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Let Inga Tell You: A solution to La Jolla’s parking problem for the techno-challenged

Inga would have no clue how to park in this lot.
(Inga)

There have long been allegations that there are plenty of parking structure and other off-street spaces in downtown La Jolla if the local denizens weren’t too cheap to pay for them. Well, OK, we are too cheap to pay for them, but that’s the least of it.

If the pandemic has shown us nothing else, it’s that expecting the senectitude set to navigate baffling vaccine appointment sites and access menus from Rorschach inkblots taped to restaurant tables is, for many of us, a non-starter. Ditto parking in garages and lots that require downloading an app.

Subterranean parking structures are dark, sky-challenged and creepy, and the stalls are really tight, even for people like me who own a compact car. The only spots will be at the very bottom. Level P4 will be reminiscent of descending into the Fourth Circle of Hell, an image eerily reinforced by the fact that was one is indeed circling ever downward.

They are populated with large pillars strategically designed to be backed into. Black SUVS will be parked on either side of you in spaces marked “small cars.” There is rarely (never?) angled parking. The dim light doesn’t help us oldies, whose depth perception isn’t what it used to be, to try to inch out of a space keeping track of both sides of the car and that pillar behind you. My last foray into a parking structure ended with my bumper having an encounter of the paint-removing kind.

Another major problem with parking structures is that they involve machines. If you have trouble operating your cellphone, ticket machines are likely going to present a problem for you, and not just because even to get into the lot, you have to get out of your car to get the ticket, which was maliciously placed 1.5 inches from your farthest reach. (Do arms get shorter with age?)

But the really scary part is that on your way out, after you have finally located your car and fought your way back to planet Earth from the bowels of P4, you have to deal with that machine again. It wants money. And unlike the old days, there is no human in a booth to take it from you and wish you a nice day. There is always one techno-disabled idiot who cannot figure out how to use the machine and holds up the whole line. I know this for a fact because I am that idiot. I hate lip-reading people disparaging my mother in my rear-view mirror. It makes me sad.

I make every effort to shop locally, as I truly want La Jolla’s longtime emporia to stay in business. And just to be clear, I don’t expect to park out front. I’m willing to walk five blocks. The exercise is good for me. But if my parking place involves technology in any form, I’m not parking there. I’m ordering it from Amazon.

But alas, even the street-level paid lots are fraught with obstacles for the techno-impaired. It’s one thing to have to shoehorn money into a teeny slot that corresponds with your stall number. But those have mostly disappeared and been replaced with requirements that one text a number or download an app. Seriously? You lost me at “app.” And probably at “text,” too.

And now some of the lots confront you with those same nasty inkblot things that afflict restaurant tables. (My husband says they are called “3-D bar codes.”)

The clincher is that after you do all that texting and apping, they’re charging a flat fee of $10! Hey, I just wanted to pick up some drain cleaner at Meanley hardware!

All those intimidating paid lots just take so much time! And stress! And make you feel stupid! And require your bumper to be repainted! So if you could park in a nice, free angled street spot in visible daylight instead of somewhere approaching Middle Earth, which would you pick?

I’m going to make a suggestion that I haven’t thus far seen, and I’m hoping the good folks on the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board will consider it. It won’t make us oldies park in subterranean parking garages, but we might be persuaded to park in those icky app lots if we could just buy a yearly parking pass, sort of like a handicapped placard, that allows us to park in any street-level lot. I could pop into that $10 fixed-rate lot across from Meanley’s, grab my drain cleaner and be gone five minutes later.

To qualify for this pass, you’d have to be 65 or older and have a signed affidavit from your kids that you are certifiably, untrainably techno-challenged despite heroic efforts on their part over the past decade to put you on the road to modern living.

I’d buy one in a heartbeat. As long as I could write a check to pay for it.

Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in the La Jolla Light. Reach her at inga47@san.rr.com. ◆