By Indu Balachandran Jun. 19, 2019
No matter what day of the week it is, you can never find a free parking spot in our cities. Perhaps that sacred rectangle is the resting place of the monk who sold his parking space and is today considered a World Heritage site.
The reason why Mother Teresa never lost her cool was probably because she never had to find a parking space for her car. And the trigger for the next World War won’t be borders or religion, or as environmentalists like to warn us, water. Psychological experts — and I am one of them — believe that the next major outbreak of global aggression will be over parking space.
The reason India is filled with angry young men and women drivers, is the mere presence of a cold-blooded conspirator who stands on almost every road in the city, the Parking Attendant. His job is to first render himself totally invisible with a magic potion, and just as you emerge from your parked car – sweating joyfully and punching a fist in the air that you found a free slot at last – he will apparate out of nowhere, and say the four words drivers dread most, “You cannot park here!”
Perhaps that special space is reserved for the Union Minister for Road Transport. Perhaps that sacred rectangle is the resting place of the monk who sold his parking space and is today considered a World Heritage site. You’re never going to know why you can’t park in the spot you picked because you are so terrified that once the argument with the attendant ends, you’ll return to find a mysterious scratch on your shiny car (made with the same coin you tossed at him angrily as a parking bribe). So there’s no choice but to pull out and begin the search for another space all over again.
So back you go, manoeuvering uncomfortably in the jammed street with cars parked on both sides. Sometimes, I drive my car endlessly at five kmph, burn up two litres of petrol, crane my head sideways left and right, search relentlessly for one clear space somewhere, anywhere, to park my car. At last I spot it. A free parking space! I smartly slide my car in before anyone else does. As I triumphantly emerge from my car, the building opposite me looks very familiar. Which is natural; I am right outside my own house again.
Psychological experts — and I am one of them — believe that the next major outbreak of global aggression will be over parking space.
I look at my neighbour Savita, Savvy for short, with envy. She has solved the parking problem by buying herself the world’s thinnest car, also known as a cycle, and is able to squeeze it in wherever she wants. But since, vehicles only slightly smaller than a ship continue to be made and bought, we have no choice but to find ways to control road rage, or rather parking rage — which is a world-wide phenomenon now.
We need to find a solution to this crisis and though malls are an answer to all First World problems, our parking conundrum might be different. You can find a parking space in several floors of exclusive parking slots – but that comes with its own set of problems. My pal Usha is still walking across the eight floors of a new mall looking for a car she parked there two days ago.
As for me, I always get giddy going round and round along the spiral ramp… Until I see something that makes me as delirious as Ranveer Singh after an India-Pak match. A family walking toward their parked car with their bags, all shopping done! I cleverly pause at one spot, waiting for them to pull out (holding up 12 impatient cars behind me). But what’s happening here!? It seems like they’ve decided to have a long-pending family reunion right then, inside the car, and they refuse to come out. Annoyed by the din of 12 angry blaring cars, I am forced to drive forward… just in time for that family to end their mysterious in-car meeting, and for the car behind me to neatly get that prime piece of real estate.
Should I just give up driving completely? I have friends who’ve embraced Uber with both their steering arms, while their own cars sit quietly sulking at home, sometimes for weeks on end, just to beat the parking stress. There is the extreme case of my pal Mohan who has taken to watching Mr Bean videos on YouTube on loop to learn how to beat parking woes and avoid paying for tickets, just as the ingenious Mr Bean did with his green Mini.
In fact, copywriters can use the opportunity to tailor messages that combine their client’s name with “No Parking” messages, and win awards
As parking problems continue to drive citizens nuts, our city corporators on the other hand, are busy tearing down giant unauthorised hoardings for jewellery shops, sari shops etc; but then store owners have become extremely clever, hanging “mini hoardings” on all our gates instead: “No Parking In Front of This Gate”. I remember this message was once written by our watchman himself on a humble piece of cardboard. But now, my building gate alone has four of these colourfully painted warnings — sponsored by different shops in the vicinity. And I urge retail outlets with small advertising budgets to be quick and grab the remaining spaces on my gate: There is room for just two more.
In fact, copywriters can use the opportunity to tailor messages that combine their client’s name with “No Parking” messages, and win awards. For example: “No parking of vehicles here. But do park your money in our Mutual Funds” is just begging to be used by a finance company. “No Parking, No Honking” cleverly combines an anti-noise pollution message with a regular anti-parking warning.
But here’s one warning you should never put on your gate: “Fine for Parking”. A desperate man is bound to take that literally and drive over a footpath. Then he’ll blame his driver. And that might just start a war.
Indu Balachandran turned to a career in Advertising when it became clear that world markets would collapse if she ever became an economist. She now travels and writes for a living and during flight delays, dreams of doing stand-up comedy some day, at staid Tam Brahm weddings.