A little more, a little more, you’re good

There’s clearly a serious labor shortage. Everywhere you go on the North Shore, you see Help Wanted signs.

Now I know where all the workers went.

My longtime best friend David G. Brown came up from Virginia to visit me over the Labor Day weekend, and I took him to Crane Beach on Saturday morning. As I pulled my vehicle onto the vast gravel parking lot, we were greeted by a long string of parking lot attendants. Every few feet, there was another able-bodied worker, swinging arms, gesturing and gesticulating, pointing us toward that one parking spot deemed acceptable for my little car. Their goal was clear: squeeze as many cars onto the parking lot as humanly possible. 

Of course I immediately saw the flaw in this setup. These parking attendants are all people who could be making your donuts or walking your dog or cleaning your teeth but no, they’re guiding cars into place at Crane Beach.

To send these parker-people back into town to respond to our Help Wanted crisis would not have to mean chaos on the Crane Beach parking lot. There are alternatives. And most of the alternatives would be highly economical.

For example, as I suggested to my companion David G. Brown: For far less than the cost of employing hordes of parking lot attendants, you could paint lines on the parking lot — make them really narrow if you want to, to squeeze in the maximum number of cars — and let people self-park.

My friend David G. Brown, however, has experience in parking lot work. He makes his living running information security at a huge hospital in the D.C. area, but at the beginning of the Covid vaccination process, he and other hospital personnel volunteered as parking lot attendants to help manage the multitudes of vehicles descending on the hospital. David G. Brown was out there 20 hours a week, experiencing parking-lot dynamics firsthand, and his natural intelligence soon led him to become the team leader. Now he wasn’t just waving his arms at drivers; he was teaching other parking attendants how to wave their arms.

I can’t say exactly how many parking attendants were employed: 60? 70? Maybe 200; I’m not sure. A lot, anyway. Who knows, this may be where we got the term “parking lot.”

And he saw for himself why just painting lines won’t get the maximum number of vehicles onto the parking lot.

“People don’t park inside the lines,” he observed sadly.

The best friendships are between people whose temperaments complement each other’s. David G. Brown is insightful and gentle and full of grace. I balance him out.

Unwilling to settle for a fat payroll full of parking attendants, I proposed a simple alternative. Hire a single parking attendant, equip them with a blade, and have them patrol the lot for cars parked across the lines. You wouldn’t have them just slash the tires savagely; this isn’t Detroit, after all. They would carefully cut from top to bottom, excising only the part of the tire that crosses the line. Word would get out pretty quickly, I think, and people would start parking with extreme care, wouldn’t they?

But once again, David G. Brown demonstrated his insight and gentleness and grace. He countered with a superior idea, a plan that would avoid violence yet achieve a similar deterrent outcome:

Simply give the parking attendant a can of paint and a brush, and where a car is parked across the line, let the line be painted again, right over the car.

The wisdom of Solomon, I’m telling ya. Too bad this guy doesn’t live here. We could use such brilliant, balanced discernment in so many local situations.

To submit your own dilemma for David G. Brown to resolve, at low cost and with minimal violence, email PracticallySocrates@DougBrendel.com.

Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where there’s plenty of space for parking.

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