Need Parking Karma? Give Your Spot to Someone Else


I was driving down Fillmore the other day getting close to my destination for a meeting. Time was of the essence as, par for the course, I was running late.  I was simultaneously employing each of the 1001 strategies that I've written about, including asking the parking gods if I could cash in some of my good karma points for a spot right now.  And not shockingly, they delivered–one block away from my destination. I slowed down, pulled past it, and began to back into it, when suddenly, out of nowhere a man jumped and landed into the middle of the spot like a caped crusader who had just repelled down the bat-rope.
He was waving his arms frantically and yelling at me to stop.  I did, and then got out of my car, half expecting to make restitution for whatever it was of his that I just ran over.  I asked him what was going on.
He said, "This spot is saved."
"Saved?" I asked with eyebrows raised, as there clearly was nothing official marking the spot that indicated to me that a permit had been paid for to reserve it.
"Yes, I'm saving it for my friend who will be here soon."
"This isn't like saving a seat for a friend at the movies."
"Sorry, it's saved."
What an interesting situation.
Had he put money in the meter, then this space actually would have legally been his, as there is an obscure rule, only in San Francisco, under a government "open space" act that allows parking spaces to be used for things other than parking.  I kid you not.  You can pay for your two hours at a meter in the middle of the Financial District at high noon, roll out some Astroturf and a lounge chair and lay out in the sun sipping a margarita out of a brown paper bag, and you will be perfectly legal.  But I doubted that he knew about this law.
I applauded his dedication to the friendship and the kindness that he was exhibiting for his friend.  However, unless his friend showed up in the next 30 seconds, I was going to take the space, assuring him that one would open up for his friend.
He was clearly not happy about my announcement.  So, I offered what I thought was a fair solution.  Let's flip a coin.  He smiled and agreed.  I picked heads, and it was...heads (another good reason to keep a two-headed coin in your back pocket), and I won.  But, just to see him smile, and to be willing to accept a peaceful and friendly solution to a conflict of immediate needs and desires, made me feel good, and I told him to keep the spot, and that I'll find another one even though I was pressed for time.  Maybe his friend was sick, or was from out of town, or had to pee really badly, who knows?
There is a statue behind the Ferry Building of Gandhi, and under it are a few quotes. One of which says, "The most powerful act that we as humans have at our disposal is the act of non-violence. It is always immediately available, and if employed, could instantly change the world." I think he's right. There were two people killed in San Francisco in the last few years over a parking spot, and more across the country, and there are countless acts of aggression over parking every day. My situation would not likely have ended in a double homicide, but for it to result in such an unexpected and friendly way truly did make both of our days a little brighter.
I got back in my car, and, as serendipity (and good parking karma) often and sometimes instantly provide, another spot opened up for me, right in front.

For 1001 tips on how to consciously find a parking place in SF, click here

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