Ode to the valet parker
I have an aversion to valet parking. I’m not comfortable with the concept of other people driving my car, and I cringe at the thought of handing my vehicle over to someone whose driver’s license status is questionable at best.
I’ve tried it. I don’t like it.
Some of my friends don’t quite understand my hesitation — especially Jen, who is an avid customer of the little men in red jackets. I maintain that my experiences have forced my mistrust, and I’m convinced that if valet parkers would alter their business practices just a tad, I might reconsider my stance.
If you know a valet parking “technician,” please pass this along . . .
Dear Valet Man:
Please know that I love convenience. I really do. To the extent that I am able, I go out of my way to reduce or eliminate the complicated, unpleasant aspects of my life.
And, really? What could possibly be more inconvenient than having to:
- Competitively hunt for a parking space
- Parallel park in an impossibly small spot (being mindful to leave enough space so that the raggedy hoopty behind me and the urban assault vehicle in front of me – complete with ominous tow hitch – don’t scrape my car upon departure)
- Navigate the often inclement weather of Chicago while trying to avoid killing Divvy rental bikers, who don’t obey the rules of the road
- Locate the parking meter (the closest of which always seems to be 1/4 mile away from my car. Especially when it’s raining or snowing)
- Wait in line, in heels, in the cold to pay for parking, while praying that the suburbanite chick in line ahead of me (who has been toying with the meter for what seems like an eternity) realizes the correct orientation of credit card insertion and knows that one must hit the ‘print receipt’ button in order to complete the transaction
- Fork over $176 for a mere two hours of street parking (because our dear former Mayor Daley sold us up the river, likely for his personal gain. [But I'm not bitter])
- Trek to my destination in cute shoes that are only meant to be worn inside while mingling, for no longer than two hours
- Nervously check my watch every 15 minutes while at social outing, to make sure that I don’t get a $50 ticket on top of having to take out a second mortgage to pay for street parking
- Limp back to the car on stiletto-clad bloody hooves in enough time to avoid getting a ticket issued by a soulless meter reader who is lurking around my car, waiting to issue a ticket the second the clock ticks 9:31
Doesn’t sound like a fun experience, does it? In fact the whole thing rather sucks. Yet I typically opt to deal with the irritating process of parking my own car rather than use your service. It has nothing to do with the cost or the obligation to add gratuity. The recent surge of street parking fees in Chicago has made valet pricing seem inexpensive by comparison.
Although the parking situation is tantamount to Mission Impossible (more like Mission Ridiculous), parking my own car gives me a greater peace of mind than entrusting you. Because I’ve simply had too many bad experiences with your profession.
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions that might make the transaction a little more pleasant:
Be nice to the customer. When I pull up to your station, please don’t beat on my window or open my door before I’m ready to exit. It’s annoying and not a great introduction.
SAFELY park the cars of your customers. Many of us love our cars, and when we valet park we hope that you will treat our cars with care and that you know what you’re doing. Slamming the door, peeling out and violently turning the corner — nearly steamrolling three pedestrians –doesn’t instill confidence. I don’t think to myself: “This man is a professional; he obviously knows what he’s doing.” Instead, it makes me want to run down the street behind you, screaming “Give me back my car, you bad driving freak!” (Fortunately my dignity has saved me many times.)
Realize that I have not LOANED you the car; you are merely PARKING the car. While I understand that some adjustments need to be made for you to drive safely (although I think we’ve established that safety isn’t your concern), please try to return my settings when you return the car. And, let’s refrain from programming your favorite radio stations and altering my carefully chosen temperature settings. In fact, you shouldn’t be in the car long enough to get quite so comfortable. Also? Know that many of us track our gas levels and odometers. You should not have driven 22 miles in my car and burned 1/4 tank of gas while I’m having dinner.
Do not treat my car like a dining room. Granted I’m a little quirky about this, but let me be clear . . . I don’t eat in my car. I don’t allow my best friends to eat in my car. If my boyfriend even thinks about pulling out a Tic Tac in my car, he gets the side-eye. I wouldn’t dream of eating in anyone else’s car, especially when I haven’t been given permission. That said, you can imagine my annoyance and anger when I find evidence that you’ve been eating Flaming Hot chips in my vehicle! Especially when said evidence consists of an obnoxious empty bright red bag carelessly left on the passenger seat, and red sticky stuff on my steering wheel!
Don’t rifle through my things and think I’m not going to notice. I know what’s in my ashtray and glove compartment and I know when things are missing. I will check for those things before I leave for the evening, and I will shamelessly sit there and block the valet station until they are returned. And while you’re at it, stay the hell out of my trunk!
Please don’t park my car in an area where it will get ticketed. If I wanted a ticket I would have parked it my damn self. But if you do happen to screw up and get a ticket, let me know. So that I can make you pay for it before I’m surprised with a boot.
Don’t lose my car. If I give you my claim ticket and you nervously ask me about the color of my car and whether or not it has four doors, it’s painfully evident that you have no clue as to where it might be. And don’t try to appease me by saying that you’ll return in “a few minutes,” when you know damned well that it will be at least a half hour before you remember the location of my car. Which probably has a ticket on it. Because you were too busy eating dinner, checking the glove compartment, adjusting my seat and listening to my radio to make sure that you were safely parking my car in a memorable area.
Know that each and every new scratch will be noticed . . . and discussed. Let’s not play the “it was there when you dropped it off” game. Not only is that game absolutely no fun, it makes the customer feel like you think we’re stupid. I know my car and all of its scratches. Don’t make me hurt you.
I thank you for considering these mild behavior modifications, even though something tells me that I lost you at “Dear Valet Man.” Which is fair, because you lost me at “Flaming Hot.”
The owner of the dark silver four-door sedan that passes you by