Depending on your approach, you might see ‘free parking’, if you happen to be reading it at the right time of day.
Driving around a strange city, Celia finds herself near the Acme factory. Is this the place where all those Road Runner contraptions were made? The opaque factory, with its peeling paint, unreadable purpose, and everyman name teases us to react, whether with curiosity, amusement, or self-righteous dismay. Acme has the effrontery to operate in America, thriving on entropy, mystery, and decay.
A parking lot, packed full of meaning as well as cars, exudes confidence and a shrewd sense of economy. One false decision, and this precise configuration dissolves into an ugly interpersonal and logistical snarl. But my guess is that all the relations implied here are customary: one person—a very experienced and trusted person—parks all these cars, for the same group of people who park here each day. The attendant knows thoroughly all their schedules and stories, the invisible yarn of the creation he weaves each day. For that, he is valued, and for that his customers readily pay him in cold hard cash.
Sadly, these lots are vanishing, their attendants replaced by machines. Available parking is reduced, and a measure of color goes out of the day. Have you ever parked in such a lot, or gotten to know a Chicago valet?
It’s best not to be in a hurry when you’re bound for the Loop. Surprises await on its decrepit streets. The only thing missing this time was an emergency visit from a SWAT team or something. Next time I will record the soundtrack coming from the dump trucks, bulldozers, stopped traffic, and trains.
Flying along west Randolph on a typical winter night.
The hi-rise I live in was designed in the 1920s by a Russian-born architect who did not envision how important cars would become. The building with 24 units has space for just 19 cars in its garage.
This in a neighborhood where, today, couples are rumored to break up over . . . parking. That’s how tough finding a street spot can be.
We knew when we bought here that the wait for a garage space would be 5 to 10 years. That was back in 2006. Our hopes rose in 2008 when a number of units went up for sale—but then real estate slowed with the economic crisis.
Meanwhile we pay to park our car at a garage a block away. Every morning we go there to collect the car, bring it back to our garage (where we’re allowed to park during the day), and return it to its paid spot at night—arrangements that weigh down everyday chores like grocery shopping or the fun of going out impulsively at night.
On the upside, we’ve become less car-reliant. We take mass transit, walk if we can, grab a cab if we must. Over time, these ways have come to seem natural. Having a spot in our own garage—now that will be strange.