The Right Coast

January 25, 2005
The really important things
By Tom Smith

Here in SoCal, some things are more important than others, and something that is really important, is parking. It was a big moment maybe ten years ago, when faculty members at the law school finally got their own reserved spaces, or at least the opportunity to rent said spaces for hundreds of dollars a year. With this leasehold (OK, license) came the sense that there is something profoundly wrong, something against the order of things, when somebody trespasses on your parking spot. Here at USD, which some are unkind enough to say stands for "University of Spoiled Daughters," this often means some undergraduate driving a car a faculty member could not afford.

So it was this morning when I drove up to my accustomed berth only to see two young ladies, who looked about 13 years old, just about to walk away from their Lexus SUV, which they apparently intended , defying all natural morality, to leave in my spot, which has the nice, round number of 50, as if designed for me by fate itself. I honked my horn, and made a gesture intended to convey that the wrath of God would descend upon her and her children forever if she did not immediately vacate my spot. After some hesitation, she did, with the universal gesture meaning "Whatever!" She immediately pulled into another faculty member's spot. This would not stand. I told her she could not park there either, and that if she did, I would have her towed. "I'm just going to be here five minutes, OK?! Just relax! Whatever! OK!" No, it was not OK. Nobody parks anywhere for five minutes, and besides, it was wrong. I pulled out my cellphone, and made a show of calling Parking Services, whom I was pretty sure I could inspire with the same sense of outrage I felt at this wanton violation of parking natural law. I should add, this was not even a law student, but an undergraduate, perhaps even a person of freshness. She obviously did not know the seriousness of parking. She was about to find out. Now it was a war of wills. But I had the tow truck on my side. How would mom and dad feel about having to bail out the Lexus? In a huff, she pulled away. Whatever! Yet, I doubt it will be the last parking spot she will steal.

The USD parking story of all time, which I know to be true, and may have told before, comes from my former student Bill. This was before the new lot opened up, assuring that any student willing to expend the calories in one cookie can get a parking spot. Bill drove around for 45 minutes looking for a spot. Finally, in the bowels of our $9 million Spanish Renaissance parking structure, he found 5/6 of a spot, partially obstructed by a miscreant who had decided to take up 3 and 1/6 parking spots for his very large, slant-wise parked SUV. This miscreant needed those spots, you see, because if he took up only one spot, somebody might park next to him and dent his holy vehicle. Bill looked the spot over, and figured with much back and forthing he could just squeeze his little hatchback into the spot. However, if he did, the big SUV would be trapped, unable to leave the garage. So, knowing his duty when he saw it, Bill inserted his vehicle in the little nook. With the truck on one side and the wall on the other, he had to crawl out the hatch in back to exit his vehicle. Bill was in class all day and returned to his car at dusk. The big SUV was still there. Then Bill realized what he had to do. He walked down the hill and took the trolley home. When he returned the next day the truck was still there, as it would have to have been, unless it had a dematerialization option, or the driver was willing to crush his little car, unlikely in one so averse to dents, and imprudent, given that Public Safety knew who he was, judging from the pile of parking tickets now gracing the miscreant's windshield.

I think of this story often, and it never fails to give me a warm feeling. I may never get the same chance to so heroically defend property rights and the natural law of parking, but it is an example we can all at least try to live up to.

AND this from Tom Bell, taking another step towards a theory of parking.

At least one email suggests we really need to do something about student parking, at least if we ever want them to make gifts to the law school when they are rich lawyers.