City Limits

I was on a confused city limit highway in a rusty old red truck I borrowed from a dusty farmer driving in circles looking for my father. The thick metal body of the vehicle rattled as I shifted gears over the cheap asphalt, but all the parts were well built and she drove stiff and strong. The truck had gotten me through the barriers and obstacles that were in my way, but as I pulled around another off ramp to an underpass rest area, I was disheartened. There were no signs on how to get back the other way where my mom was waiting at the college to help me look for dad. Part of me didn’t want to go back, the roads there lead to dead ends into rivers and were more confusing footpaths. The only difference was that the roads there had art and spectacles around it where the highway I was on was utilitarian, streamlined and uncaring.

The off ramp lead me down to a strange parking lot. Several other cars were down there. Jeeps and BMWs and a Mercedes, modern and plastic and brittle. My old truck backfired and echoed with heavy gears around the underpass giving me looks from the middle aged layabouts and a couple energetic naive youth. I shifted down, pushing the handle so worn only the silver aluminum on the handle shown. I rolled my window down to ask one of them if there was a way to get back to the highway in the opposite direction, each I asked were friendly, they told me to follow the parking lot to the other ramp. I knew they were wrong, but I trusted them anyway. I knew deep down that I’d be going the same way I’ve been going.

I didn’t know if I was looking for dad anymore, or what I was looking for. I pushed the sluggish truck on , getting new power from each gear as the highway flew by around me. The cars of a generation speeding past me to whichever city we were on the limit of. The cars were driving themselves.

I thought maybe I could turn around if I got to the city and throttled up to overdrive. 

Park the car!

So when I’m not going insane or writing (essentially the same thing) I park people’s cars at restaurants because like you know I need to eat and pay off my loans. If that sentence isn’t clear I get paid an hourly wage and work for a private company, I’m not just standing around at restaurants maliciously absconding with someone’s car for fifteen feet out of my own passion and burgling the fast food from under the passenger seat, although that might be a funny superhero parody movie: “He’s a freelance valet who don’t play by the rules” no wait, that sounds more like a gritty cop parody movie.

Anyway, talk about a service industry job that catches people at a bad time. We might not get the same abuse as someone that has to actually stand with someone as they try to pick out the right denim fleece or clear table three to find they left you a decoy $20 tip, (although once I got a church pamphlet for a tip which at least had two bucks in it) we only have to see people twice for about 30-60 seconds on average, but that minute is never an expected transaction for most customers, and not everyone deals with it in mature ways. My theory is that nobody really thinks about where their giant metal thing on wheels should go when they metamorph, shedding their combustion engine for feet power, they only think about getting to the restaurant and getting food. The people I deal with are hungry and skeptical of my ability to drive when they come in and usually are very protective of their vehicles. Between people who think that the rules don’t apply to them and those who don’t understand the fundamental dynamic that I have a life and don’t want to be working until 12AM if its not worth it, there are a lot of people who get angry due to misconceptions.

Just to give you some rationale behind why some parking lots are all valet so you don’t become one of these immature people: a restaurant or venue wants to be able to fit as many cars in a space as possible, ie. more cars=more people=more money spent. valets don’t need to follow the lines of the parking spaces and can achieve this endeavor to save space, especially in very small parking lots where if people were left to their own devices would be just chaos and the possibility of a scrape or accident is much more likely. Having someone who parks up to a hundred and fifty cars a day limits the likelihood of accidents.

Despite these reasons it is almost every day that someone drives into a valet only lot and either completely blows through the signs which only means that now I have to go and find them making more work for me and them, or they arrive and immediately jump to the phrase “You mean I can’t park my own car?”, the answer is no, and in the time it takes for me to explain why you could already be walking inside and getting food. My job is made to make everything run smoother and the longer you’re talking to me just makes this a hassle. The next most common thing is when I ask if the key is in the car. Most of the cars I park have some kind of automatic button start and the key fobs are necessary if I want to bring your car back, between people walking inside with their fob and turning off their car and those people who when I ask look at me like I’m some kind of moron and just say “It’s running already.” like I’ve never operated a vehicle before, poor key fob management amounts to 60% of the issues that make this less efficient of a process.

One place I work only ever has two valets in the parking lot and about 150 people coming in every night, if it’s busy there is a possibility that we will leave your car with the keys in it and the window down just to be sure we don’t lock the keys in the car. One time this guy was furious with us for doing this when he came out to get something from his car calling us assholes for parking too close to another car ie. doing our job, don’t be this person, we are standing right there and believe it or not, not all valets are thieves, we will park your car in a moment correctly once the fifty other cars we are trying to put somewhere are taken care of.

Valeting is basically car Tetris and the whole idea is to have a system to do this for the best of everyone one involved, any cars that get damaged on our watch is the company’s fault, so the risk of just letting you park or take your car is a risk that we have to deal with for our jobs.

Anyway, I guess I just wanted to say that, also be kind and tip us like three or more bucks, we work hard to keep your cars safe and save you the time of negotiating a busy parking lot two $ is apparently the standard but it’s not 1980 anymore and one dollar is kind of an insult unless you’re literally going to be inside for a minute. Another thing is that we are standing outside and waiting for you to be done eating and having a good time, expect the possibility that if you’re going to be at a restaurant past a certain time we will want to go home and bring you back your keys when we finish.
The last thing is that it’s the restaurant’s policy to have valet parking I made no decisions about this other than it’s my job.

I could go into more detail like if your not staying for reasons like dropping someone off or picking someone up, don’t park in the place that we take the cars away, one time I jumped into a car to park it and there was a mother and five kids in the back who thought I was abducting them. Fun Fact if your in a valet only lot and I see a car not parked I will try to park it. Be kind to the valet and have a day.