Pay it forward (or don’t pay at all)

By Kevin Kokoska

I hate paying for parking at Kwantlen and so do you. There, at a university as diverse as ours, we already have something in common. So what do we do about it?

At the Surrey campus I park, almost exclusively, in what has come to be known as the “gravel pit” (if you’ve been there, you know). The other day, as I attempted to navigate my aging Ford Explorer around traffic controllers and through the treacherous crater-like potholes that mark the entrance to “the pit”, I noticed a dark sedan rumbling out in the opposite direction. The driver of the sedan was a cute young brunette—quite cute, actually. Just as we are about to pass each other, she reaches onto the dash, grabs her full-day parking stub, and dangles it out the window at me. The move is so nonchalant that it takes me a moment to comprehend her gesture. It almost appears routine for her, like she has done this a thousand times before. I snatch up her permit, thank her enthusiastically, and life goes on.

Approximate elapsed time of the entire transfer? Three seconds. That’s less time than it takes you to pump your palm under one of those sanitary sauce dispensers after using the old creepy bathroom with the shower in it on the first floor of Fir (formerly known as D) building. It is my fourth year at Kwantlen and this is the first time such a thing has happening to me.

I suppose it was her act of kindness (or perhaps her aforementioned cuteness) that was responsible for the smile on my face. It know it wasn’t the five dollars she saved me—I had not planned on paying anyway.

I no longer pay for parking at Kwantlen.  Not because I think it’s grossly overpriced (which it is), or that IMPARK makes up to $15 per stall per day (which they do, do the math), or because I’m a badass (which I am not). The reason I don’t pay for parking is because history has shown that whether I pay or I stray. I get ticketed anyway.

I used to purchase official IMPARK (Imperial Parking Canada Corporation) “e-permits”. These are the electronic parking passes that you buy online and, in theory, offer reasonable weekly rates all while reducing your carbon footprint. Because there is no physical pass or paperwork involved, there is nothing to display on your dash. When the parking police notice you are permit-less and plug in your license plate number to issue a violation, their little machines are supposed to inform them that you are, in fact, exempt from punishment (for now). However, this system did not work so smoothly in my case.

When I parked without a weekly e-permit, I got a fine. When I parked with a weekly e-permit – same story. The tipping point was when I came out to the parking lot after a tough midterm exam to find my vehicle missing. It had been unjustly towed. University life is often one of two things: (a) stressful, or (b) very stressful. I could no longer tolerate sitting in class not knowing if I’d have a ride home. I had to make a change. I decided that, if my Kwantlen education has taught me anything, it is that I should not pay to be ticketed and towed while inside receiving said education.  I stopped paying altogether. I felt great. I also called IMPARK to complain (and to tell them to stop towing my vehicle). They were quick to remind me of my numerous parking infractions (some legit, some not). But I was even quicker to establish that they would not be receiving another cent from me. We haven’t spoken since.

Now, I understand that my situation may not be commonplace. Though if you sit next to a perfect stranger in class and try to break the ice by saying something like, “That gravel parking lot sure is a fucking crazy place, huh?” They will invariably respond with some near-death (or at least near-inconvenient) IMPARK experience of their own.

Ultimately, the students and the KSA should get organized and propose bill, sign a treaty, or maybe even start a revolt- anything to get a handle on this parking crisis! But until such a bill is passed, why don’t we follow Cute Girl’s lead and start with some passing of our own. If you possess a validated parking permit, pay it forward on your way out of the gravel pit. Too classy for the pit? This concept extends to even the most luxurious of Kwantlen lots. If pulling out of a numbered slot in one of the paved sections, roll down your window and tell one of the dozen-or-so stall scavengers impatiently waiting for your spot that it is paid for (only if it actually is). It will make their day. It will make your day.

I think Bob Marley even wrote a song about passing on your left hand side. I’m not sure if the man was referring to Kwantlen parking permits or not, but Bob Marley was rarely wrong. Oh, you like Bob too? Well I guess that’s two things we have in common.

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