Post continued from my last post.
But first, an interesting remark: I said “BRB, homework”, and it took a week. That’s not unusual, for MIT; running into consecutive deadline after deadline until you don’t know what happened to your week. Fortunately, it’s not most weeks of the term that you have such an experience; if you plan your schedule right, those weeks are far enough apart that it’s worth it.
So, now, a post about keeping a car in the city.
I love to drive; I’ve for a long time been very comfortable behind the wheel, and I relax most when I’m listening to the radio and driving (in a still-fully-attentive sorta way). I’ve grown up on the stations in MA; my presets are ordered such that 104.1 is between 93.7 and 100.7. If that makes no sense, you haven’t been living in MA quite long enough :)
I’ve had my share of driving mishaps, but nothing too egregious; before coming to MIT, I had one ticket to my name and one towing. It was little enough that I decided I would try to bring my car here and keep it in the city. However, MIT parking is prohibitively expensive, with good reason: space is limited in the city, and MIT’s priority is to provide spaces for commuting faculty. It’s not in their best interests to have students driving from East Campus to LaVerdes, after all; however, in the cold of winter, or the near-flash floods of September, some students such as myself like to be able to run errands in moderate comfort. Plus, it’s nice to only go grocery shopping once every other week rather than twice a week, because a car lets me carry back far too many gallons of orange juice.
That’s not all I keep the car around for; having moved twice this summer (!!), it’s almost a necessity to be able to drive to and from my house on my own schedule. And when a friend suggests a trip to Maker Faire NYC, it’s more fun to split the cost of gas than it is to pay to sit for four hours on a bus (more on that to come). I’ve also been known to make many a 5am trip to a local IHOP (about which I suspect one certain commenter will have something to say (cough cough Amy)). Instead of paying for MIT parking, though, I keep my car on the street.
It’s a bit of a dance, avoiding parking tickets; knowing what days they do street sweeping, knowing which spots will be free at which hours, and knowing where to park your car between safe periods. Most of the time, I can make it work out, but I think it requires a certain lifestyle that not everybody is willing to have.
Sometimes, I can’t. I was originally planning on finishing this post on Wednesday. Between a work deadline and the start of my next assignment, however, something came up.
I was heading to my car to drive to the mall when, thirty feet away, I see a different car parked in the spot. Immediately I stopped and turned around, $140 lighter.
Things I should put on my calendar: street sweeping.
It wasn’t all bad, however; I got to hop on my shiny new bicycle (thanks, Microsoft! For paying for near half of it, anyway) and ride into Allston to pick up my vehicle, cash in hand. Since I’d been itching to get in some time on the new bike before the cold really sets in, I was moderately grateful; on top of that, I found a voucher for $50 in my rain coat pocket that I’d lost seven months ago! It reminded me a little bit of the episode of Seinfeld in which Jerry discovers he always breaks even, minus $90 from my savings account. Oh well. I paid the $115 for my car, put my bike in the back (another reason I love my ’98 Ford Explorer), and drove home (MIT, that is; home would’ve been 10 minutes further in a different direction).
By the way, the other $25 of the $140? That comes from one of the greatest scams in the area: DCR parking tickets. If you get a parking ticket from the Department of Conservation and Recreation, you’d better hope you can find a checkbook; if not, you’re screwed. Although most parking tickets in Cambridge are handled by the city and can be paid over the phone or online with a credit card, parking tickets on Memorial Drive are handled by the *state*. If you get towed on a state road, then after you pay for your car you get that wonderful Christmas-morning feeling when you see the parking ticket on your windshield in the tow lot. The state must still be programming their systems with punchcards, too, because not only do you have to pay this ticket in cash — if you don’t have a checkbook, that is, or can’t find it — you have to pay it in person, at an office with very little parking nearby before 4PM on a weekday. This means you have to somehow get over there on foot, before 4PM — as if you don’t have classes with mandatory attendance, or as if you don’t have a job — with exact change. If you’ve been busy for the last 3 weeks, and it’s been more than the 21 days you’re given to pay your ticket? No big deal, there’s just a late fee. Want to know how much it is? Better consult your Ouija board. Your only hope is to call the office and get the exact number from them, but whenever I try it that seems tough to do — two days in one week I was told that the only person who could help me was either out for the day or had left early (at noon!). What’s that? You’ll just bring extra cash? Oh, they don’t make change.
*edit: it might be 5PM, actually. I forget. They don’t even list the open hours online; you have to call to find out. Whatever.
Grumble, grumble, grumble. So maybe that rant was a little over-the-top; try asking me about it again when I don’t have to try to make it over to the middle of Boston between German (12-1PM) and math (3-4PM) on one of two busy weekdays. My answer will probably be a little more reasonable.
Anyway, it’s frustrating to keep a car in the city. I feel that I’m pretty good about it, driving several times a week and keeping close track of street sweeping and other such emergencies. I get towed about twice a year, and maybe earn myself one or two parking tickets on top of that. It still comes out to a heck of a lot less than the MIT parking charges, though (with much less reliability, timeslot availability, peace of mind, etc etc etc), but it’s a luxury I still decide is worth it to me, and one I’m still willing to pay for. However, for those of you thinking about bringing a car into the city, think carefully about it.
(I just secretly want all the street parking for myself).
By the way, the title? When, a number of years ago, my family bought the car that I currently own, my mom gave it the name “Lucy”.
Grumbly Old Man Cam