Nestled between the University of Virginia and a row of bars, is a triangular-shaped parking lot in Charlottesville. It’s worked by transitory philosophers and dreamers. The parking lot attendants endure a constant class war against those who park their giant SUVs, yet are indignant about paying 75 cents for it. This is their story.
At first glance, a documentary about parking lot attendants would seem at best kitsch. You may have even thought that parking lot attendants may be stupid or lazy. The job is described as a “sweet gig” by its employees. It’s hours upon hours of boredom punctuated with brief periods of madness. It’s the madness part that is the most frustrating, the sense of entitlement and the lack of basic social etiquette by customers to attendants.
All documentaries intend to educate but not all entertain. Director Meghan Eckman’s The Parking Lot Movie does both and gives us a good laugh too. It sounds like the Corner Parking Lot is quite infamous in Charlottesville. When she heard about the place from a friend and attendant, she showed up the next day with a video camera. She saw that she had something exceptional. It’s still incredibly brave, I can’t even imagine asking for financing.
In part this is a commentary on Americans and their love of their car, but it’s really about the attendants and their fascinating take on the world. The best thing about this documentary is their quotes.
The booth is barebones, the kind of booth Jesus would have collected parking lot fees from.
We were certainly capable of great things, but none of us would ever achieve it. We were too damn arrogant, too damn hard headed.
“In the parking lot we were dynamos. Whirlwinds. We were rulers. We had it all in a world that had nothing to offer us.” -Scott Meiggs, Parking Lot Attendant
It’s hard to get a job at the Parking Lot. You need to know someone.
Once that gate goes up and a car comes in, people apparently enter a no man’s land, a place where civil order no longer applies.
“That’s what that job does to you. It makes you think that the fucking gate being broken is important – that it’s worth getting into a fight – that it’s worth getting into an altercation because someone broke a piece of plywood.” Gray Morris, Parking Lot Attendant 2006-2008
“I did not overcharge people to get more money. I overcharged people because they were dicks and deserved it. Vengeance is mine.” John Beers, Parking Lot Attendant 1986-1990
Customer: Uhh, you gotta pay?
Attendant: Yeah you do.
Customer: What’s that about?
Attendent: I could explain the entire system of capitalism to you but you’re subhuman, and there’s a line of cars. It’s 75 cents.
Tyler Magill, Parking Lot Attendant 2000-2003
Did we play God at the parking lot? And while none of us could, I guess we did. I guess we did play God. Scott Meiggs, Parking Lot Attendant