Monday, February 23, 2009

Welcom to Cambridge Mass-hope you weren't planning on parking

I went to Boston this past weekend with my family because my boys were putting on a concert with some Boston kids. The concert was actually in Cambridge, and thank goodness, during the daytime, because if I'd had to drive into there in the evening, we might have tossed the kids from the car and come back 3 hours later when they were done playing. What is up with this place and parking? It's not like I'm not used to city driving-hello-I'm from Philadelphia. I've been to New York City and Washington DC. Those places at least have some semblance of sanity in their traffic patterns and parking facilities.
If you dizzy easily, do not go to Boston. For some inexplicable reason, the city planners thought it would be fun for people to drive around in circles. Every corner has not just stop lights, but stop lights with arrows pointing left, and arrows pointing right, and two lines which would usually indicate where one stops and waits for the light, but were we supposed to stop at the first line or the second?
Then there's the parking. Cambridge is home to Harvard University, and has all the-ahem-charm of a college town, plus all the insanity of a major city, plus rows and rows of tightly packed residential streets. Every street we turned down was lined with signs telling us that we could not park without a permit. Some meters lined the street. For no small charge, we could park for up to an hour. Woo-hoo! Some rare spots said we could park for 2 hours-still not good enough; the concert was 3 hours, plus unpacking and packing up time, and walking to the car time. We couldn't even find a lot!
Finally, my husband and I relented and parked in a grocery store parking lot about a block up from the concert site because all the other parents and the music director were parking there. 5 cars with PA plates lined the fence facing foreboding signs that said in no uncertain terms that our cars would be towed if we were there for any other reason but to grocery shop. Of course the men all chuckled and said, "We'll all go down together". I did not see strength in numbers; I saw a Boston two truck driver laughing manically as he made 5 trips back and forth to hook up 5 cars with PA plates, and bellowing, "These people are SO SCREWED!!!"
So, one of the other moms and I decided that honesty was the best policy. We timidly approached a clerk in the grocery store and asked him to please not tow us. "We're from Pennsylvania. Our kids are doing a concert up the street. Could you please not have us towed?" The clerk called back to the store manager and answered back, "As long as you're out by 9." Whew! We were good to go! I sat through 3 hours of kids playing cover tunes with other kids from Boston, practically biting my nails, envisioning Mr. Boston Store Manager calling Mr. Boston Tow Truck Driver, and saying, "Guess what I told these out-of-towners!" Alas, in the end, all was well. All 5 of our cars were still parked, right where we left them when the concert was over, and my faith in the kindess of strangers was renewed.