell which was the original, because the rest of the car was multicolored as well. It was like a Frankenstein-mobile, a conglomerate of other car parts. Most notably, the passenger's side door (red) did not open, thereby forcing Jonah’s passenger to crawl through the back of the car to the trunk (which appeared to be original) in order to exit.
Since there was no way to open the trunk from within the vehicle, Jonah would have to pop it via the key fob. His passenger would subsequently crawl out, daily, and say, “Man, you really need a new car.”
I was a student myself at CC, so I feel as if I’ve paid my dues parkingwise. I dealt with the ramp (RIP) when we only had the (often snow-covered) top floor and half of the second. So I wasn’t thrilled about this year’s parking situation, because I feel like I’ve finally earned that A permit, you know? But I’m trying to LIVE IN THE MOMENT and APPRECIATE EVERYTHING (or whatever) so I decided to see if I could just treat parking behind Health Science as some kind of adventure. Because when I was a grad student at Notre Dame, I used to walk at least 15 minutes (maybe more?) from my parking lot to my classes. I used to call my grandma as I walked. She loved it, and so did I.
A couple weeks ago, I timed myself walking from Health Science and it took me less than five minutes. I admit that I’m a fast walker, but I think we might forget sometimes just how tiny our city campus is. Even the far places aren’t really far. And I’ve liked knowing where I’m going to park and not participating in the panicked driving-from-lot-to-lot thing I used to do last year. I’ve enjoyed watching the construction, too: one day recently there was a machine spraying water on a pile of rubble, and I even saw a rainbow, which I APPRECIATED, in the MOMENT. See how evolved I’m becoming? (Let’s not talk about how the sun disappeared when I was in class and by the time I came back, water was billowing across Jefferson like the spray from a log flume ride. That was… less fun, but also hilarious.)
But anyway. I’m learning in all sorts of ways to try to make the best of things. This has been an easy one, so maybe you can join me. And if you’re lucky enough to still have a grandma, maybe give her a call on the walk.
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