Care for a friendly game of musical cars? I'll pass

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Gazing out my window here at the B-G office, I've long marveled at the other downtown workers I've observed playing a game I've affectionately come to call "musical cars."

The rules are quite simple: Park your car in the best spot you can find either on the square or in the first block in any direction. Go inside and go about the business of your day, but don't forget -- in two hours or so you need to go out and find a new spot.

Wash, rinse, repeat -- up to four times daily.

The penalty if you get caught? You aren't "it" and you're not even "out." You just owe the City of Greencastle $15 -- $25 if you take more than week to pay.

Now, before anybody gets too carried away, this is not going to be a critique of the city's parking regulations. Those are well established, and I don't have a problem with them. I've paid a number of tickets in the last seven years, but I was in the wrong each time.

No, my problem has come in the last couple of weeks, the time in which I've been compelled to join the silly game I've scoffed at for so long.

You see, for several years now, I have happily parked my car in the lot behind the Moose Lodge and left it there -- sometimes for 12 or 14 hours. No fees, no tickets, no hassles. Free parking all day, every day.

However, since Aug. 18, my precious Moose lot has been unavailable -- occupied instead by a construction crew that is paving it, improving drainage and generally giving us a much better parking area.

Let me again take a moment to say this column is not intended to complain about the construction. As that great philosopher Frank Zappa told us, "Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible."

I'm willing to deviate from the norm for a month or two in the name of a better parking area. (An area with -- I pray to all that's holy -- more room to maneuver a full-size pickup.)

Instead, the big question I come away with is why? Why do people who have worked in downtown Greencastle for years subject themselves to an unsettled day of getting up and down? Why, if your job doesn't regularly carry you away from downtown, wouldn't you just be willing to park a block away and then not have to move your car again until the work day is over?

Maybe it has something to do with working on the third floor, but I find the idea of going in and out of the office as many as four times a day to be disruptive and exhausting. Of course, when there's news to cover, I will happily come and go. But just to move a car? Gimme a break.

Instead, my ideal work day starts with dropping my son off at preschool and a short drive across town, followed by a brief walk of a few hundred feet in which I can clear my head and switch from home mode to work mode.

Likewise, the end of the day involves another brief walk to my car in which I can again switch gears -- from work back to home mode -- and then drive home and enjoy the evening with my family.

It's so much more Zen: Settle down, clear my mind, get ready for the next phase of my day.

Way better than the up-and-down-all-day-beat-GPD-to-the-spot game that is musical cars.

One time in this whole ordeal, I even came perilously close to getting a ticket. It was close enough that I was actually face to face with Darcy Hendershot of the Greencastle Police Department. She smiled and asked why I was even parked on the street, since that is not the norm.

I nodded to the parking lot and said, "Well, my free parking is gone."

We both moved on, understanding each other a little better. I've since been making sure to set an alarm on my phone to remind me to move after two hours. No exceptions. I don't want or need a ticket.

I happily dream of the day that my free parking returns, but it won't all be exactly the same when the lots reopen. At that time it will be free parking in the Moose lot, free parking in the new lot on South Indiana Street north of First Christian Church and free parking (no longer leased) in the city-owned lots next to the Banner Graphic and on Columbia Street. That sounds amazing to me.

The big change, though, will come for all those who've been playing musical cars all these years. Sadly, the game will be discontinued. While two-hour parking will still be enforced, it will be limited to two hours in any space. Want to park for two hours at the courthouse? No problem, but don't then move your car to the other side or even to the next block east on Franklin Street. That, my friend, will be a ticket.

It's a change that I believe should be toasted by downtown business owners tand customers alike. If you're downtown to visit a business or office, be our guest. Take the best spots. We're here to serve.

If you're downtown to do the serving, just remember: The customer should always be king.