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Reviving the Engines of ‘Our Parked Civility’

This hour-long flick got a lot of press early last month, and its director, Meghan Eckman, called and asked me to review it. I did watch it but didn’t know what to think. So I asked Astrid Ambroziak, one of the non-parking authors who periodically write for Parking Today, to do the review. JVH


HIS MORNING, I HEARD MATT Lauer, co-anchor of NBC’s “Today Show,” promote a segment of the pro- gramcalled “Is Civility Dead? OrMore Alive Than Ever?” After spending a

cozy evening last night watching Meghan Eckman’s documentary, “The Parking LotMovie,” this particular question resonates withme.

It’s fitting, since Eckman’s film, through the voices of about a

dozen parking lot attendants, asks this and other existential ques- tions.Who would ever think that a simple corner parking lot can

Perhaps after watching this movie we can ask ourselves a question:What is it all about? Is the customer always right even at a cost of that customer being a sanctimonious jerk?

delve into the theories of Jean-Paul Sartre orKierkegaard and con- clude that Nietzsche was on to something when he said, “When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you.”? In the documentary, set in a small parking lot in Char-

lottesville, VA, we definitely look into the abyss of our human nature. The only person who doesn’t fall into that abyss is Chris, the owner. Beloved by his employees, he takes it all with a grain of salt. Chris reminds us and those erudite slackers thatwork for him,

“(to) ease up, people:This is just a parking lot.” Nevertheless, it is that obscure parking lot hidden behind the

University ofVirginia campus and neighboring bars and restau- rants that shows us that our basic behaviors haven’t evolved much since the days when Thomas Jefferson founded the institution. Quite to the contrary, they have deteriorated and get replaced by a sense of entitlement and belligerence.


From the very first few minutes of her film, Eckman shows

us that not all parking lots are the same.After all,we have become accustomed to a garage or a parking lot that, if it has an attendant,

that person usually has a foreign accent. In Charlottesville, the guys who mind the lot not only are most eloquent and well-read, but also check “Caucasian” on their voting forms. (That is if they do vote, because I perceive that they see themselves as above such a simple civic duty.) At the same time, the parking lot attendants emphasize that

just as with voting, parking isn’t an entitlement but a privilege. Sadly,most of us – like the jerkswho park in this corner lot – think the former: Parking should be easy and most often free. Parking lots are perfect places tomake a fool of ourselves, be rude or even throw up all that booze after our nightly binge at the bar.And in a college town with a university of as high a caliber as UVA, drink- ing and partying is one of the favorite pastimes of those BMW-dri- ving kids. I have often wondered if it is our character and passion that dictate what we do for living, or do our jobs define what we

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