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Smoked Meat Diaries #5: The Game

Posted by Will / April 21, 2009

20090421-thegame1.jpgIt's fitting that weekly parking bans resume on April Fool's Day. The whole thing is one big practical joke played by the City of Montreal. I guess I've always taken parking around my residence for granted. Alas, such carefree days were gone once I moved to Montreal. The moment I drove into the city limits, I became a competitor in The Parking Game.

Here are the rules of The Parking Game:
1. Every car owner must park his or her car in a designated parking spot.
2. There are fewer parking spots than cars.
3. You owe $50 if you cannot find a parking spot.

Clearly, this is not a zero-sum game. There's only one winner here - the City of Montreal.

We live in a residential area east of downtown, with few off-street parking spots, so if you want to have a car, you'll likely need to park it on the street. An added bonus is that most of each street is reserved for cars with parking passes. Despite the fact that I couldn't justify buying one, those passes don't make you immune to the weekly one-hour parking ban.

One evening I had to drive somewhere for an errand and when I got back, there were no spots to be found. And I mean none. I swear I spent the next 45 minutes driving around the neighbourhood like some creepy stalker. Had I been driving a white van I surely would have been arrested. But I was only looking for a goddamn parking spot. Eventually, I lost it. I began angrily and incoherently babbling to myself in the car:

"Holy biznootch! Can you believe it? Can you BELIEVE IT?! There is not a single parking...FRACKING SNICKHOLDER! Incredible! Am I in an alternative universe where spots don't exist? BAAAAAH! Where's the friggin' green sewer pipe so I can warp back into a world with actual places to park? Where's Mario? Where's the Princess? Damn you Bowser!!" I ended up parking somewhere in Ontario and hoofed it back to our apartment.

20090421-emptyparking1.jpgBut when I do find a parking spot a few feet from my apartment door, it's such a pure moment. There's an absolutely prime spot near my apartment. It's glorious. I once rolled into that spot and a single tear trickled down my cheek. "What's wrong?" asked La Belle Fille. "Oh nothing," I responded, "It's just that life can be so beautiful sometimes." I would do despicable things to get that spot. Despicable things.

The problem is, once I get that spot I never want to move my car. It would take a gun to my head to move my car from that spot. Paradoxically, my love for that spot prevents me from using the car, thus defeating the purpose of owning a car. Compared to other cities in which I've lived, there's actually little use for owning a car in Montreal. It has certainly come in handy for travelling outside of the city, but it's more of a convenience than anything. That said, there have been times when it would have been very convenient to use the car during the week but I've argued that if we take the car, we jeopardize our position in The Spot.

And then La Belle Fille will say something like, "But Will, I'm losing a lot of blood here. I think I severed my carotid artery. We really need to get to the hospital!"

And I'll think, "Hmmm, how long would it take to walk?"

Of course, all good things must come to an end; the weekly parking ban ensures it. Every Monday on my street, there is a parking ban from 9:30 - 10:30am. Ostensibly, during this hour the streets are cleaned. In reality, the chances of seeing a street cleaner on our street during that window of time is about as likely as seeing a dodo bird and unicorn filming a porno in front of our apartment. However, the chances of seeing a meter maid come by to dole out parking tickets during that time is about 110%. The city is great at fining people for not following parking signs; it's just not so great at using that revenue to follow through on the infrastructural purpose of those signs. Only Alanis Morrisette could sift through the multiple layers of irony.

This one-hour parking ban means that everyone who normally parks on my street must find parking on adjacent streets on Monday morning. It's a simple numbers game that can be expressed by the following formula:

X - Y = Z

X = The number of parking spots remaining on surrounding streets (typically zero)
Y = The number of cars from my street that need to be parked elsewhere on Monday
Let Y always be > than X
Z= dude, you're totally pooched

20090421-sign1.jpgAnd that's what makes The Parking Game such a miserable endeavour. We're given 4 months respite over winter when finding a parking spot that's not a black hole of deep snow is hard enough. But The Parking Game can be psychologically scarring. I've woken up at the break of dawn and yelled, "Is it Monday morning? Do I have to move my car?" Usually, it's Wednesday, and I go back to sleep after breathing into a paper bag for a few minutes. But if it is indeed Monday morning, I throw on some clothes, creep out of the apartment and get in my car to join the masses who also forgot to move their car the night before. Like a bunch of lost souls we roam around the neighbourhood, aimlessly searching for parking spots that don't exist. There's one! No, that's a back lane. There's one! No, it's in front of a fire hydrant. There's one! No, you'd need half a Smart Car to fit into that one. Blech.

Eventually, we all find spots. Somehow. Somewhere. And I really shouldn't complain too much; a car, after all, is a luxury. There are worse things than trying to find a parking spot. I suppose I should find the positives of the situation. But is there any way to find serenity when facing a long walk back from my eventual parking spot a dozen blocks away from my apartment? Well, I get to listen to a delightful melody of my choosing on my iPod and relish the crisp air of a spring morning in Montreal. I guess life ain't so bad.

Relevant song: Morning Moon by The Tragically Hip
I'm not making strange, you said someone's paying/ When something's too cheap, somebody's paying something/ You said, someone's paying something/ Under a morning moon.

Photos by Tyler Greenleaf of Villatype, MP Flickr pooler querencia, and the author himself.



Margot / June 4, 2009 at 01:50 pm
Comments on this post in an earlier incarnation:

My boyfriend lives in Ottawa, and I moved to the McGill Ghetto last summer. We share a car and shuffle between provinces on weekends and holidays.
Needless to say, I've spent many a morning wandering the streets in my Sunfire... eyes half open and hung over (my no-parking hour is on Fridays...) screaming "I just want to sleep! WHY!!!?!?"
I think it's just another one of those Montreal quirks that everyone loves to complain about, but then brag about to people from other provinces - like they're all a bunch of wimps. Similar to "You-Call-That-a-Pot-hole?!" syndrome.
It makes you tougher. It makes you awesome. It makes you a Montrealer.
I'm still looking for that little green pipe... *sigh*
Posted by: Hadleigh at April 21, 2009 10:23 PM

Oh how cathartic it is to rant at our fair city's incompetence.
I moved to the Plateau this past September and too fell victim to the parking game. This was precursored by the "lets decipher the contradictory parking signs" game. I got a permit thinking I was in the clear. I should have known better.
Now I boast an enviable stack of six unpaid parking tickets, gathered in the back of my desk drawer. As an American I feel like I may get away with duping the system... at least, until my car is stopped at the border and I'm not allowed in the country.
One glorious event you do fail to mention: towing. Three times now the presence of more than six inches of snow has led to the mysterious absence of my car. I emerge into the street, bundled up against the cold, only to notice a void where my car was formerly parked. Although the first instance of this caused me panic, the second two brought me me nothing but annoyance. Apparently the city is allowed to move your car to any location it wishes in order to avoid (or preemptively avoid) plowing it in. After calling the where-the-hell-is-my-car hotline, I have trekked thirty minutes to little known locations, shovel in hand, to deal with these messes.
Thanks Montreal, good day to you too.
Posted by: Maya at April 22, 2009 8:50 PM

Yeah, I didn't mention towing because here's the thing - I didn't want to brag or anything but despite my complaints about The Game, I'm a bit of an all-star (Rookie Plateau Parker of the Year, 2008-2009). I'm hoping to continue my non-tow streak throughout my sophomore season.
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