13 February 2011

The Parking Lot Movie

I was hanging out with my friends Kat and Aaron and we were going through Kat's Netflix Instant queue looking for something to watch.  Kat suggested "The Parking Lot Movie", it had good reviews - I had never heard of this but, sure, I'll watch it.

Essentially, The Parking Lot Movie is exactly that: a documentary about a parking lot.  Filmmaker Meghan Eckman chronicles the activities of the parking attendants at The Corner Parking Lot in Charlottesville, Virginia - right across the street from UVa and tucked in behind a row of bars.  I was prepared for this movie to be a little boring....I was wrong.  So wrong.

The Parking Lot Movie is a wonderful, frustrating, hilarious, sobering 70 minutes with very educated people who work what seems like a very menial/dead-end job.  The parking attendants are philosophers, musicians, artists, anthropologists, and historians - some students, some not - who stand outside in a little ramshackle hut in all sorts of weather collecting hourly parking fees.  And they don't always collect fees from very nice people.  There's a great quote from the movie website - "Fortunately in this establishment the normally agreed upon rules of customer service don’t exist. Disrespect the staff and face the consequences."

These guys are routinely abused by luxury vehicle drivers over assessed fees as little as 40 cents.  There are Greek community members who drive off causing the parking attendants to chase after them and demand to be paid. Drunken idiots will routinely break the entrance gate.  Drivers seem to think that they shouldn't have to pay to park their vehicle, that they don't have to be polite to the guy collecting the money.

I've never worked a job like that (the lot owner said that you really couldn't be too type-A and work there, I agree) but I can say I've never been a jerk to people who work like these guys (I did once get into it with a meter maid who was standing there waiting for my meter to expire and wrote a parking ticket after I got into my car - I also called her supervisor; I won).  This movie is a great documentary that illustrates the serious problem we have in this country with showing basic decency to others.  I'm thinking about buying the DVD when it comes out because I think Meghan Eckman has a great eye; she was able to looking beyond the job to see the people behind it. 

So go watch The Parking Lot Movie - it's available on Netflix Instant and will be out on DVD March 15.

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