There are two things you should know about me.
1) I hate paying for parking
2) I hate driving through Boston
Here’s why I hate these things:
The beauty of growing up in Roswell, New Mexico is that all residential neighborhoods are fair game for parking on the street, and no parking lot is ever full (unless, perhaps, it’s during the Alien Festival—then one may have to park farther away than directly in front of the entrance). Even when visiting downtown, on Main Street, one can park on the street, and it’s free.
In Roswell, there are no parking garages or paid parking lots. Apartment complexes don’t require monthly parking fees. Home owners have driveways with two- (sometimes three-) car garages. There’s no such thing as having to “stack cars” to avoid being ticketed overnight. In fact, I’d never heard of “off-street” parking until I moved to the East Coast. I didn’t realize restaurants in this world existed that didn’t have parking lots attached to them.
I never grew up worrying about, or thinking about, or planning when and where to park. In fact, even the idea that people in the world cared about such things never occurred to me. It’s a sad state of affairs when the first question I now ask is “What’s the parking like?”* when my friends are planning to meet somewhere.
Therefore, paying for parking has, to me, always seemed unjust, and I refuse to be swindled out of money for something that should be free.* I will do everything I can to avoid it, including parking two miles away and walking, or taking the bus, or car-pooling, or finding questionably legal spots [meaning my car might be towed] and taking my chances, which is how I survived working at the mall for six months.
*Guess my heritage.
Side note: can you believe the mall doesn’t allow its employees to park there for free whilst working? One double shift at the restaurant would cost me $20 in parking fees. That’s 1/5 (if I was lucky) of my earnings, just to park?—no thank you.
My one exception for paid parking is, on rare occasions, valet. Knowing I’ll have to search for a parking spot stresses me out, especially if the weather is bad or I’m wearing heels or I’m attending an event (say, an interview) where being late is not advisable. So I have been known to pay for valet in order to avoid the stress of finding parking myself, particularly in Boston where it’s likely I’ll get lost and have to run in heels through the rain only to arrive late for an interview.
**alternatively, “Massachusetts Drivers, Nicknamed ‘Mass-holes’ for a Reason”
Though the drivers aren’t my worst complaint, it’s worth mentioning that they’d sooner flatten someone with their car and risk a life in prison than allow him or her to merge into their lane. (Side note #2: I was flipped off the other day, for the first time in years, by an Audi-driving “Mass-hole” whose rationale is quite unclear to me.)
The biggest complaint I have for driving in Boston is that the roads are not designed for traffic. It is always busy; rush “hour” conceivably lasts from 6 am to 10 pm. There is a 99% chance a person will end up stuck in the middle of an intersection in bumper-to-bumper traffic, without an ability to move in any direction, and it will take him or her an hour to drive 1.75 miles.
I blame this on the city planners, who I imagine at one point said, “Hi, little three-year-old. Here’s a crayon and a blank piece of paper. Fill up this page without lifting your crayon, and we’ll turn your lines into roads!”
There is no East/West, North/South grid. There are squiggly lines and nonsensical direction changes. Intersections have seven streets jutting out of them. There are a manifold number of one-ways, and several streets have the same name, or the same street will switch names without warning. Even with GPS I consistently get lost. This causes me to be angry, frightened and start hyperventilating, with a high potential to drive off the nearest bridge and take twenty cars with me.
It is for this reason I decided to take public transit into Boston on the day of Walk for Hunger.
I considered taking the train, but the subway went directly where I needed to go, and it was cheaper. I decided to drive to Braintree and hop on the subway, called “the T,” to get into Boston. The only problem was deciding where to park (a much simpler problem to deal with in Braintree, however, than in Boston).
The last time I’d done this—driven to Braintree, caught the Red Line to Boston—I couldn’t park in the garage because it was full. I hadn’t really wanted to park in there, because of the fee, but it would’ve been nice to have had the option. At the time, I was panicking for fear of being late for my first day of work (this was when I worked in Boston), so I parked in a nearby shopping center that had signs posted everywhere saying: “THIS IS NOT PARKING FOR THE ‘T’. YOU WILL BE TOWED.”
I went through my day in fear that I would come back and my car would be missing. I ended up finding my car in tact, without a boot or a ticket or a tow notice, but the next time I went to Boston I decided to take the train and save myself an ulcer.
Well, The Walk for Hunger wasn’t on a weekday, it was on a Sunday, so I assumed the garage would be not be full. The moment of truth came as I arrived to the station: go into the garage and pay $7? Or park in the neighboring lot?
I am a terrible human being.
I parked in the neighboring lot. Granted, I missed the exit for “parking garage only,” but I figured Home Depot wouldn’t be too concerned if I parked there on a Sunday, right? There were still hundreds** of other spots available. So I gathered my things and ignored the signs and went inside.
**I may have magnified this amount. I’m bad at estimating.
[The middle of my day, or “the walk itself” I will recap in another blog. So let’s zoom ahead.]
There was construction going on the T, which I will also discuss later, so that created a minor setback, but overall I was satisfied with my decision to take the subway into the city. Much less of a headache!
On the way home, I made friends while waiting for the T to Braintree. They were seasoned veterans of The Walk for Hunger, having completed it fifteen times. They, too, had taken the subway into the city, so we talked about The Walk, shared finish line photos, and noted the hassle of the T construction. I made another friend while riding the subway, Penny, who was a first-year volunteer at the Walk. We chatted as one by one, people departed and went away to their separate destinations. Pretty soon I was the only one left, save a few straggles, when I got off at the subway at its final destination.
I realized that the lobby area looked different than it had that morning, but I assumed there was another entrance I had come through. I exited the building and stared directly into a parking garage, one that I definitively knew I did not park in, and tried to re-orient myself in the direction from which I had arrived that morning. I walked into the garage and back out. I gave a kid who was asking for bus fair the only cash I had ($1.50) and took off toward the left.
Fifteen minutes later I saw that kid again, but this time I was approaching him from the right. I had made a big circle and still not seen Home Depot.
I decided to go back inside the station and re-evaluate my situation. I asked security guard if there was another entrance, perhaps?
“This is my first day working here,” she said. “But I don’t think so.”
I explained to her that when I’d arrived, those ticket booths had been over here, and this seating area didn’t exist, and would it be possible to just check?
She unlocked the gate for me so I could wander around.
The “wandering around” took all of 60 seconds because there was clearly no other entrance.
I went back outside and saw the kid*** and I asked if he knew where a Home Depot might be.
***when I say “kid,” I mean 18-20 years old. I’m not approaching elementary school children with cash (or candy).
“No…sorry. Maybe the security guard inside knows?” he said and gallantly took off, with me behind him, into the station to ask her.
This poor woman.
He asked if she knew where Home Depot was.
“Hmm…well, there’s a big shopping complex down the road…?”
“I walked over there, but I didn’t see a Home Depot,” I said, defeated.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. Like I said, I’m not familiar with this area. I was working at another station before this, so I could tell you about that one. But I don’t know what’s around here.”
I’m sure she was wondering why I was so concerned with finding a hardware store, but I didn’t think I should reveal that I’d parked there instead of the garage.
So I did a Google search for Home Depot, thinking I’d feel stupid once it popped up right around the corner.
Turns out, the nearest one was five miles away—in Quincy, MA.
What? I thought. How can this be? Did I park in Quincy?
I asked the security guard if it was possible to determine from my ticket where I’d purchased it. After some finagling with the machines, and turning the ticket over to see it written on the back, we determined that I had, in fact, boarded the T from the Quincy Adams station.
I don’t know I could’ve followed exit signs for Braintree and ended up in Quincy, but obviously I did. The security guard must have felt sorry for the forlorn, half-brained human in front of her because she allowed me back onto the subway without having to purchase another ticket. God bless her heart.
When I arrived at the Quincy Adams stop, I recognized everything was in its proper place from where I’d seen it that morning, with the noted exception of QUINCY ADAMS written in bold, black tiles all along the wall.
I will be removing “observant” from my list of skills on a resume.
I easily found Home Depot from there, though there was a moment of panic when the view of my car was obstructed by a tree and I thought my car had, in fact, been towed.
Thankfully, it hadn’t. But let this be a lesson to you all (well, mostly me):
There is such thing as parking garage karma.