by multifarious

Parking at school is a fine art; not something to be taken lightly or for granted.

There are two parking lots at The University of Memphis for students – Central and Southern. Central is my favorite by far. It is right beside the music building and closest to the library. The atmosphere is nicer, with trees every few yards, and there are no chain link fences or construction cones. Southern is rather depressing and trashy looking, so I never park there if I can possibly help it.

I am riding to school with Beka today; carpooling is my favorite.

Molly wants me to bring her coffee. I want some too, so we stop at a gas station and get two coffees in those styrofoam cups with sip lids. Beka’s first class is closest to Southern and that’s where she plans to park, but that means I have to walk all the way across campus carrying two hot, sloshy coffees. I negotiate: “Why don’t I just drive your car around to Central and park it there for you? It will be closer to your last class.”

That sounds good to her. Central is also a bit closer to the library where I plan to spend the next 2 free hours studying for Weather and Climate. I know it will take a while to find a parking space; it’s usually pretty crowded by 9:30am.

Understatement of the century.

After spending a solid ten minutes driving over the huge parking lot and not having a smidge of success, I decide to take the stalking tactic: look for someone coming from campus, arms loaded down with books, and follow him surreptitiously to his car. This can be awkward as you must drive very slowly, close behind the person, but one must resort to extreme measures sometimes. There’s a promising looking one, with a resolute, home-going look on his face, but he keeps walking and keeps walking, never getting to his car and my parking space.

After having unsuccessfully stalked about half a dozen people, I realize the problem. Many of these unsuspecting victims live in the dorms behind the parking lot. So that’s why they disappear and don’t provide a parking space for me! After about fifteen minutes I learn to detect these kinds by the hand/key factor: Look at hands. No keys, no car. Dorm-dweller.

Now I am discouraged. Should I resort to illegal parking? Many do; yellow lines, medians, odd ends of areas. Should I join the outlaws? No. I will stick to my principles . Surely somebody, somewhere, is through with morning classes and is on his way home.

Aha. There are two guys talking at a car. The door is open; he’s fiddling with keys! That looks promising! With a warm thought toward the cozy library and all that studying that is going to breeze me through Weather and Climate, I roll down the window and drive by.

:: sweet, distressed face ::

“Are y’all coming or going?”

“Going. Just a second.” I drive around to come in the other way and get a better angle (I am not a very skilled parker).

Big Mistake. Within the 20 seconds it takes me to get back around, another person has parked HER car and taken MY space. She wasn’t even around! Sneaky freak.

I am tired. I want the library. Why are there so many students at this stupid school? Why don’t they enlarge the stupid parking lot? Am I reduced to parking at Southern, beside the curb at the end of that long line of cars that stretches away from campus to infinity?

No. I will not.

I continue the mad search, back and forth, back and forth. There is a lovely young man. Shall I ask him if he minds me stalking him? Oh. No keys. Stupid guy. Why can’t he live off campus like normal people? Back and forth, back and forth; probably burned half a tank of gas by now. I don’t care. I won’t go to Southern. I take a tiny break to put a love note on the windshield of a red Honda Civic with a kilt on the stick shift and a Jack-in-the-Box antenna topper. My resolution is bending. More cars coming in for 10:20 classes. No cars going out. They are all better space finders than I. They’ve all done this before; I am just a poor freshman. Someone take pity on me and LEAVE!

It’s no use. No one hears my cry or even cares for my plight. I am a nomad and vagabond without my own personal parking space. I don’t belong.

Forty-five minutes have passed and it’s just too long. I can hold out no longer. I point my car toward the exit. Numbly I wait for a pedestrian to pass, a dark, pretty girl with a sorority jacket on. I stare at her as she walks slowly, meandering her way toward the dorms. Of course there are no keys in her hands. Time stands still in a hopeless sort of way.

Luck is not my friend. I am forced to park at Southern.

Suddenly she stops, turning her head slowly. Her long, straight, shiny black hair swings around in slow motion; it reminds me of a Pantene commercial. She is looking at me. Oh, great. She thinks I’m a moron, just sitting here staring at her. But what is that look on her face? Questioning? Understanding? Sympathy? She points across the parking lot, then turns and starts walking again. I meekly creep behind, blessing her all the way. She stops at a bright blue Mustang. I sit, stoically guarding my space, afraid that a phantom car will appear from nowhere at any moment and whiz in behind me. Nothing happens. She pulls out. I back in.

Hmmm. The person from the car next to me will have about half an inch in which to open his door. Do I dare adjust? What if a skinny motorcycle snatches the spot before I get back in? I pull out and back in, holding my breath all the while. No motorcycle appears. I give the cars on either side perfect amounts of breathing room, and do not kiss the front bumper of the car in back. I shut off the motor.

I love this school. I love Central. I love this coffee I have to carry. I love my heavy bag. I love the long walk ahead of me. I am happy. I found a parking spot.