Just park it, baby!

It’s a nice church. It’s one of the nicest in Springfield. When you enter the lobby you’re greeted with soft background music of praise hymns and there’s a gently flowing fountain. To your right is table offering complimentary coffee and tea, and the place just spangles with spiffiness. But this feeling of warmth doesn’t extend to the parking lot. I kid you not, there’s a sign that reserves a special parking place for “First and second time guests.” That’s it. Visit us once and you’re welcome, the second time you’re still wanted but we’re keeping track, and from then on you can find your own doggoned parking place, Bubba. Hilarious. I’ve not attended an actual service there, but I wonder if first and second time visitors are graciously advised to not bother donating to the offering plate but third-timers are required to hand over their mortgage.

Jacksonville is known for many wonderful things, but plentiful parking is not on any list that names us as All American City. That’s not always a bad thing, I suppose. The wonderful rebirth of our downtown square has caused an influx of traffic with often no place to park your car. When the restaurants on the west and south sides are busy we complain that there’s no room bivouac your buggy over there, then when a movie and a play are holding forth on the east side we gripe because we must park across the square and walk, and when the Lincoln Land students are in session the red flags of irritation start waving about parking on the south side. All of which fails to take into account that the people who own these cars are also buying meals, necklaces, jewelry, quilts and Cokes downtown. Whenever someone complains that they had to park at Hamilton’s to shop on the square, I wish I had a picture of our former square to show them. I guess I could download a photo of Death Valley as a substitute.

Things are not much more plentiful on the west end of Morton at the big box stores. Yes, I’m a fan of the Americans with Disabilities Act and I wholeheartedly support anything we can do to make things more convenient for those around us who need help. But … I have laughed out loud when parking in a lot with the first section reserved for handicapped parking, the second group of stalls for senior citizens, then a third tier marked, “Reserved Parking for Parents with Children.” This means that uncles and aunts taking Jr. out shopping are just out of luck. Or perhaps they could take a cue from that church in Springfield: “This space reserved for first and second time parents.” Bottom line: if you’re a bachelor, hoof it, baby.

There was a joke going around Illinois College a few years ago that they were finally going to open up some territory to parking. The new place was called “Murrayville.” The local wags talked of initiating a shuttle service between the hilltop campus and our neighboring village to the south. More than one well-attended concert in Rammelkamp Chapel has started ten minutes late as the frantic concertgoers rushed down the street from where they’d parked at ISD. I was once scheduled to give a speech at IC and could find no parking spaces other than those marked, “Blue Sticker Parking Only.” I had a copy of the Journal Courier in my Honda, found a used car ad with a blue background, tore it into a neat little square, slapped it under my windshield wiper and parked the car. When I came out two hours later I found that the local security force found my little blob of blue less than convincing and they’d replaced it with a parking ticket. I sent the ticket to the college president and that was the last I heard of the matter. Bottom line: you can get out of tickets at IC but you have to give a speech.

My traveling caravan of Lincoln Land actors were pulling into a Jacksonville elementary school’s parking lot when the girl in the seat beside me said, “Oh no! Stop!” She was looking at a sign that said, “Drop Off Lane,” and thought we were about to hurdle over a precipice.

I suppose that when you find a place of business or institution with plentiful parking that means that they don’t have many customers so perhaps we should always be blessed with such a problem. And in its defense, that church in Springfield had really great coffee.

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