Van versus Parking Structure

Photo Credit:  Myrone Delacruz (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo Credit: Myrone Delacruz (Creative Commons Flickr)

For an “epic fail” field trip, combine the following:

  • Oregon Symphony Young People’s Concert tickets
  • Driving rain
  • A ticking clock
  • Bumper-to-bumper downtown traffic
  • The twelve-passenger school van
  • Ten middle school boys
  • Me at the wheel
  • And a parking structure

Set to music this could almost be The Twelve Days of Christmas, right? Except that I wasn’t singing. Or even smiling.

The event organizers had arranged on-street parking, but only for school buses. So I was not only late, but I was on my own to park the van. Deep breath. A minor setback–or so I thought.

See, I’d forgotten just how tall a twelve-passenger van is. Who knew that so many downtown parking structures have scary-low height clearances? Was it time to cue the horror movie soundtrack? No need. Remember those ten boys? They provided a boatload of encouragement and sound effects.

Photo Credit: Hiroyuki Hosokawa (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo Credit: Hiroyuki Hosokawa (Creative Commons Flickr)

No SUV? No kidding. Photo Credit: Cory Doctorow (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo Credit: Cory Doctorow (Creative Commons Flickr)

No SUV parking? No kidding! I finally found a structure tall enough, and in we went. As you can guess, the spaces were both too short and too narrow. But I was determined to find parking, even if I had to hog several spaces.

“It’s…Inception!” The higher up we went, the lower the concrete ceiling became. I was now truly frightened. Our radio antennae was not only touching, it was bending, scraping. Would we become stuck? Would I wreck the school van? The boys were no help—they were downright gleeful. “It’s Inception!” they screamed.

So I called it. Then and there, like the coward that I am, I made for the exit. The expression on the parking lot attendant’s face said it all–I was lucky to escape unscathed. I texted the teachers in the other van–a normal-sized one, already parked–and high-tailed it back to school. Never mind the rain or the freeway traffic or the three-dollar tickets I’d squandered. I was free.

The guys watched Mr Beethoven Lives Upstairs in my classroom. This was more to their taste than a classical concert anyway. And when I unearthed a stash of candy bars for movie snacks, they were thrilled.

On Tuesday, we will again head downtown. Yes, for this year’s Oregon Symphony Young People’s Concert. Ah, but someone else will be driving. The bus, not the van. Ten sets of parents will not get to hear about a real-life Inception experience, and that suits me just fine.


17 thoughts on “Van versus Parking Structure

  1. Robin Helm

    Real life can be more entertaining than fiction – and more frightening. You were wise. I probably wouldn’t have been. When I couldn’t find a parking space for the National Fine Arts Festival at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC, I took a professor’s spot. It was at night, and I thought, silly me, that professors would have gone home or already be in their space. Not so. I arrived back at my car to find it blocked in and surrounded by young men in black suits. Really? And just try getting onto that campus. They have locked gates. We should let BJU handle border security.


  2. Diana O

    I used to own a 15 passenger van. It was great for Webelos den outings and family camping trips. My kids loved sitting all the way in the back because it became a launching pad with every bump. Your story reminds me that I have a degree of parking PTSD from driving that thing!


    1. Laura Hile Post author

      I had a friend with one of those, a former commuter van complete with bucket seats, individual reading lights, and air conditioning vents…like an airliner. Her kids and foster kids loved it.

      I thought it was great. Then again, I didn’t have to park it.


    1. Laura Hile

      Moses Lake and Canada! Those were awfully LONG blocks! Thirty miles apiece! 🙂
      We ended up in Moses Lake HOW many times? And we didn’t even know it until we saw this:


          1. Laura Hile

            Do you think Moses Lake has a Starbucks Hipster Guy?

            No joke, Sue and I stopped for coffee at the Ritzville Starbucks (along I-90 in northeastern Washington, some distance from the town), which is basically a gas stop in the middle of nowhere. Who should come riding up (on a vintage bicycle, no less) but a Portland-style preppy hipster, complete with the horn-rimmed glasses and button-down shirt. We looked at him and then at one another. Where did he come from?

            He came all the way from Ritzville proper, of course. Probably to get a half-caf, no whip, double-shot, sugar-free caramel iced mocha latte.

            Every time we stop there I look for him, but no luck so far. Were we visited, unawares, by a coffee-seeking angel in disguise?



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