Zen of Parking
Ok, this story is really embarrassing... But I feel compelled to share lessons learned from my parking fiasco (and poor judgment).
So, I have been living in my beloved apartment complex for over three years now. We residents have the privilege of sharing a parking garage with the surrounding retail shops & restaurants.
Since I moved into my first floor apartment, I have been parking on the first floor, in retail parking. At first it was because I didn’t know how to open the resident gate, and then it was because the first floor was easiest to access my place.
In October 2016, after three years of parking without incident, the garage owners started to crack down on residents in the retail spaces. Interestingly, my habit of parking there was so entrenched that I continued to park there long after I got one, two, three paper warnings on my car.
In the yogic tradition, the Sanskrit word “samskara” means groove or rut created by a habit repeated over time.
This groove could be a habit of smoking cigarettes or eating sugar under stress. In this case, I had spent three years carving out a comfortable groove of parking conveniently near my home.
At first, to keep from altering this habit (samskara), I made up all sorts of reasons why I shouldn’t change my behavior. I didn’t think they would actually tow my car (the garage ceiling is very low). I also thought I could outsmart the parking attendants by moving my car at the days and times of the previous citations. I even removed the apartment ID sticker from my car, thinking that if they couldn’t identify me, I couldn’t continue to get in trouble.
All of those theories were wrong. One month later, with $600 in towing fines and two evenings spent bailing out my car, I had finally learned my lesson. I started parking outside in an open parking lot.
Then one morning, I was coming home from yoga as my neighbor was walking to her car. I yelled “HELLO!” right as the parking garage ticket man was zooming by on his golf cart. He waved at me, then slowed down to read my license plate.
Ironically, I had a good relationship with the parking attendant that kept towing my car. I always smiled and waved at him on my walks around the property. Despite this friendly relationship, I had never once asked him about the towing policy or how come my car kept being towed. For some reason, I thought it was better not to admit that I was the owner of the delinquent white BMW.
The attendant pulled his golf cart around next to me and asked, "Is this your car?" I nodded. “You live here, right?” I nodded again. “Where is your apartment sticker?"
He explained to me that they had no idea who owned the car. Since I hadn’t had a Post Eastside apartment sticker on display, the vehicle had been unidentifiable, and they had been forced to tow it…twice.
Wow. I felt SO stupid. Here I had been concocting a plan to hide my identity and park only during certain times so that I could keep parking conveniently. I went to such great lengths to disconnect myself from the car that was breaking the rules. In reality, if I had talked to the attendant or the apartment complex sooner (or just not removed my sticker ID), I could have avoided one or both of the towings.
I am sharing this embarrassing story because I think a lot of us are afraid to take ownership of our entire selves and of all of our actions.
We are so afraid of the awkward conversations (where we must admit guilt) that we avoid them altogether, to our detriment. Often, the consequences of staying quiet are much worse than those of speaking up.
This holiday season, even if you mess up, admit it with a smile. We are all human. That humanity is what helps us out of difficult situations. That humanity is what brings us together across boundaries of perspective, gender, class and ethnicity. That humanity is what allows us to meet in the middle.