My View from South Hill
Monday, February 7, 2011
At our holiday reception for campus faculty and staff last December, Amber and I decided to raffle off a few prizes for our guests. The top prize was use of my reserved campus parking space for the week of January 31 to February 4. “Park like a President,” I said, “And do so during the coldest week of the year!”
It sounded like a good idea at the time.
I pull up to my parking place at 11:30 am, after a morning of work in my home office. There is a nice silver car parked in my space … I had forgotten -- it’s January 31! I cruise the rows of the parking lot closest to my building. Full. Apparently you have to arrive at work earlier than 11:30 to get a prime parking place. I drive across the road and down the hill to the overflow parking lot, a place I’ve never actually been before. I’m not dressed for the extra walk, but it’s all for a good cause.
I pull into the parking lot at 9:20, having hosted an early breakfast at my house for a small group of faculty. Apparently 9:20 is also too late to find an open space in the prime parking lot.
In the wake of our second straight heavy overnight snow, classes are canceled for the morning and the college is closed until 11:30 a.m. I am hosting another breakfast for faculty but the school closure means the college catering staff won’t be coming to the house. Amber puts on a pot of coffee and sets out some breakfast items while I shovel the front walk – the first time I have picked up a snow shovel since arriving in Ithaca three winters ago.
I arrive on campus before the official opening time of 11:30. Joy! I am able to park in the lot near my building, though at the far end of it. I glance longingly at my once and future parking place as I walk past.
They say it is a sign of madness to do the same thing repeatedly while expecting a different result. I begin the day in my home office, arrive on campus at 9:30, cruise the parking lot near my building without success, and head to the remote parking lot across the street and down the hill. As I walk back up the hill toward my building, I think “This might not be the best use of my time, but it sure is good exercise!”
I have by now given up even visiting the prime parking lot to see if there is an empty space. I head straight down the hill on the other side of the road from campus. As I get out of the car, I spot people walking up a sidewalk that leads straight to campus, a much more direct route than the hike up the road I have been taking all week. My last day without my assigned parking space and I have only just figured out the system.
The reason I am given assigned parking, I assume, is that there are numerous days when my schedule requires me to arrive late, or perhaps to leave campus for a few hours in the middle of the day to attend a meeting somewhere else. Having a reserved space minimizes the time spent on a commute.
As I walk past my former parking space, though, I think about the days my space is open throughout the morning. Maybe I am out of town or maybe I have an off-campus meeting. Maybe I am simply starting the day by spending a little time with Amber and Liam. (I won’t go into all the night and weekend events that justify the occasional morning indulgence.) In any case, I wonder how many people have driven by my open reserved space at a time when there are no other available spots and thought … unkind thoughts.
Monday, February 7
I drive onto the campus after an off-site breakfast meeting. For a guy who usually skips breakfast when left to his own devices, I eat a lot of breakfasts. My parking space is waiting for me. As with anything in life, when you have enjoyed a privilege for awhile you no longer think about it. The privilege no longer seems special but is just part of life. As I complete the short walk this morning from my parking space to my office, though, my sense of privilege – and of the obligation that comes with it – is fully restored.
Next » « Previous