Park and Cry
Long Term: "Closed"
Overflow: "Closed" (Okay, so Overflow is never open, but it still freaked me out.)
This was the Thanksgiving greeting I received when I drove to BWI last Thursday at noon, looking for a cozy spot for my car. I felt fairly confident that with nearly 30,000 spots at the airport, I could find one little slot to insert my car. To be sure, Daily was open, but it costs $10 a day, two bucks more than Long Term. Not a fortune, but those $2 bills can add up to, er, the price of socks or 1/16th a tank of gas.
Fortunately, I had a backup plan. Not a great one--which is why I was looking for airport parking--but a plan. In my wisdom, I had reserved a spot at Econopark Express, a private lot near the terminals. I was told the Monday before the holiday (I was there twice in one week, lucky me) that they were solidly booked. But I had reserved weeks before, so I was a persona grata.
However, I had heard from friends, and even a shuttle driver, that over the holidays the lot becomes worse than the mall on Black Friday. Cars are lined up hubcap-to-hubcap, leaving little room to manuever or even open a door.
When I arrived on Turkey Day, after passing those dastardly "Closed" signs, Econopark was a cauldron of activity. Employees were directing a stream of customers to park on a roadside strip of grass or a patch of asphalt outside the gates. I was pointed to the latter area, where I was soon boxed in. I handed over my key, took the blue ticket and waved goodbye to my car for the weekend--or forever?
I returned Sunday at midnight, unsure of what to expect. Would my car be tucked into a spot or still parked willy-nilly outside the gates? Would my key be at the ready or would we have to rouse workers at home and ask them to check pant and coat pockets?
Pockets were not turned inside out, but they did have difficulties tracking down my key. To give them some time, the driver and I dropped the other passenger off at her car, then went searching for my vehicle. Apparently, he had moved it inside the lot (good) at 4 that morning (bad). He had left the car unlocked (terrible) and, as I waited on the shuttle, he checked my car to make sure the key was not inside (OMG!). It was not there, so we returned to the front booth and looked through the board of tangled keys ourselves. Mine was on the second row from the bottom. I almost kissed it.
So, what did I learn from this experience? The definition of "parking spot" is loose. Yes, Econopark did provide me with a parking place on an insanely busy weekend, yet it did not seem like a very secure one. Perhaps I should have followed the Daily sign and paid the extra cash for some protection.
Of course, what matters is the outcome: I made it home safely, at 1:30 a.m., in my own vehicle, with all four windows, plus the radio and the pack of gum I had left in the glove box. On the drive home, however, I did have some free time to mull over Christmas. I am thinking that if I have to fly, I will take the bus or train to the airport. Or maybe I will just stay home and enjoy a quiet day with my car.
Any airport parking woes you wish to share, or vent?
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