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My week as a parking outlaw

courtesy of Nicole Clamp, TimeOut Layout Editor and Mary Catherine West, Contributor

Parking is quite possibly the most notorious part of the Clemson University experience, whether mentioned in passing as the butt of a joke or ranted about by passionate students in possession of a ridiculous fee. This past week, much to my horror, I found myself in the latter category. My beloved car, as I was notified early Monday morning, had apparently been parked illegally and was consequently whisked away to impound with nothing but a vague tire print left in its place.
I could wax poetic about the disrespect Clemson shows its students by not willing to offer a decent parking selection. I could even argue for better communication about expectations and rules between students and Parking and Transportation Services. However, since this is not an opinion piece but a memoir, I will instead set the scene and stick to the facts.
But in the style of an old detective movie:
It happened like this. The night was Friday, late enough to be Saturday, and parking was nonexistent. Students had been relocated due to the football game and that caused … problems. The suspect drove in circles through countless parking lots until finally, she spotted a grassy knoll at the edge of a parking lot, perfect for her needs.
(In reality, it was a strip of grass next to a porta- potty, but someone else had also parked there, so I figured it was ok.)
A cop from the local college drove by and gave some nearby students the A-Okay for their parking job. The suspect, assuming that the same applied to her since those students were parked right behind her on the same strip of grass, left the scene and went back to her dorm. The crime had been committed…
The realization my car had been towed did not come until Monday morning in the form of an email. It took a call to Parking Services to find out that not only did I have to pay a fine, but I also had to make time to go pick up my car from its terrible, awful prison.
To be fair, the woman on the phone was undeniably sympathetic and very kind throughout the entire phone call. It helped to soften the blow (just a bit.)
Since I had class all day on Monday, I planned to retrieve my car Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. I put on my cute boots, did my make-up and walked across campus, ready to face off with the Parking and Transportation Services employees.
As it turns out, there was no need to fight them. While fundamentally terrible and designed to be as difficult as possible, the parking system at Clemson is not paired with horrible people who work the tow trucks and collect payment for fines. It was obvious they sympathized with me, and their sad, soft smiles were more of a comfort than I can possibly say.
As far as the technical process of getting my car back goes, it was fairly simple. I went to the Parking Services office, paid my bill and got a ride to the impound. I told the driver my story and learned some things.
1. I am not alone.
A ridiculous number of people get towed every game day, especially since workers and tow trucks hit the streets at 12:30 a.m. the morning of games. You would think the number of people forced to break parking rules due to lack of room would
make Clemson consider building more parking spots. Instead, they’re planning to replace parking lots R1 and R2 with a power plant. Personally, I theorize that the fines are part of Clemson’s ploy to wring as much money from students as possible before they graduate.
2. Parking employees are not out to get me.
If anything, the lovely people who work for Parking and Transportation Services want to help. They are not rude about the tickets, and they are all extremely kind. The woman who drove me to the impound even spoke of checking in with students that she sees around campus well after their car got towed.
3. You pay $7 for every day your car is in impound.
The cost of a parking ticket is usually $15, the towing fee is around $75, and for every day your car remains in impound, you have to pay another $7. This includes the day it gets towed, and since the Parking and Transportation office isn’t open on weekends, odds are you’ll be $21 poorer by the time you even get an email about your fine.
As far as I can tell, the main problem with Clemson parking, aside from the minuscule amount of spaces reserved for residents, is the lack of communication between the university and students.
Clemson University offers the bare minimum of information to its students about which parking lots to use, where those parking lots are and how those lots work on game days. It is unclear where certain lots are, and it is unclear which lots are meant to be reserved for IPTAY parking. West Side residents are meant to move their vehicles to East Side. But where do East Side residents park when their parking lots fill up?
Brief and vague emails do not do a proper job of informing on-campus students with cars. The least Clemson could do is put up a “No Parking” sign or two to aid students who are as confused by parking as I am. In fact, why not send out an all-encompassing parking guide at the beginning of the year? It would help keep everyone informed and their cars out of impound.
There are countless options for Clemson University to choose from in order to improve their parking issues. The most obvious and most helpful would probably be to build more lots or even an underground parking garage.
Clemson’s parking system is undeniably atrocious, and if you ever bring a car to campus, you will have at least one moment where you realize you have broken one of their unclear rules. Whether or not you get a ticket or towed is decided by a mixture of luck, the day of the week and the position of Pluto, but just know that you’ll come out of the experience with a great story to tell at your next family gathering.

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