Tuesday, May 07, 2002

There is a menace out there, stalking restaurant parking lots in the greater Southern California metropolitan region. You may know it by its jaunty green vest and insincere salutations. I'm talking about valet parking.

I have never been subjected to such a rash of unnecessary valet parking as here in the Newport Beach area. Last night I took my wife out for Thai food for her birthday, and was a victim of superfluous valet parking. The simpering little toady who valet parked the Kafkamobile had to do about 10 seconds of work for me: I got out of the car, instructed him in the key situation and went into the restaurant, where I watched him turn the car around and park it about two feet from where I myself had left it. This, of course, meant I had to tip him.

This isn't even the worst example of enforced valet parking here in the land of wigs and novelties. We recently went out to eat with some visiting friends to a restaurant in Laguna Niguel, which was pretty crappy but had an ocean view. This place also had mandatory valet parking, and an almost entirely empty parking lot. I pulled into the lot and attempted, as any right-thinking individual would, to park my car. Next thing I know, there's someone basically unemployable telling me I have to let him park my car in one of the 470 unoccupied spots which are about five feet from me. OK.

We went into the mediocre restaurant and had a mediocre dinner. Afterwards we dutifully participated in the valet parking farce, in which we went to the Valet Hut or Valet Chalet or Valet Yurt or whatever they call their evil valet lair, and gave the valet our tag. There were about three cars in the gargantuan lot, and my little Golf was seriously mere inches from where we were standing. The valet strode purposefully over to the car, started it up, and drove it six inches so I could take over command of the vehicle.

My wife and I had been smirking about this farcical charade all evening, and had agreed that we should tip the guy a couple of bucks, just so we would feel justified in later wishing death on the entire management staff of the restaurant. So I slipped Chet a couple of dollars, feeling like I was doing him a favor merely by not indulging in a little chop-busting on his valet ass.

"Sir!" he said, in a low, confidential tone, obviously hoping not to embarass me in front of the parking lot shrubs. "There's a six dollar charge for valet parking!"

[the rest of this anecdote is totally untrue and made up in the interest of making me feel like more of a man, instead of the horrible truth which is that I paid him the six dollars]

Quickly, I sprang into action, pulling the Valet's red vest (which marked him as only one step above movie-theatre ticket tearer on the employment ladder) up over his head in a bizarrely humiliating version of the wedgie. I picked him up by one Skecher and twirled him around, launching him over the cliff into the briny deep. We drove off into the night, deaf to his slowly fading pleas for help as his life's essence ebbed out with the tide. Some say to this day on clear Autumn nights, when the moon is just right, Chet the Ghost Valet can be seen parking phantom cars for all eternity for his crimes.


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