Sunday, February 24, 2008

Parking Smart in San Francisco

As you all know, Max is working as a home health care nurse while we are here. Simply put, that means she visits people in their homes that need some type of medical care, but who are unable to go to a doctor's office. So Max is driving all over this city visiting people in their homes. But before she can actually go into their homes, she has to first find a place to park her car.

Before I started this job I would not have listed "parallel parking" as a job strength- but let me tell you I can get into those tight places. And spot a parking spot- I've developed a built in radar for parking spots.

In San Francisco finding a parking place is part luck and part art. This is a metropolitan city with a fairly high population density of people who all have cars. Consequently, parking on the street near your own home is always very difficult to find. To complicate matters, the San Francisco meter maids have no sympathy. So if your car is just an inch beyond the legal space, or if your wheels are not appropriately turned into the curb on a hill, or if the curb isn't painted a "no parking color" and the sign that says it is restricted is hidden behind a tree, that's just too bad. The city of San Francisco enjoys tremendous revenue from parking tickets. It is so well known that there were even an articles written up about it in the New York Times and USA Today. San Francisco brings in about $87 million per year just in parking tickets.

Max has contributed to that amount, at least a little. She has received three tickets so far and I actually got one on one of my rental cars. We did get a little satisfaction by protesting one ticket and actually got it reversed, but that means we still paid 3 in only 4 months in San Francisco. We have never gotten one in our whole time in Cincinnati. One parking ticket was because I was parking in the driveway of a patient (with her permission)- but I was "blocking" the sidewalk- $135! This one Don wrote a very eloquent letter and it was dismissed. Then I paid $35 - I didn't have my wheels facing the right way on a hill- and another was in a school bus zone- all signs were totally concealed by bushes and trees - $75 for that one. Don's was for parking during street cleaning- those are killers. So not only must I find an "empty" spot- it can't "hang over" a driveway- or be during street cleaning hours (every street in San Fran is cleaned at least weekly- Someone told me that San Fran is NYC with a Midwestern mother- "cleanliness is next to godliness" motto.

So how can you improve your odds in finding a parking space in this city? One way is to have a car so small that it fits into a space that no other car can fit into. That "smallest car" just went on sale in San Francisco on January 15. It is called the Smart ForTwo car and it is built and sold by Mercedes. I've been seeing them in Europe for quite a while, and Max and I saw them in Canada three years ago in Vancouver. When we found out that they were going to begin selling them in the U.S. we signed up for one and put our name on the waiting list. Unfortunately, our turn to get one was scheduled for November 2008. Nonetheless we visited the show room to get a closer look.

While talking to the sales folks, we were told that we could sign up to get one that somone else ordered, but turned down and that might put us higher on the list. So we did and told them that we would take whatever model or color became available.

Last Thursday I got a phone call that someone whose order came in had turned it down, and therefore one was available. They said if I was interested I needed to come in to get it. I made an appointment to go in the next day to buy it. Unfortunately, it was their top of the line convertible model, not what we wanted at all, but after considering waiting until November, I decided we would take it. I hadn't told Max about it since I didn't want her to be disappointed if it didn't work out. After working out the paper work and doing a test drive, they told me that they had made an error in the price and it was really $2000 more than they had quoted me. So they decided to give me the option of taking the convertible that I didn't want for $2000 more than I had planned to pay or taking one of their demonstrators that had 1000 miles on it, but was $5000 less and was exactly what we wanted. Needless to say, I came home with the demo.

That was Friday night and Max had done 7 visits that day, two more than normal. She didn't get home until about 8:15 and came in all upset. She asked if I knew that someone had parked a new Smart car right in front of our apartment. She was so upset because she had been wanting one since we signed up for one, and now someone else had bought one and parked it right in front of our apartment, almost as though they were taunting us.
I was "yak, yak, yaking" to Brandy on the phone as I drove home from work. And there it was- my dream car sitting in front of my apartment. I told Brandy- "You're not going to believe this- but the car I want is sitting in front of my apartment- And it's not mine!!!" If that isn't painful- I said "Couldn't they have parked in front of someone's apartment who didn't want one?" I just walked into the bedroom and got the key and gave it to her. The expression was priceless. And the scream of : "It's my Smart Car?" made it worth every penny.

Here is a picture of Max in front of her new car that she can park in the tinest of places.

Today was my first day to drive my BEAUTIFUL NEW CAR to work (this is the first car I've every just fallen head over heels in love with- someplace in my file of pictures I actually have pictures of the SMART car when I first saw it in Vancouver- I made Don stop so we could photograph it!)

But I have to tell you- you drive this around town and even though you're small you're certainly not invisible! A guy in a souped up corvette challenged me at a stop light (trust me- you don't beat anybody with a 3 cylinder motor- Don tells me that the motor in Uncle Sam's motorcycle is more powerful)- But I do think the guy was threatened- we are CUTE! And the time I'm saving in parking I'm spending answering questions about the SMART when I am parked. But I think the best was when I was headed back to work at the end of my day to drop off some papers. A homeless guy pushing a loaded shopping cart crossed the street in front and gave me a big smile and a thumbs up- he motioned for me to roll down my window to talk which I did- it was just that sort of day- He wanted to tell me what a fantastic car- and wanted to know who made it- Mercedes- But certainly not at Mercedes prices- he liked that!

So I'm having fun- and we- the little guy and me- are learning how to do the hills. And we're doing just fine!


Lucas said...

Aunt Max,
A car that cute deserves a name! We name all our vehicles. Any thoughts???

Anonymous said...

Mom the car is very cute, just think if you had a two bedroom apartment you could park it inside! love, b

Max's Dream said...

A name sounds like a great idea, but in our initial thoughts, we couldn't think of something appropriate. So nominations are open. Any of you have suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Weensie... it just came to me?
Ayways.... You desreve that little teeniny thing! Think of how the Ohioans will stare at you when you bring it home!!!
Love you,