Pulling my car beside the entrance to the Traditions garage, I look up to see my worst fear manifested in two letters displayed in tiny red lights: “Garage Full.” My heart falls faster than it did the first time I rode at Six Flags. I thrust my hand towards the radio and turn it off, quickly replacing “Shake It Off” with the chaotic sounds of squealing wheels and honking horns.
My phone reads 1:55 p.m. I have less than 20 minutes to park and prepare for a quiz in my short story class. Maybe slightly more if the professor called roll first. I open the FSU Tranz application, other wise known as the app of lies; showing that Traditions should only be half full. A friend of mine told me that he relied heavily on using FSU Tranz for finding parking, but it failed me big today.
Everyone had cheered at orientation when we heard we wouldn’t have to pay for parking. They left out that we’d have to fight for it Hunger Games-style.
This was my second year at FSU, and I had just moved from Salley Hall into a house off of Jackson Bluff Road. As unfamiliar with the rigors of the daily commute as I was with the plot line of Gossip Girl, I’d assumed 35 minutes was plenty of time to get from my house into a parking space, especially if I used my trusty FSU Tranz app beforehand. And I knew I needed plenty of time.
I’d heard stories about how the FSU Transportation & Parking services personnel could be more like evil ice cream truck drivers when it came to handing out tickets. A friend of mine amassed a final total of $210 worth of parking tickets by the end of the previous semester by using staff parking spaces, tow away zones—really anywhere that would fit his Honda Civic in a rush. I silently judged him like my mom does when I tell her stories about “my friend’s” binge drinking habits. As a human being and not an animal, I would rather be a little late to class than be fined.
Maneuvering my little Toyota Corolla up the levels of the Traditions garage, I realize that the battle for parking here is complete anarchy. Although the actual line of traffic is crawling very slowly past the rows of parked cars, the tension in the air made it feel more like a scene from Mad Max. Many students are cutthroats, sitting in fire lanes and handicap spaces and speeding into a spot just after a car backed out. Other students were blockers; speeding up suddenly only to slam to a complete stop, turn on their hazard lights and wait for someone to back out of a spot.
The deep chugging of a pickup truck’s engine rattles the frame of my little sedan until suddenly, it zooms past the line of cars using the opposite lane. Is this a parking garage or a monster truck show?
The sun is blinding as I drive around the top level of Traditions. Among all of the taken spots, I see a small space across from an abandoned Jeep Liberty in front of a “DO NOT PARK” sign. It’s 2:09 p.m. I realize the only way I could make it to class in time for my quiz would be if I left my car in that spot and ran like a less handsome Hermes. Which is just what I did.
The professor’s lecture following the quiz seemed to drag on longer than Donald Trump’s ramblings during the Republican debate. Instead of focusing on the material, I focused on my restless legs and the nerve-induced mirage of my car being towed away by a maniacally gleeful TP personnel officer. Bolting out of the classroom, I slam open all of the doors leading out of Bellamy and race to my beloved, crappy car.
Stepping onto the top level of Traditions, I see that my little Corolla remains parked in front of the sign. I tear the driver’s side door open and collapse into the seat to see perfectly, out of the corner of my eye, a small slip of paper sticking out of one of my windshield wipers. I snatch the piece of paper from the wiper and gaze down at the words, “Violation: Improper Parking.”
I can feel some inner Hulk-sized animal within me growl along with the start of my engine. As I descend Traditions, I feel that animal roar at the garage, at the parking administration, at the students and at every single car that didn’t have a small slip of paper with the words “Fine: $30” sticking out of one of its windshield wipers.
And so my $150 fine journey began.