As any city resident, past or present, can attest, one of the worst things about living in the city is figuring out what the heck to do with your car. When I lived in Montreal, I left my car parked in my parents’ garage, because I figured public transportation and the occasional Greyhound trip would ultimately be cheaper than parking tickets and impound fines. Even counting the two times I rented a car, the price was well worth not having the daily hassle.
Now I live in a much smaller city where the the Greyhound only makes a couple stops a day, and my car is a necessity, but parking remains a nightmare.
My apartment building has a small lot behind the building. The store on the first floor owns four U-haul type trailers, and a big black SUV, all of which make homes in my lot. Additionally, we lack appropriate signs designating it as a private lot, so there are often random visitors taking up our few precious spaces.
Vehicles cannot park overnight on any of the downtown streets. I have, on occasion, forgotten that I just meant to park there for a short while, and then left my car on the street over night, incurring a $10 fine. On nights when there is a lot of snow, I fully believe the town would tow cars on the street and in the way. In the past, when my driveway/parking lot has been messy or full, I’ve parked at a nearby motel. But due to the economy, they’ve shut down for the winter. Their lot is still being plowed, but it could be a tow-risk. I had thought that a government owned lot slightly farther away could be an alternative, but they charge to use the lot. I don’t know how much they charge; it is probably similar to the $10 fine, but certainly less than a tow. But if I went in after they were closed and got out at 6:30 in the morning, it is possible that I would not be noticed. Sometimes the best option is the one where you’ll have to pay the least, when the police decide that you have parked illegally.
So, last week, my parking lot was a skating rink, and two of the three short, steep driveways were like icy waterfalls – dangerous and nearly impassable, even in my AWD car. Then it snowed. A lot. Then it rained on top of the snow, creating a heavy dense mush. The plows took their sweet time getting to us, and the street plows began inadvertantly pushing more slush down the waterfalls. And I needed to get out.
I cleared off my car and headed for the middle driveway. It is the shortest and widest of the three, and typically has the best flat acceleration area at the bottom. There was a white truck parked in the acceleration zone, but I tried to make do with what was left. I got halfway. Then, with all four wheels still spinning forward, I increased speed backwards down the hill, toward the white truck. I had no steerage, but I would have only been able to steer into a building anyway. I managed to stop inches away from the truck and seriously considered leaving a note on his windshield. Dude! What were you thinking!
Shaking, I contemplated my next move. Was I trapped? The south driveway had a huge plowbank at the top. If I survived the hill, I wouldn’t be able to pass the bank. I went for the north driveway. This one isn’t flanked by buildings, and has the gentlest grade. However, it has a curve at the bottom – no room to accelerate and no room to slide back down.
When much to my surprise, I discovered a gift from the government! There exists a chain link fence between my lot and the pay-to-use government lot, but a segment was missing. I was able to drive through, and then get out up their plowed driveway. I also got home via the same route.
The following morning (yesterday, Monday) I went out to my car, pissed to realize that no effort had been made to plow the lot or any of the driveways (the significant precipitation had stopped more than 12 hours prior, and they really should have come when it was raining when the temperature was above freezing, before everything became cement, and then was covered with a pretty, but deceiving dusting of powder). I noticed the tire tracks of three cars, all of which had attempted to get out that morning. None had been successful; all had returned to their spaces. I brushed off the powder and drove off through my open fence and was one of the first people to arrive for work!
Someday, when I own a house, I want a short, flat driveway, not on a major road, and a garage. Ok?