A Parking Lesson: Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes

Close-up teenager's retro style black and white tennis shoes, tattered, ripped, dirty, isolated on white backgroundBy Scott C. Bauman, CAPP

As a municipal parking manager, I often hear the following from residents; “There’s a car that’s always parked in front of my house. I want it gone. That’s MY parking space!”

The passion residents feel for the on-street public parking in front of their home can be deep and abiding. I have a better understanding of this now. Many residents incorrectly assume that the on-street parking directly in front of their home is either an extension of their property or that they have a fundamental entitlement to that space. When someone else repeatedly parks in front of their home and the homeowner looks out their window and sees that same car parked again and again, emotions can start flowing and tension builds. The homeowner often truly believes that the on-street space in front of their home is theirs, and other parkers are prohibited from using it.

Before recently, I’d receive these types of complaints and have the automatic response of, “The on-street parking directly in front of your residence is not your property. It’s public right-of-way owned and managed by the city, yada-yada-yada.” Citizens eventually come to comprehend this fact but always find it frustrating.

Awhile back, I gained a new perspective on this emotional issue. My neighbor started regularly parking his oversized, bright red, commercial plumbing van directly in front of my home. Every time I looked out my window, I saw that big stupid red van and got very irritated. While I didn’t contact my local city agency to complain (as I know better), I did speak with him and nicely suggest that a more appropriate place to park his van would be on his own property. I got lucky; he agreed and started parking it in his driveway. That’s when my perspective broadened.

The point of my story is two-fold. First, anyone–including a municipal parking manager–can become emotional over unfortunate parking situations. Second, I now have more compassion and empathy for my fellow citizens going through these types of stressors. The aphorism, “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes,” is a valuable mindset when dealing with the emotional state and unique circumstances that can sometimes torment our valued customers.

Lesson learned. Lesson shared.

Scott C. Bauman, CAPP, is manager of parking and mobility services for the City of Aurora, Colo.