Sunday, August 21, 2005

Scenes From a Lithuanian Parking Lot

A seasonal institution in Springfield and the answer to the proverbial question, "Fair parking! Where's the good parking?" was back in business after a year's hiatus as Joe's Parking returned to provide premiere auto accommodations to the discriminating fairgoer.

Working at a parking lot during fair week is a unique experience. There are always many fine accounts in the media about the goings-on inside the fairgrounds, but an interesting perspective can be gained by working the periphery. Here is a seldom-told account from a real-life parking attendant.

The first thing you notice is the people. They arrive enthusiastic and full of hope for what awaits them inside the hallowed grounds. They returned red-faced and haggard. The combination of excessive heat, fried food, and various equilibrium-altering amusement rides leaves them spent as the stagger back to their vehicles. Sometimes, too many hours in the beer tent are responsible for the stagger.

The second thing you notice is the vehicles. The SJ-R was correct in their editorial today by suggesting that decreased consumption is the remedy to rising gas prices. But observing what people drive these days leaves little hope for an immediate reduction in demand.

Just as airlines were forced to charge extra for passengers whose girth spilled into neighboring seats, soon parking lots will have to up-charge for the behemoths that people tool around in. The Chevy Silverado with the extended four-door cab, length-extending trailer hitch, and optional fuel depleting technology abounded, reducing side clearance in the well-marked parking spaces that have always distinguished Joe's as a professionally run lot.

You'd expect to see a lot of pickups at an agricultural exhibition, but what was amazing was how clean many of these trucks were. These weren't working trucks that were given a day off from farm duty to travel to the fair. These were city slicker trucks, passenger vehicles whose daily chores consist mainly of running to the mall and whose one ton beds carry nothing more than the oversized insecurities of their owners.

Because of rising gas prices, it was not surprising that most of the cars parked at Joe's carried Illinois plates. In past years it wasn't uncommon to see state's from coast to coast, including Alaska, represented.

Vehicles aside, the documentary worthy events always have a human element. This year, real drama included a daring but failed rescue attempt of a dog that was undergoing cardiac arrest. The dog's owner pulled his car over and attempted resuscitation measures to no avail.

The second Saturday saw city police stationed outside the fairgrounds in response to a call for back-ups. Traffic was diverted away from the main gate as cars traveling down Sangamon Avenue were sent down 8th Street. First reports were that the fair would be shut down early, but that didn't seem to be the case. There were also rumors of a bomb threat. By Sunday morning, police were still responding to inquiries with the standard "nothing to see here" bromide. It's believed that a crowded fairgrounds, including a packed grandstand and heavily populated beer tents, might have been seen by police as a recipe for trouble.

On a lighter note, There was the elderly neighbor who would ask random passers-by how tall they were, forgetting that she was first supposed to take a guess and then offer a prize if she was incorrect. She, the rarest of all birds as a smoker over the age of 85, was generally treated well by the bewildered guests who recognized that the years had had their effect.

What would a fair be without politicians? No one left their mark outside the fairgrounds more prominently than Jim Oberweis. His signs littered the roadside and were removed from some private properties whose owners didn't want to give an unsolicited endorsement.

The Oberweis signs carried the peculiar phrase "Got guv?" I know that it is a take on the popular milk campaign and Oberweis is a dairy magnate and all, but what exactly is being asked here? If the question is do we currently have someone who is governing our state rather than fulfilling a deep-seated need for attention, then maybe we don't got guv. If he's suggesting that he, like milk, is a wholesome panacea that will result in health and hardy growth for the state, then he needs to offer more proof to those of us who may be lactose intolerant in this instance.

Generally, the big events affecting the inside of the fair reverberate to the outside as well. This year, the story lines included lots of rain, a power outage, and state troopers who apparently don't react well in high temperatures and attempt to pick fights with concert goers, react rudely to drivers, and display an air of overall grumpiness. Although it didn't work out too well at Altamont, they may want to consider hiring the Hell's Angels to provide security next year. They may prove to be more pleasant.


Anonymous said...


JeromeProphet said...

I happen to like this dribble. Drat, now you gone and done got me sayin it!

All work, and no play would make Dan a dull boy.