Parking lot Blues

Recently, I walked over to inspect the Anderson Parking Facility. It’s probably the most attractive parking ramp in St. Paul. If there were a beauty contest for parking ramps, believe me, no one would be saying ours has a great personality.

When Lee Anderson so generously donated the money for the ramp (as well as the athletic and recreation complex and the student center to be), some curmudgeons were heard to mutter, “Why would anyone want his name on a parking ramp? It’s not a library, you know.” I’ve seen churches less attractive than that ramp. But even before I saw it, I knew why someone would want his name on a St. Thomas ramp – pure, unadulterated gratitude. Every student snagging a place just before the mid-term, every staff member running late, will be blessing Lee Anderson’s name.

Parking has never been easy at St. Thomas. I remember our venerable provost, Charlie Keffer, once listing his goals for the coming year; every other item was parking. The price of permits, AKA hunting licenses, has risen predictably higher than the rate of inflation, yet shortages still prevail.

Of course, all universities face unique engineering challenges – parking is not a problem only when I can find a space is next to my classroom, my office, my res hall (pick one). Still, our problems are greater because we live in a neighborhood. “Cow colleges” in the midst of pastures usually provide quite an adequate number of spaces. There’s also often good cheese.

Another problem is winter. The more snow on the verge of the streets, the farther apart we parallel park. Now, I personally am an exception here. One fine January evening I secured a prime parking place in downtown St. Paul. Admittedly, it was small. In fact, twelve inches longer than my car by a generous measure. I was chuffed with myself, squeezing the Saturn into it, especially since the space was on the left hand side of a one-way street, and I never touched a car on either end. Imagine my surprise when there was a cop waiting for me when I got home. He had many questions to ask, none of them reflecting total admiration for my amazing parking ability. I explained that both the car in front and the car behind had no parking behind them, facilitating an easy exit from their spaces. The officer was not amused. Apparently I came within a car’s length of getting a fine for aggressive parking. And obviously one of those contiguous cars belonged to someone with clout.

By this point, you’ll be glad to hear that I don’t actually park at St. Thomas. When I first moved here, I included among my requirements that housing would be within walking distance of work. If you are thinking “how far-sighted, how green” she is, you are giving me entirely too much credit. As much as I’d like to take credit for a dainty carbon footprint, I’m really just a winter driving wimp. On those below-zero mornings, my cheeks and nose are cherry red, not green.

But I still bless Lee Anderson on behalf of all my colleagues.