Lessons From Parking
You can learn a lot about life from studying how we park our cars. I have had the opportunity in the last few months of working for my charming and resourceful wife, Pat Christofolo, or as I affectionately call her, Princess of the Groves, or simply, the Boss. She owns The Farm at South Mountain.
Our guests at the Farm are discerning and motivated individuals; intelligent and diverse. The kind of humanity it is nice to be around. They are looking for a special experience at a special place. Unfortunately, we don’t have any unique solutions to storing their cars while they are devouring our luxurious sandwiches or our farm fresh eggs.
The Farm has a long lane that runs from the front of the property (32nd Street) almost to back (30th Street). This road that is just wide enough for two slow moving vehicles. We would allow guests to park on the lane as a convenience. When we were busy, it was hard for folks to navigate the lane with traffic trying to go in two directions and one lane filled with parked cars.
One of my first jobs was to try and help our guests traverse the lane without driving on the grass, running over children or dogs, and not banging into each other. I quickly became that grumpy old guy that was yelling at people not to drive on the grass, not to park on the grass, not to drive so fast and not to call him names. I felt this was too dusty, too dangerous and no way to reward folks for having stopped by The Farm to escape the hustle and bustle of the urban life we all share.
I told my Boss that I had a great idea: let’s stop people from parking on the lane. She said, no, and that I was out of my mind. She said we needed the parking and to stop yelling at the guests; she added that, if I had a real idea, she would listen. After some begging and pleading, and like any great businesswoman, she said I could try it for one weekend and any signs or anything else that cost money would be at my own expense. I said it’s a deal.
That first weekend it was hectic: I was directing people not to park in the lane, which made their walks longer. People kept telling me they had been parking that way for years. It was a bit of a battle of wills. I had signs all over helping people figure it out for themselves. Sometimes I thought, I might not win this one.
But then something magical happened. With the cars gone, everyone could see The Farm for the beautiful place that it is. Without a huge row of multi-colored iron blocking the view you could see the kids playing and the dogs enjoying being out. The bustle and hustle of our busiest times disappeared. Whether you were visiting early or came during the rush, it didn’t matter. You could enjoy trees and birds and all the green no matter what time it was.
What did I learn? People can change their habits – it isn’t easy, but people as group can be pretty smart. I learned that sometimes we obscure the beautiful by being too practical. I learned that if you want to work with creative, strong people, you had better be willing to back up your ideas with resources and effort. And, that this was my wife’s idea all along.
We don’t have to change the Southside for it to be beautiful – it already is. Let’s not get too caught up in all the things folks say we need. Maybe we need to be just a little impractical.