Last year, I found summer employment in a large alligator mascot suit. Seeking further experience in the field of sweltering discomfort, this past summer I worked as a part-time parking lot attendant. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I covered the lunch breaks of the full-time attendants, who worked 12-hour shifts.
My shift was one-third as long but was perhaps the hottest because their lunches came around noon. I wore sunglasses, but more to hide my rolling eyes as customers, in air-conditioned cars chilled in mobile morgues lamenting about how ineffective their climate control worked against the sun. It’s like complaining to a eunuch that your condoms fit too tightly.
Incidentally, my boss offered his own son one of the full time positions. Despite being of the hardy European stock who boldly built our free market upon the ashes of tepees and moccasins, the son opted against a rare employment opportunity in a recession. An East African immigrant promptly filled the position. You never hear that sort of immigrant labor story on talk radio. But enough digression, into politically-charged polemic.
The average parking lot patron is an arrow-illiterate, pedal-smashing, foam-chinned SUV jockey who would be overwhelmed by the horsepower and acceleration of a big wheel. Each one is a lawyer who argues for the phantom constitutional right to keep and park cars. At will. Free of charge.
They stared at me with wounded expressions, gape-mouthed and vomiting incredulity at the charge indicated on a sign they passed before reaching me. They insisted that the charge was “new” whether it was my first day or my last week, that the lot was “always” free since Noah’s fabled ark came to rest on the sacred asphalt. They argued that residents “shouldn’t pay,” though the selectmen they elected disagreed.
Most people relented, perhaps grumbling a final protest as they grappled with their buttocks over control of their wallets. Patrons blur together in my memory because they all went through similar stages of grief in parting with the five dollar fee. The cretins to remember are the defiant ones. Each of them found a triumphant way to begin hours of futile searching for nonexistent free parking.
The first time I ever saw an Alfa Romeo sports car was the time one careened past my booth to flee a mere five dollar fee, which probably pays for more gas than it took for the car to enter and exit the lot. Sports car owners were paradoxically the cheapest people, often not bothering to stop while twirling a finger to indicate they were turning around or perhaps crazy.
My favorite of my least favorite non-patrons was the Hummer driver who flipped me off as he drove by. It was as if the very King of Jackasses unsheathed his sword to knight me into the Order of the Moron. Shame on him who thinks evil of it, indeed.
As His Majesty completed the quarter mile arc required to U-turn his leviathan, I gave him a curt wave farewell. I immensely preferred such encounters to end succinctly rather than with drawn out arguments. Others before him argued the illegality of charging the handicapped, the elderly, citizens of the town, patrons of local businesses or the chronically obese for services rendered.
I did have one pleasant experience half-way through my tenure. An elderly couple travelled a relatively long distance to stroll the boardwalk without knowing there was a charge. When I told them the lot wasn’t free, they were disappointed but refrained from petulant anger directed back at me. As they slowly turned around to leave, I decided to seize this singular moment to actually leave someone satisfied.
I ran after their car, waving my tickets until they stopped. Senior citizens of the town got free parking so I pretended they were locals and gave them a free ticket. They thanked me, and my heart grew three sizes.
I hoped recalling that happy time moment would soften my recollection of the whole experience, but I prefer to take a twofold lesson instead: stay in school until I’m more qualified than a ticket dispenser, and don’t emigrate to a wealthier country with a car fetish richer and more fetishist than my own.
Chris Amorosi is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]