Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Yes, They Will Come - But Will They Pay For Parking?

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published Nov. 1, 2017] ©2017
On October 19, the Light ran a story by reporter Corey Levitan entitled “Westfield UTC’s building it, will you come?” 
By coincidence, my husband and I had just been up there the week before for the first time since construction began with the intention of making a quick stop at Macy’s.  On-line shopping may be convenient but there are lots of items, like clothes, that are really nice to see in person before you buy them.  That “quick stop” took 90 minutes.
If you’ve been up there recently, you know that the huge asphalt parking lot on the west side of the shopping mall is now gone, replaced by a brand new Nordstrom and a five-story parking garage that go all the way to the edge of Genesee.  We were astonished that at 10:15 on an off-season Thursday morning, there wasn’t a single parking place on the first parking level and hardly a spot on the second.
Of course, as it turned out, this wasn’t some random Thursday morning: it was opening day of the new Nordstrom.  Phew!  Now, keep in mind that when we parked, it was obvious that the parking area was still very much under construction.  So hopefully when it’s done, there will be better signage, such as: How To Get Out of Here. Seriously, we and multitudes of others were wandering around trying to find any sort of exit that would allow us to get into the mall itself. 
I have shopped at UTC literally hundreds of times since it opened in 1977.  So it was the eeriest feeling to finally find our way into what looked like stores and not recognize anything, including what direction Macy’s might be in.  I had a sudden thought:  is this what dementia is like?  To know that you’re supposed to know where you are but don’t?  Ironically, once we found Macy’s, our purchase took all of ten minutes since it was just to buy slacks for Olof.  It would have been one minute but I made him try them on.
Now, we should have been able to find our car again, no problem, but we somehow missed one of the store landmarks we’d carefully noted. Once finally back at the 5-level parking garage, even knowing we needed Parking Level 2, Section 233, we got totally lost. That is one effing huge parking structure.  The new UTC now sports 5,500 parking places. Assuming you could walk by one vehicle every six seconds, failure to note where you parked could take nine hours to locate your car.
I’d emailed Corey Levitan after his story came out and regaled him with the story of our trying to find our car. He replied, “That would make a great column, Inga. But you have to work in the Seinfeld parking garage episode.”
Frankly, I couldn’t remember that episode but I went back and watched it on YouTube. Yes! Yes! Trying to find our car was EXACTLY like that!  Thanks, Corey!
After the first of the year, Westfield UTC is going to start charging for parking. To add insult to injury, you’d have to PAY for those nine hours looking for your car. 
I would like to say for the record that I think charging for parking at a shopping mall is a seriously bad idea. First, people hate paying for parking on principle.  Secondly, they especially hate paying for parking at a place where they are going to spend money. Third, it would seem you’d want to encourage people to hang around and have lunch or dinner after they’ve shopped. Some emporia will apparently be validating for longer than the two free hours. But who wants to keep track? Fourth, you’re competing with AMAZON, guys!
But here is the biggest reason not to have paid parking. It’s unclear if they are going to have humans in booths handling parking payments; more likely it will be those nasty automated machines. There is always one totally techno-disabled idiot who cannot figure out how to use the machine and holds up the whole line.  I know this for a fact because I am that idiot. I hate lip-reading people disparaging my mother in my rearview mirror. 
But at UTC, the stakes will be much higher.  Let’s say people have gotten back to their car with 10 minutes to spare before they have to pay for parking and they get stuck behind me. Can you say “parking lot rage”? 
Even worse, traffic will be going straight out to Genesee Avenue, a really busy roadway.  It used to back up like crazy BEFORE there was a 5-story parking garage with each car having to stop and feed a ticket into a machine (or settle up with a human). 
So, yes, I’ll come. But unless there’s a human I can hand my ticket to, I may not come back. At Amazon, no one disparages my mother.



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