Vail Daily column: Truth and integrity in parking

Benjamin A. Gochberg
Valley Voices

Until last weekend, I believed that every human on earth needed to have one of four experiences in order to be a contributing adult: a foreign mission, military service, ranch work, or time as a restaurant server. While volunteering at the American Ski Classic, I learned that we could likely add one more item to my ever-growing list of necessary experiences — being a parking lot attendant.

Parking lot attendants, I’ve decided, are subject to some of the highest highs and lowest lows of human nature. Granted, I have a glaring fault for finding philosophy and truth in the most barren of places, but I hope to demonstrate with an anecdote how the lives of our parking lot attendants in this community are rife with application to every human experience.

Several hours of my time as a volunteer at the event were spent standing in the parking lot directly across from Golden Peak. I was covered head to toe in heavy winter gear, as a result of the blizzard on Saturday. The volunteer badge I wore around my neck was buried under my jacket, and so to the average person driving by, I was nothing more than any other young person standing and checking permits in a parking lot. I enjoyed the time to meditate on anonymity, contextual identity, and the like.


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It was in the middle of this deep solitary reflection that a minivan started to pull in. A woman in her 40s with sandy blonde hair rolled down the window to smile at me. I smiled back, primary because it is my nature, but also because I wanted to be the best parking lot attendant she had ever met. (I don’t get out much.) I asked for a permit, which she apparently could not produce. After casually commenting that she had parked there on the previous two days, that everybody knew her and that she would miss her race time if I didn’t let her in, I started to get the sense that I was being manipulated. In an all out attempt to garner my favor, she closed her appeal with “and I’m a legend.” I felt my face flush red. My brow furrowed, but I was disciplined enough to keep my smile intact as she proceeded to ask again and again if I thought it was all right for her to just park there.

She was, admittedly, quite beautiful, though not age appropriate for me, and I momentarily wondered how much of a difference it would make if one car without a permit could get past me. It occurred to me that her smile and friendly demeanor were not entirely as innocent as mine and that this might be an opportunity for me to let the universe teach. I would simply get out of the way.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry, but I don’t know who you are. If you would like to call someone who knows you from administration, please feel free. My instructions were to only allow vehicles with permits in this lot, but I can’t make a decision for you. I feel that the reason you are asking if I feel it would be all right for you to park here is to justify or validate to yourself what you instinctively already feel is your right to commit a petty theft. You should do what you think is right.”

OK, OK — so I was a little strong. She chose to park there anyway, and berated me in the most friendly of fashions on her way to the event. I was, however, pleasantly surprised when she came back 30 minutes later to move her van to the parking structure. I thought I had been successful in my endeavor until she muttered her dissatisfaction about being treated in a certain way as she walked by to get in her van.

I quietly sighed, and quickly began to think over my words to her. What had I missed? Are some compromises of integrity so small that they are rendered meaningless? Is doing the right thing begrudgingly still doing the right thing? I would torture myself with contemplation until finally being relieved from my position an hour or so later.

Benjamin A. Gochberg lives in Avon.

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