My closest friends (and my wife) know that I have the magical ability to find a parking space even in the most competitive of environments. Yes, it’s true – I am the Parking King of all North America. Is this just luck? Hell no. It’s an advanced plan with a specific set of steps requiring focus and flawless execution.
I was saving this post for an IGNITE talk but I’ve decided to give it to you in this blog as my holiday gift to the world. If you master my tips below, you’ll soon be able to find street parking during the Super Bowl even if it’s moved to Fat Tuesday in New Orleans.
1. The first secret to finding the perfect parking space is to avoid it altogether. Sometimes it just makes more sense to take the bus, have your friend drop you off, or pony up for a cab even if you’re a cheap bastard like myself.
2. Ok, since you are a cheap bastard too – the following is a list of tactics that I use to park like a Rockstar REGARDLESS OF THE ODDS against me. Ready? Read on:
3. Turn off your radio. Seriously – you need maniacal focus here. Deep breathing also helps oxygenate your brain and improve your receptors. You are now a predator and your game is that magical 15 feet of space.
4. Have a Positive Mental Attitude. This actually causes people to return to their cars and leave the best spots as you approach. Ok, maybe not, but it is a required step for the required amount of parking Karma.
5. Start scanning general parking availability as you approach your destination. This will give you the needed understanding of the “market value” of any particular space. If parking is plentiful you’ll want to get close, if it looks to be impossible – you’ll need to know that when evaluating the distance/time ratio. This is the ratio of how far you are willing to walk vs. the time spent looking for a space. This ratio is then multiplied by the number of degrees below 70* and then magnified to the Nth degree one time for each inch of heel on your companion’s footwear. 3” heels in the winter almost always ruin the ratio to an unacceptable level.
6. Drive all the way to your destination. How are you EVER going to score the premium, rock-star, impossible, “wow you’re amazing” free spot if you never give yourself the chance by driving ALL THE WAY to your destination? Squelch your low self-image for the moment, and pretend as if you deserve it – maybe you do! See step 4.
7. Start your search pattern of concentric squares from your destination noting the high target areas (most parking spots with the least amount of traffic).
8. SLOW DOWN. Watching my buddy Gene speed down the street only to throw up his arms exclaiming “there is no parking” is hilarious. This just in – open parking spaces with neon lighted arrows are not a common occurrence in the urban jungle. Get over it.
9. Do you remember how to win at musical chairs? Same deal here. Make sure that you leave PLENTY of room between you and the competitor in front of you looking for a spot. I’ve seen idiots tailgating the car in front of them in Pike Place Market’s one street of parking and mocked them for their oblivion. When I’m on that street, I employ tactic number 8 and practically beg people to cross the street in front of me giving me the excuse to leave the most space between me and the car in front of me (and the greatest odds of finding a spot) without pissing off the gal behind me. And if she does get upset – hey, she should have read this blog too – not my fault.
10. A note on parking ethics – it is NEVER cool to stand in a parking space “claiming” it for your friend who’s circling the block. That’s just not kosher and will block your parking chakras for months to come.
11. Parking signs can be your friends. Many people see a parking sign, or especially a barricade and automatically assume that it’s bad news. This is great for you since the sign often doesn’t apply. They put those barricade things out like days in advance and the dates are often not in effect – #winning! Sure, sometimes you need a law degree to decipher the 6 bullet point sign on when you actually can park there, but stick with it. Or snap a pic with your smart phone and text your lawyer for an opinion.
12. Target high bogey environments. This is also a dating tip – you should probably be hunting where the game is plentiful to increase your odds. Look for side streets that have lots of spaces, but few competitors. Hunt there.
13. Look for signals that a space is ABOUT to appear. As I mentioned, if you are only looking for open spaces you’ve already completely failed the great parking game. How does that feel? Ok, shake it off and keep reading. Look for the signals that occur before a spot opens up. They can include the obvious like taillights coming on (duh), or the more subtle clues for the advanced; pedestrians slowing down near their car, people jaywalking across the street, silhouettes of people already in their car about to start it up, people with keys in their hands, people with their load mostly in one hand (their keys are in their other hand), people waving their feet below their new Ford’s rear bumper trying to remember where that damn sensor is. Look for a group suddenly breaking rank – they are splitting because they are moving towards their side of the car. Most people completely miss these signals and then want to try and back up to get that spot they just missed. Don’t be that guy – admit defeat and move on because a stronger more dedicated parker now has that spot (or the parking dumbass behind you just got lucky).
14. When traveling on a one-way street, try to stay in the middle lane, behind or ahead of traffic, so that you have both sides of the street available with a single lane change.
15. Like a NASCAR driver, focus far in advance so you have time to react. When they see umbrellas opening in the stands they slow down because they know it’s starting to rain and the track is going to be slick. Yeah, who knew that rednecks were that smart?!
16. BE aggressive. Sometimes a U-turn in the middle of downtown over the double yellow, (or the small median when driving an SUV) is required by the circumstances. Calculate the risks by scanning for red and blue rooftop lights, and then go for it. Maybe 1 out of 50 times are you going to get nailed, and those odds are strong. To get out of the ticket, hand the officer a hard copy of this blog post.
17. If all else is failing – look for “marginal” spots. These are not your perfectly legitimate spots with the white paint and parking meter. These are the spots that are near the corner, or are in front of an apparent driveway that is no longer used as one, or against a curb with really old paint that was apparently, but poorly, removed. Get creative – this is the upper echelon of the master parker and should only be attempted by graduates of this course.
18. Pay in nickels. I noticed that a dime got me 5 minutes in Seattle, but a nickel got me three minutes since they gave the rounding error to us in a rare instance of government fairness. So be sure to ruin that gift by paying with a giant slug of nickels for a 16.7% discount. My bank loves me when I ask for another $100 in nickels please. So does my chiropractor.
19. Do the math and leave early. To be successful you must build in the extra 10 minutes needed to execute this plan. If paid parking is $10 near your event, then the extra 10 minutes needed equates to a net payout of $60 per hour. If you make more than that, then take a cab you cheap bastard.
20. If we give this kind of thought to the simple act of parking – how much thought do you think we will give your email marketing campaign? I dare you to find out. We’re at https://emailbroadcast.com
21. When parallel parking in a tight spot (aren’t they all?) use the glass of the buildings you are parking in front of as a mirror so you can see how close you are to the guy behind you. And please, do NOT park by “touching” the car in front and behind you. I will appear out of nowhere and revoke your Master’s license.
22. Finally, share these tips with the other people in your vehicle during the hunt. That way they become engaged participants instead of an angry mob who knows you’re too cheap to use a parking garage. Then zap them with that mind erasing gizmo used by the Men in Black. We can’t have everyone knowing these secrets.