There's only one thing worse than driving in Houston, and it's parking in Houston. It's bad enough that we have to weave our way through a million cars every day, but then we have to locate a place to park and hope it isn't ten blocks away from our destination when it's raining. We also don't have the strongest parallel parkers in the world here, which is why so many spaces in downtown have been converted to slant.
But there are numerous parking hazards around town that have little to do with our own driving problems or with getting lost in a massive parking lot à la Seinfeld. Our issues could get you towed or worse.
9. Figuring out the token system at some parking garages. In some garages around town, particularly in the Medical Center, there is a bizarre token system like going to a video arcade in the '80s after they discovered change machines and video games made more money if they exchanged your dollars for tokens instead of quarters. Don't lose them or you are screwed...or will pay a lot more to get your car out of a garage.
8. Downtown homeless people who will "protect" your car for a price. I feel for people living on the street. It's an awful problem. But the very suggestion by one of them that he will help watch over my car if I give him a little something hints that he might not do so if I don't. It's creepy, intimidating and probably illegal.
7. Parking ticket machines. Tokens are bad, but knowing when you need to bring your parking ticket into a building to pay is even worse. There is nothing more humiliating than getting to the parking attendant and finding out you should have paid for your parking back where you started. Now, there's a line of pissed-off people behind you who knew the drill.
6. Broken meters. You found it, the very best parking spot of your entire life. It's right outside the building! It's metered, but still, it's beautiful. Then you get up to the meter and it doesn't work. Maybe the machine works, but the Internet connection that will charge your credit card in the fancy solar-powered downtown meters is down. Don't be tempted to just park anyway. That could be the most expensive parking spot of your life. 5. Parking garages that aren't quite full. At the airport, you might be tempted to enter that level that says there are ten spaces available. Don't do it. Finding one of those ten spaces is like trying to escape the Labyrinth of Crete. You'll probably just be killed by a minotaur trying. If a lot seems full, it probably is. Just move along.
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4. Potholes Yes, they exist even in parking spaces. Entire lots can look like Swiss cheese, and God help you if you have to regularly go to little league or high school sporting events. Check your car's warranty to make sure the suspension is covered.
3. Crazy drivers. Never assume that guy WAY back down the street in your rear-view mirror is too far away to be a threat. Also, don't assume he is sane. If you're lucky, you'll only lose your car door like Jackie Gleason in Smokey and the Bandit. Best not to tempt fate, or the lunatic driver coming up behind you.
2. Barely visible no-parking signs. This particularly applies to neighborhoods like Montrose where it seems residents purposefully allow their shrubbery to grow so thick that it obscures every sign, including the one that says "Tow Away Zone."
1. Valet parking. Nothing seems to piss off Houston drivers more than valet parking. At times it is a necessity, but there's nothing worse than an entire lot filled with empty spaces all blocked by cones. Valet should never be forced unless it is absolutely necessary, and parking spaces shouldn't be blocked off so that valets can park close. These guys are in shape. They can run down the block to fetch a car if need be.