“Hell is other people,” wrote Jean-Paul Sartre in No Exit, but in the collegiate world, hell is looking for a parking place. Yet the problem need not be traumatic, and much can be done to alleviate it without paving another inch of paradise, nor writing another ticket. Parking, it turns out, depends on what you drive — and on you.
Sport Utility Vehicles: The ever-popular SUV is perhaps the only non-military vehicle suitable for driving in quicksand and molten lava —making it the obvious car-of-choice for many students. But SUVs also are parking pros due to a little-known trick in their construction: they can be stacked. You don’t need a fancy crane or lift to pile on a second layer of SUVs in a parking lot — the astute parker can self-stack a typical SUV in no more time than it takes to pancake a squirrel.
It works like this: Suppose you’re driving your faithful Ford Exploiter, hoping to grab your favorite parking place behind the Field House. But when you get there, you see your friend Lissa has already parked her Jeep Grand Chickpea in your slot. If the Chickpea is facing you, just follow these steps:
1. Engage your four-wheel drive.
2. With your Exploiter in first gear, slowly drive straight toward the Chickpea. (Note: Make sure the parking break in the Chickpea is engaged.)
3. Your car will begin to climb the hood of the other. Proceed slowly up the hood and windshield until you are driving on top of the Chickpea.
4. You should hear a loud clunk as the docking clamps engage between the two cars. (Important safety note: It is unsafe to stack SUVs if the docking clamp is not engaged, especially if Lissa chooses to drive away while your car is perched on hers. If you don’t hear the clamps engage, carefully back down off the Chickpea and try again. It may take several tries to achieve the correct alignment.)
As you can see, this simple technique can greatly reduce parking overload. Indeed, if you and Lissa get together, tomorrow you can do a double-decker. Just leave your Exploiter mounted on the Chickpea, and let Lissa do the driving. Find a nice Dodge Flimflam, and you’ll be in for a triple treat.
Other recent-vintage cars: Is your car sort of round and puffy, and looks like an inflatable pillow? If so, then it probably is. Unbeknownst to many consumers, several recent car models are fully inflatable, and hence, deflatable. To see if your car is one of these, simply stand in front of your car with your arms outstretched. Relax, and let yourself fall face first onto the hood. If you drive an inflatable, you’ll bounce pleasantly, as on a waterbed. To deflate, find the nozzle under either the front or rear bumper, and pull out the little plug. Allow the car to settle, squeeze out those last little bits of air, and your vehicle is ready to fold and stash in your backpack or briefcase. When it’s time to drive again, allow a few extra minutes to reinflate.
But what if you drive neither a greenhouse gasser nor a power puff inflatable? It’s time for a little creative thinking! Parking isn’t just for parking spaces.
There is space everywhere, waiting for you, space which is not only wide open but legal — for example, when was the last time you saw a car getting towed from a dormitory lounge? Where in the Student Handbook does it say that you can’t park in the library stacks? On a recent rainy day I parked my Prius in the Cave, and no one raised an eyebrow. Creative parkers also scoff at the idea that parking spaces need to be horizontal. Think for a moment of the many possible vertical parking lots around campus, with more going up all the time. With a good parking brake, any brick or concrete building could be great parking, and maybe even save you an elevator trip. All these private places are waiting for you.
Ultimately, however, the “problem” is not spatial at all. You define “looking for parking” as undesirable. Yet while you search, you are physically and mentally alert, and engaged in a complex calculation of the physics and psychology of a thousand other cars and their drivers. Parking, in short, is a crucial part of your general education (and the continuing professional development of faculty, staff, and administrators). That is why the Curriculum Committee is considering a Parking Requirement for graduation, mandating a certain number of hours spent circling as a part of a bachelor’s degree. A major in “Parking Studies” is also in the works, and keys to Zipcars are now part of most financial aid packages.
The strategic value of maximizing the number of cruisers has not been lost on the nation’s elite schools, who realize that every student currently looking for a parking place is a student who is not taking up a precious seminar, dining hall, or dorm space. At Harvard, for example, close to half the student body is looking for parking at any time. At Yale, that number is around 40%. Our own percentage of cruisers -10% – is a promising start.
But more of us have to get out there looking for parking if Trinity is to enhance its academic glory. The College can help by digging more large holes and surrounding them with orange barrels. But it is finally up to each of us with access to a car to overcome our distaste for the quest.
Students, start your engines! (I think I just saw someone leave a spot on Summit, down by New Britain.)
I am a Professor of Philosophy. My other car is a pair of shoes.