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the problem with parking
and other infuriating events that make life more difficult
by yasameen sharif

I am a good parallel parker. I have good aim, I move the car into the spot quickly, and I get it right the first time. I am, in fact, one of the best parallel parkers that I know.

When there's a spot.

Of course, here in Boston parking spots are often few and far between. Take tonight for example. It's a Tuesday, in a week already teeming with nightmarish events and multiple prayers for the weekend to come quickly and without further incident. I am meeting two girlfriends for dinner at 6:00. We are meeting in a restaurant of my choice in an area where parking is not the easiest (which pretty much describes the whole city). However this particular restaurant has a wonderful little outdoor seating area in a perfect location to sit, eat, and watch the world go by. It is a great place to relax and hang out in the spring and summertime.

(I should mention that this was planned last week when it was sunny and warm and it sounded like the parking agony would be worth it. Today it is 54 degrees and has been raining since I woke up. I'm guessing that eating outside is no longer an option...and parking will still suck.)

5:00 I am sitting at work, at my computer, trying to sort out details for a field trip on Friday. The groups aren't coming out right, there aren't enough drivers, and the weather is supposed to be lousy. I have already burst into tears once this afternoon in frustration over the seemingly endless list of things to do before the end of the week (the end of the school year is always a bit stressful...) and the thought of coming back here and doing this again tomorrow is almost more than I can bear.

I look at the clock and realize that the things I needed to do today (drop off paperwork at Town Hall, stop at the pet store for fish food, call CVS for more allergy medicine (damn pollen), and spend some time at home unpacking the two suitcases still sitting in my living room and bedroom from two past weekend trips) are going to need to be put off again until tomorrow because if I don't leave now I will never make it in time.

5:05 As I leave my classroom I am held up a minute by my wonderful custodian Tim who tells me (as he does every afternoon) how much the kids love me and how good that must make me feel. I smile and think about the fact that I had to stop myself more than once today from picking up certain children and flinging them swiftly out of my third floor window.

5:20 I arrive home and run upstairs to drop off my mail, brush my teeth, and grab the pictures I am supposed to have with me at dinner tonight to show my friends. I see that the filter pump on my fish tank isn't working right and I will have to spend probably half an hour fixing it when I get home. Great.

5:25 After a quick stop at my downstairs neighbor's apartment (to feed her cat since she's away), I am off again. In my hurry to leave I don't wash my cat-contaminated hands. (This wouldn't be a big deal except for the fact that I am deathly allergic to cats and completely out of allergy medication (see above) which, combined, make me vulnerable to allergy attacks of giant proportions.)

5:26 I am back in the car, driving like the bat out of hell you always hear about. Of course I'm in Boston, so no one notices.

5:53 The restaurant is in sight - I've been looking for spaces the entire way there but have been unsuccessful so far. As I drive past the restaurant I see two cars pulling into spots. There must be others somewhere...

6:03 After repeatedly circling the area in evening traffic I begin to realize that there actually aren't any spots. Tired and frustrated, I sit at a light and rub my eyes.

6:04 My right eye all of a sudden feels as if it has burst into flames. Damn cat. I almost hit a pedestrian as I peel out from the light trying to rub my eye with my arm (which did not touch the cat) while changing gears, turning, and scanning for a spot. Fortunately the pedestrian was quick on his feet. Unfortunately I am not seeing any spaces with my good eye.

6:08 A spot is sighted; I am overcome with relief and joy! I signal and approach said spot, pull up to parallel park, and as I begin my backward approach into the spot a pink Jeep pulls forward into the space. I am stunned. I am furious. I don't know what to do. I sit shocked and angry in my car. In frustration and fury I make rude gestures and shout obscenities out my window as the passengers of the jeep get out and flounce down the street. I entertain thoughts of keying the car when they are out of sight, or ramming into it and then driving away (which could actually work since I have a Saturn and the body of my car will just pop right back out) but decide it is too busy on the street and I don't really want pink paint of any kind on my car. Maybe it is punishment enough that she owns and drives a pink Jeep. Regardless, she sucks and I hate her.

6:10 Every freakin' spot is taken. Don't these people have places to go?? Things to do??? I pass by Barbie's Dream Jeep again and think murderous thoughts.

Note to self: When suggesting places to meet for dinner in the future, offer a place that has easily available parking.

6:15 I give up. My eye is burning, I am tired of cruising the streets, and if I drive by the Pepto-Bismolmobile again bad things are going to happen. I head to a parking lot that is about an 8-minute walk away. Of course, had I headed there to begin with I would be calm, not itchy, and already in the restaurant having a drink, but here we are.

6:20 Out on the street and I am finally heading towards my goal. It is raining still, but my umbrella appears to be working - a complete and utter shock to me considering how everything else is going today.

6:23 A stench that can only be achieved after weeks of alcohol infusion has entered my nose. I look up to see a man, hopelessly drunk, weaving back and forth across the path in front of me. There is grass and mud covering his entire right side, and it's not that I'm surprised he fell, I'm just amazed that he was able to get up. He looks at me as I pass and says something to the effect of "Howvthe wainscote joor?" before walking into a pole and ricocheting off like you see in cartoons. I manage to dodge his body as it careens back across the path.

6:27 I am in sight of the restaurant. At last! As I walk a bit faster, I see a silver Mercedes out of the corner of my eye speeding down the road trying to catch the green light. I don't, however, see the large accumulation of water along the same side of the road until it has been hit by the Mercedes. A breaking wave of cold, disgusting water drenches me from head to toe. I'm not talking a few splashes here and there; I mean gallons of dirty, oily water have now been sprayed over my entire body. I have it dripping from my nose, all over my clothes, and in my non cat-infected eye. Lovely.

6:28 I arrive wet, weary, and in desperate need of a drink but glad to see my friends at the bar. Miraculously the pictures I brought have not been ruined and I am wearing overalls that won't end up stained (and if they do, I don't really care). I wash the cat allergens off of my hands in the bathroom and appraise my swollen and blood-red eye. I will live.

6:35 Near tragedy. I order a beer and get a kick out of the fact that I get carded while my two friends don't. I am teasing them about it and feeling pretty damn good that at 29 I'm getting carded for a beer, when I realize that my ID is sitting at home on my dresser (having been pulled out of my wallet this weekend and stuck in my pocket so I didn't have to carry a purse). I frantically search my purse hoping that I put it back in and realizing that of all times to not be able to get a drink, this is not a good one. Finally the waitress (God love her) sees that I am about to lose it and takes pity on me. She asks me what year I was born and gets me the beer anyway. Tragedy averted.

8:30 With dinner over and my eye feeling much better, I walk back to the lot and fork over $8 to the parking guy. Passing Fenway on my way home, I wonder if tonight's game was rained out. If not, did the Sox beat the Yankees?? God I hope so....

I arrive home around quarter of nine; no spaces on the street here either. I think about searching for a spot, but I've had enough searching for one night. Besides, I have a parking spot I rent just a block away - that I think I can handle.


Back in the good old days, you could find Yasameen and her full head of "big hair" wearing jellies, Madonna bracelets and rocking out in the allotted share-with-your-brother car to Depeche Mode, The Cure, Salt N' Pepa and Michael J. Things were positively smurfy. Today, Yasameen is a bedraggled middle school science teacher who spends her days breaking up fights and dreaming of summer vacation while educating the youth of America.

more about yasameen sharif


jael mchenry
6.25.01 @ 9:14a

I have friends who've actually written little prayers to the parking gods and mutter them under their breath as they drive around Brighton. I have heard many, many parking nightmare stories, but this is both the funniest and the worst. Does that help take the edge off the pain?

mike julianelle
6.25.01 @ 9:19a

Parking in Boston is a huge joke. And the drivers are SO DUMB. In New York, when you drive around, YOU get yelled at. In Boston, you find yourself yelling at everyone else.

michelle von euw
6.25.01 @ 9:19a

The greater Boston area has more than one million residents. And 54 parking spaces. You do the math.

The idea of paying for parking still irks me -- I lived in Georgetown for a year and never had to do that (well, if you don't include parking tickets). The scary thing is, $8 actually sounds like a bargain in downtown Boston.

yasameen sharif
6.25.01 @ 10:57a

Sadly, $8 is definitely a bargain for parking in Boston. Since on principal I refuse to pay the usual $15 - $20 to park in town (unless there is absolutely no way around it - at which point I curse and bite my lip), I have found a few select lots where there is "cheap" parking. Of course, when I visit friends in places like Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo I marvel at the fact that we can park someplace for THE WHOLE NIGHT for $2. In some of these places you can actually go to the airport and park for FREE!! (Or at least for less than the $6 for the first hour that you find at Boston's lovely Logan Airport...) Parking....you gotta love it!

jael mchenry
6.25.01 @ 3:23p

Getting out of the big cities is always a weird experience. I'm still getting used to the idea that the rent on my DC studio apartment is triple my parents' small-town Iowa house payment. More than triple, actually. Then again, my transportation costs total about $2.20/day -- no car payment, no car insurance, no parking. You win some, you lose some.

adam kraemer
6.25.01 @ 3:27p

There are things worse than parking. I just had an interview for a job out on Long Island and the cost of a weekly pass on the LIRR is $42.

matt morin
6.25.01 @ 6:15p

When I moved to San Francisco I made the decision to sell my car. 6 years later, as I start to think of becoming mobile again, I am floored that, despite the fact I have never once had any sort of moving violation, my insurance will be 3 times normal because I haven't been insured for the past 12 consecutive months. Public transportation looks better and better every day.

matt morin
6.25.01 @ 6:17p

Side note: I'm surprised no one has noted the real tragedy in all this - the fact that someone actually owns a pink Jeep.

jael mchenry
6.26.01 @ 9:06a

Matt, is that triple-normal-insurance a California thing, or an everywhere thing? That's pretty de-motivational.

michelle von euw
6.26.01 @ 10:47a

Yes it may be cheap (my commute costs a mere 75 cents a day) but public transportation can also be a huge nightmare. In rush hour traffic, it would take me 30 minutes to drive to work. On the bus, it takes me up to an hour and a half.

adam kraemer
6.26.01 @ 11:02a

But at least you're not driving.

jael mchenry
6.26.01 @ 12:24p

Buses can definitely suck. The train is more reliable. But both have that wonderful advantage: not having to think about what you're doing. You can read or whatever. (Too many of the people on my bus also think it's a great time to talk on their cellphones, but that's another issue. And what my Walkman is for.)

jeff miller
6.26.01 @ 12:44p

Every day i take the 88 bus from Somerville to the Green line at Lechmere. This takes about a half-hour, then my green line trip can be anywhere between 15 and 25 minutes. Along the way I'm subjected to inumerable horrors, all of which I'm sure the author can relate to - screaming teenagers, people with no sense of hygeine, thoughtlessly discarded leftover fast food chunks, etc - it's always an adventure. I do this every day, however, because a) the building where i work will not accomodate my bicycle b) I work in downtown boston, where street parking is mostly regulated to luxury cars - my GREEN Jeep isn't really welcome there c) parking in the lot on Newbury is SIX DOLLARS PER HALF HOUR!
it's true, on the T, I get to read. When someone's not screaming in my ear anyway.

mike julianelle
6.26.01 @ 12:48p

I HATE the T bus. Does it get hotter? Or stop more? It's unbearable.

adam kraemer
6.26.01 @ 12:58p

If you're living in Somerville, why not take the Red Line from Davis?

jael mchenry
6.26.01 @ 2:23p

Change at Park Street in the morning? Are you nuts?

Actually, I'd wager he's in one of those parts of Somerville that isn't particularly close to Davis or Porter, which is, well, most of the town.

Hey, I found something Mike and I disagree on! I actually liked the T bus. Cheap as dirt, goes most places. Plus you get to hear locals yelling "Reah doah!"

mike julianelle
6.26.01 @ 2:40p

I think the T bus is actually pretty fast, but if it's hot and crowded, man, is it uncomfortable. But if yer gonna take the T to Harvard Square from say, Cleveland Circle, it take 45mins/1hour. You take the bus, it takes 25 mins. Beautiful.

jael mchenry
6.26.01 @ 2:46p

The time difference is even more pronounced if you travel the B line, which is slow as rocks. I used to take that Harvard-Cleveland Circle every day -- was it the 86? The 66 was also handy, because I could ride to Allston and go outbound on the B line for free, and it was still faster than the Red to Green change.

mike julianelle
6.26.01 @ 2:52p

Yeah, the 86. Where in the Circle's vicinity were you going to/from? And the B line is ridiculous. I used to take that from the end, at BC, all the way to Kenmore, took 45 mins plus, when the D will take you 20.

adam kraemer
6.26.01 @ 3:13p

One of the more annoying moments of my entire life was having to take the 94 to Davis, take the Red Line to Downtown Crossing, and switch to the Orange Line and head out to Wellington. Took me over an hour to go from Medford to Medford.

jael mchenry
6.26.01 @ 3:46p

That's one of the good things about buses -- bypassing the hub. That 88 to Lechmere was a lifesaver when I needed a mall fix at the Galleria.

Mike, I lived just south of the reservoir on Comm Ave., across from Bluestone. Where the track bends.

mike julianelle
6.26.01 @ 4:00p

Oh yeah, Bluestone! I know that whole stretch of road, from Newton all the way to BU and beyond. We probably have been to a lot of the same bars in that area. Not that they are very good...I live behind the Circle movie theater. That dump.

lee anne ramsey
6.27.01 @ 4:12a

Oh fuck. Which do I hate more? The Boston T (in it's entirety, now that I have taken a walk down memory lane) or taking the 1 Calfornia through Chinatown in the morning in SF, smelling smells that no one should have to tolerate at 8am? Is it any wonder that I have come to love my car - that thing I hate most?

adam kraemer
6.27.01 @ 9:36a

Oooh! Lee Anne said the "F" word.

jael mchenry
6.27.01 @ 2:45p


michelle von euw
6.27.01 @ 3:15p

I can't believe there is a discussion of my exact commute here. The 86 bus from Cleveland Circle to Harvard Square is evil. Very, very evil. I used to think I was so lucky to both live and work on the only two routes that connect through Cleveland Circle. I know now that I am not.

Our next governor should run on the platform: "Showers and deoderant required before riding the bus." Especially in the summer.

mike julianelle
6.27.01 @ 3:22p

That's the EXACT T bus route I was talking about! I HATE it! The bus stops every 2 secsonds, and it's crowded and hot. Miserable.

michelle von euw
6.27.01 @ 4:42p

michael, "miserable" is the word. And now they've reduced the number of buses at rush hour for the summer. I can't believe that the T doesn't realize that MORE people take the 86 between 8 and 9 am during the summer, not fewer.

tracey kelley
6.28.01 @ 12:00a

Man, am I ever glad I work at home and schedule my appointments during "non-rush" times. Y'all are making me dizzy with all this hub-change-line-bus-36-24-36 talk.

Never lived in a big city with a strong p.t. system. Always had to drive. Longest drive commute - 50 minutes, one way. Sucked donkeys. Saving grace: a video-game joystick positioned on the dashboard, allowing me to obliterate people at will.

Did ride the Underground during rush hours a few times. Those Brits didn't take to kindly to giving up space for my chunky suitcase. I heard bloody American more than once.

adam kraemer
6.28.01 @ 12:14p

I discovered a way to make a commute not-so-bad: live at the end of the subway line. I always get a seat in the morning.

yasameen sharif
6.30.01 @ 4:46p

I'm just happy that someone mentioned Bluestone - home of the best Sunday brunch AND it's at the end of my street...gotta love it! And btw - I have been navigating the tube and trains in London for the past week and find them older but less annoying than the stupid Boston 'T' system...any rationale behind that one??

adam kraemer
7.2.01 @ 10:21a

Actually, I always thought the Boston T was nice and simple. The New York subway map looks like the schematic for a high-powered time bomb.

jael mchenry
7.12.01 @ 9:17a

The T and the Metro (DC) are both cake compared to the NY subway and the London underground. I keep wanting to clip the green wire. I can't believe NYC is going for the 2012 Olympics and proposing to move all the athletes by subway. And we thought Atlanta was a joke.

adam kraemer
7.12.01 @ 11:01a

Yeah, but at least in the New York subway you can ride anywhere for a flat fee.

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