Oh man, I have the absolute worst headache today.
So I got a really nice email this week from a reader who attended the now-legendary NU-OSU game last weekend, and he asked the following:
On a related note, where the hell do you park in Evanston?
The answer, my friends, is nowhere. Seriously. There is not a single parking space in the entire township or city or whatever it is these days. Ever. Evereverever.
I had a car at school for two years, and during that time it was towed twice, and I got five city parking tickets and two campus tickets. I know it was exactly five, because if I’d gotten six, they would have put the boot on my car. For those of you not in the know, the boot is this doohickie they put on your tire so you can’t drive the car away, and it costs about a jillion dollars to get it removed. I managed to avoid booting, but the parking – oy. And because I’m scatterbrained, most of my tickets came because I forgot to move out of a two-hour space in time.
I had friends who came up with all kinds of devious ways to avoid the two-hour tickets – they’d carry chalk with them and chalk their own tires when they parked, or they’d carry old parking tickets with them and stick them in the side-view mirror so it looked like they’d already been ticketed, but I was way too law-abiding to try either of those schemes. I’d be the one to get caught and go to jail for it.
Free, unrestricted spaces were at a huge premium. We used to park in a place called the Batcave – a small gravel lot tucked behind the El tracks, and a secret to many. But then suddenly we couldn’t park there anymore. So there were a handful of streets where you could park without a city permit, and you had to make sure you knew the street cleaning schedule, because if you didn’t move your car on street cleaning night, you got towed.
Once I got towed because I was on the one block of the one street that DIDN’T have weekly street cleaning, and they decided to clean that street when I was at band camp. 24 hour notice didn’t help me a bit there and when I got back, I almost threw up when we passed Chicago Avenue and saw not a single car on it. Hey, I think this happened to reader Jim that very same week. When I went to go pick up the car, it turns out that they’d towed so many cars that they had to rent out part of the farmer’s market parking lot and flag it off to store them all in. That’s ridiculous.
I contested that particular parking ticket and was told that contesting any parking ticket was a waste of my time, but that they’d forgive 2 a year, so I didn’t really have to pay it. And they also told me that Chicago Avenue was cleaned about once a year – in July.
Anyway – you had to go move your car on street cleaning nights, and everyone else affected would be doing the same. We’d all drive very, very slowly up and down the permissible streets until we found a space to whip into. The problem was that sometimes you’d catch sight of a space just as you passed it, or it’d be on the other side of the street and you’d have to go around the block real fast, and inevitably by the time you repositioned, someone else had gotten the space.
This is why we sometimes went in pairs to move cars – because if you saw a space, your passenger could hop out and go stand in it while you went screaming around the block to park.
But sometimes it wasn’t possible. So one time my then-roommate and I came up with this invention to solve the problem.
You know those rafts that automatically inflate to full size when you throw them in the water? Same principle. If you saw a space nearby but had to do some repositioning to park in it, you’d toss a little package into the space and it would inflate to a full-size replica of a car. Then you could push a button when you got back to the space so it would deflate and you could park over it and then reach under and get it.
Parking on campus is especially crunched right now since they’ve closed two lots for construction, so we’ve been thinking about the car placeholder thing again. Wouldn’t it be great?