Van vs. Parking Structure

Photo Credit: Myrone Delacruz (Creative Commons Flickr)

For an “epic fail” field trip, combine the following:

  • Oregon Symphony Young People’s Concert tickets
  • Driving rain
  • A ticking clock
  • Bumper-to-bumper downtown traffic
  • The twelve-passenger school van
  • Ten middle school boys
  • Me at the wheel
  • And a parking structure

Set to music this could almost be The Twelve Days of Christmas, right? Except that I wasn’t singing. Or even smiling.

The event organizers had arranged on-street parking, but only for school buses. So I was not only late, but I was on my own to park the van. Deep breath. A minor setback–or so I thought.

See, I’d forgotten just how tall a twelve-passenger van is. Who knew that so many downtown parking structures have scary-low height clearances? Was it time to cue the horror movie soundtrack? No need. Remember those ten boys? They provided a boatload of encouragement and sound effects.

Photo Credit: Hiroyuki Hosokawa (Creative Commons Flickr)
Photo Credit: Hiroyuki Hosokawa (Creative Commons Flickr)
No SUV? No kidding. Photo Credit: Cory Doctorow (Creative Commons Flickr)
Photo Credit: Cory Doctorow (Creative Commons Flickr)

No SUV parking? No kidding! I finally found a structure tall enough, and in we went. As you can guess, the spaces were both too short and too narrow. But I was determined to find parking, even if I had to hog several spaces.

“It’s…Inception!” The higher up we went, the lower the concrete ceiling became. I was now truly frightened. Our radio antennae was not only touching, it was bending, scraping. Would we become stuck? Would I wreck the school van? The boys were no help—they were downright gleeful. “It’s Inception!” they screamed.

So I called it. Then and there, like the coward that I am, I made for the exit. The expression on the parking lot attendant’s face said it all–I was lucky to escape unscathed. I texted the teachers in the other van–a normal-sized one, already parked–and high-tailed it back to school. Never mind the rain or the freeway traffic or the three-dollar tickets I’d squandered. I was free.

The guys watched Mr Beethoven Lives Upstairs in my classroom. This was more to their taste than a classical concert anyway. And when I unearthed a stash of candy bars for movie snacks, they were thrilled.

On Tuesday, we will again head downtown. Yes, for this year’s Oregon Symphony Young People’s Concert. Ah, but someone else will be driving. The bus, not the van. Ten sets of parents will not get to hear about a real-life Inception experience, and that suits me just fine…


This article was originally posted at Jane Started It — and even now, four years later, I’m still unnerved by the memory, ha.

5 thoughts on “Van vs. Parking Structure

  1. It’s another classic article repost this week — sorry about that! It’s been kind of crazy.

    On the other hand, on Thursday we went downtown for this year’s concert with students, and it was marvelous.

    And so was the ride — big relief! Our driver knew downtown, paid no attention to the snarled traffic, and even showed us how to “thread the needle” by driving the bus down a narrow street with nary a scratch!


  2. I loved this! Many moons ago, as a student at Lewis & Clark, I piled a bunch of friends into my VW camper van to hang out downtown. We parked in the Galleria parking structure, then all split up to do our own thing, with the plan that I would pick them all up at Pioneer Square.

    I backed out of the parking space later, put the cat in first gear, and drove forward . . . for about 15 feet. The top of the van hit a cross beam and got wedged in. I hadn’t accounted for how the weight of all those college students had lowered the van on the way in!

    I ended up leaving it stuck there, running to get my friends, and pulling them all in so I could drive off. Of course, it ended up being a story for the ages.

    All that to say, you made the right choice to turn back!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know little about girls, save that I am one. Around guys I am definitely more at home — I get them. But yeah, I did not think out the downtown traffic thing. Plus, that rainstorm — drumming rain, not our usual drizzle — brought traffic to a standstill. A 20-minute drive morphed into 60.

      Anyway, it makes a great story now.


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