Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Why Airport Parking is Like an Abusive Relationship

To be more accurate, I guess I should say that getting a car wash at the airport car park is like an abusive relationship. I’m all about accuracy. And against exaggeration.

My saga began about six months ago. The setting: The Parking Spot (Sepulveda). Let me begin by saying that I really like this parking garage. I like the valet system, which is only nominally more expensive than self park. I like the location. It is very convenient to get to Sepulveda from my part of town. I like the way they put a cold bottle of water in your car after they pull it around for you. This is why I have a problem. I like it too much.

Six months ago, I pulled into the valet stand at The Parking Spot (Sepulveda) and the mood hit me to go ahead and have my car washed while I traveled. How nice it would be to come home to a shiny, clean car, I thought. I left my keys and headed out of town (to parts no longer remembered and unimportant to the story). When I returned, I got in my car and started to drive home. I got about halfway home and looked down at my change compartment (newly instituted – my attempt to follow Mike’s lead and carry change for meters, etc.) and saw that the 5-7 quarters that I had deposited there the day before my trip were now MIA. Oddly (or not, I guess), the dimes and nickels were still there, untouched. I grabbed my cell phone and immediately called the garage to tell them about the missing quarters. I spoke to some office employee there who promised to note the theft in a log and assured me that the manager would call me in the morning.

Two days later… No call yet… I call the manager myself and tell him my tale of woe. I agree, by the way, that at this point in the retelling "tale of woe" may be laying it on a bit. Missing quarters. $2.50 maybe. The manager was extremely apologetic and mentioned that this did not seem to be an isolated case of thievery and that he was relatively sure that the culprit was a car wash employee ("independent contractor", by the way, as the car wash services are contracted out). He offered to give me a complementary detail service and a couple of free weekend passes.

End of story, right? Of course not.

The next time I had an out-of-town trip, which was only a couple of weeks after The Incident, I drove into The Parking Spot (Sepulveda) and picked up my free pass swag, which the manager, Josh, left behind for me. Handed my keys to the valet and was off to parts also not remembered. I returned to pick up my car a couple of days later and immediately opened the now-hidden-place-where-I’ve-decided-to-store-spare-change. I was not all that surprised to say that the quarters were all gone, but the nickels and dimes were untouched. So I let an employee know on the spot and the next day Manager Josh called me and apologized once again. I will admit at this point that otherwise the detail service was pretty good. Shiny, happy, clean car.

After theft number 2, Josh gave me more free passes, including a free pass of indefinite length (most of the free passes are limited to a free weekend or something similar), which was used for the 7 night trip to Hawaii that Mike and I took this fall.

So really, I’m doing alright at this point – out $5 or so in change, plus the not all that small aggravation of having someone steal from you, but up several free passes for stuff that is far more valuable (as long as the people with access to the vehicle are not, you know, thieves). No reason to break off the relationship entirely yet, right? I mean, Josh is appropriately angry and contrite each time. And the location is so great. And they have my car ready for me as soon as I get off the van.

Last week I flew to Washington, DC for a conference. I hadn’t gotten a car wash in any of my previous stays at The Parking Spot (Sepulveda) since The Incidents, but on this occasion, my car could really use a wash. I went to a concert and parked outside and some bird… you know… shat all over the hood of my car. I wanted that cleaned off. And the thieving thing, that was months ago. So I went for it. Car wash for me.

I returned from my trip on Sunday afternoon to a shiny car. Drove home. When I got into the lights of my home parking garage, I noticed something. The bird shit was still there. Sure, not all of the bird shit, but enough of it for my car to not accurately be called "clean". This made me Not Very Happy, but I guess these things happen.

Monday morning (yesterday), I got up way too early and drove myself in to work. I pulled into the parking garage and I noticed something: no access card to my work building. About my access card… It is a plastic card. I keep it on my dash board. It usually stays there just fine, unless I drive like speed racer because some asshole is trying to cut me off or something (hey, I drive in LA, we get testy sometimes). When I take a corner too fast of gun the engine too hard, the card sometimes slides across the dash or falls and wedges itself between my seat and the door (the lawyer in me wants to add a "respectively" here, but I’ll resist the urge). No access card means that I have to take a ticket and get it validated in order to park at work. So I do these things. And then I frantically search every compartment in my car, and under the seat and the floor mats, for the missing access card. No luck.

Today I called The Parking Spot (Sepulveda). Apparently Manager Josh has moved on to bigger and better things. I spoke to a new manager, Mehren. I told him about the bird shit and the missing access card and The Incidents (briefly). He assured me that people have left thousands of dollars in their cars and had the car wash employees turn the money in – there is no thieving here – until I told him that Josh and I had already had some discussions about the thieving and this call is really to get my money back for the bad car wash (see bird shit still on car) and for the $45 that my firm (or the building, perhaps) is charging me to give me another access card. Mehren planned to investigate whether my access card ended up there somewhere and then call me back.

I have not heard back from Mehren. It is now nighttime. Oh, Mehren, whatever happened to Josh and his apologies? He was so much easier to forgive and come back to. Where am I going to park now? I miss The Parking Spot (Sepulveda) already.

1 comment:

t.s. said...

I think I haven't spent enough of my life appreciating the finer airport-parking providers.