Florida State University: one of the few universities that allow freshmen to bring their cars on campus their first year. Therefore, Eugene, my 2010 Ford Escape, in all his wheezing glory came with me to school. By the time October rolled around I had a pretty clear hierarchy of parking garages on campus. Traditions garage, located in the center of the university only had overnight parking if you had luck. St. Augustine garage sits on the edge of campus but is the preferred garage for residents of Broward Hall (where I lived my freshman year). Then there’s Call Street garage, the farthest from my residence hall and the last resort for me as far as parking.
Of course, none of this matters on game day at FSU.
Parking becomes a free for all, with everyone fighting for the spots not allotted for boosters (the people who donate money to your college sports programs) – at least, from the perspective of a freshman with a terrible sense of direction, this reigned true.
Like most Fridays before game day, I woke up by a text from my mother. “Make sure you move your car,” the text read. Like any freshman who’d gotten a taste of freedom at college, this text questioned my capabilities as an adult. “I know mom, I’ve been doing this for two months,” I responded.
Hours later I realized how rude of a text I sent my mom, who only wanted to make sure I didn’t have to pay for a ticket (which I’d already done twice before), but dang it, for once I already acted responsibly. The night before I parked Eugene in the appropriate garage, and I felt vindicated in my response to her.
It just so happened that particular Friday had events on campus.
Rocky Horror Picture Show screened at our movie theater on campus every Halloween season, and my friend group loved it so much they go every year. We all had our outfits planned out and wanted to meet at a friend’s house off campus to get ready. As one of the few campus freshmen with a car, my friends asked me to drive. Not a problem, I thought. I’ll drive, bring all of my campus friends and we’ll find a parking spot when we get back. Simple.
When we got to campus, parking proved more difficult than I anticipated. Cars prowled all across campus, searching for that golden spot. Our senior friend immediately directed me towards a faculty lot opened after hours, which had a surprising number of spots open given all of the campus events. We found a spot and cheered, because we’d searched for spots for a half an hour. I asked the senior, “This parking lot is good for overnight parking, right?” I knew the football parking rules started at midnight, and given that Rocky Horror also started at midnight, I knew parking Eugene in a lot not designated for overnight parking meant he might get towed.
After my friend assured me Eugene would be fine, we left for the movie.
Once the movie ended, we were all giddy but tired, like most people at 2 a.m. We laughed and joked on our way back to Eugene, ready for the round of drop-offs before the night ended. As we rounded the corner to the parking lot, we could clearly see a completely empty parking lot.
Now, I’ll tell you, when your car gets towed, four thoughts pop into your head. 1) We went to the wrong parking lot; 2) No, we made it to the right lot; 3) My car got towed. Then after you freak out about your missing car and the potential costs of getting your car back: 4) How do I even find out who took my car?
Thankfully, the answer to my fourth question took only four minutes to answer. A man stood near the front of the lot handing out business cards with the address and phone number of the towing company, who informed me I needed about $120 to get poor Eugene back.
I wish I could say after a lot of tears, $120 and an early, painfully quiet car ride with a friend, that once I got my car back, I started parking Eugene in the appropriate spots. But after this, I got three parking tickets for parking Eugene incorrectly. Instead, this story became the story my parents told our family at holiday parties, and who can beat that?