On the Campus...
the Parking Game at Princeton takes strategy, cunning, and wiles
By Anne Ruderman '01
17 hours after arriving on campus this fall, I made a large, unexpected,
potentially dangerous and completely impulsive purchase. I bought
a car. My first - a veritable beater, with a good deal of rust,
the remains of a fender bender (or three) and an engine that sounds
like a chainsaw when it ignites. Not to mention the fact that I
am a terrible driver.
But having a car on campus
and the "freedom" that provides has introduced me to one
of the best, most strategic and altogether lowdown undergraduate
gambling games around. It's called The Princeton University Parking
The Parking Game pits
some 4,600 undergraduates against 40 public safety officials in
a winner-take-all game of cat-and-mouse that is already threatening
to consume the better part of my On the Campus salary. It was designed
in the joint interest of maintaining a "pedestrian campus"
and giving the public safety officials something to do.
For students, the Parking
Game has two main objectives: 1.) Getting on campus and 2.) Staying
These objectives arise
from the fact that most students have been assigned to "overflow
lot," which is conveniently located in West Windsor. So getting
out of Princeton in anything less than an hour requires a little
bit of planning and a whole lot of stealth.
In order for a student
to bring a car onto campus in the first place, he or she must have
a valid reason for wanting to do so. Convenience does not count
as a valid reason.
For the better part of
September, I relied exclusively upon a standard, unimaginative and
altogether weak excuse to get my car on campus. "I need to
move some books to my room," I would plead. But one day I realized
I had probably "moved" enough books to relocate the better
part of Firestone. So I decided to see what other concoctions could
get me through Princeton's gates.
Here's what I found:
"Taking a shower"
gets you onto campus for a half an hour. Parking to "turn in
a paper" does not. Neither do "going to class" or"bringing
a keg up to your room." "Moving computer equipment"
is okay and "calling your mother" earns another half an
hour. The idea that I had to go "take my puppy for a walk"
raised some alarm, however. But Public Safety did allow me on campus
for a fabricated lunch date with Hal. Next time, I was told, I would
need to make "special parking arrangements."
Getting on campus is
only half the game, however. Of the two objectives, "Staying
there" is actually the harder and more risky part of the job.
The parking police, I mean public safety officials, take their job
of enforcing a pedestrian campus seriously. Last year alone they
doled out 504 boots, 207 tows, and $133,020 dollars worth in fines.
Extending parking passes
by way of numerical reconfiguration becomes key, if an undergraduate
is ever to have a prayer at winning the Parking Game. In this pursuit,
a little skillful manipulation can turn 1's into 7's and 7's into
9's. 2's can become 3's and 3's, 8's. Likewise for dates. October
21 can become October 22 can become October 23 all in one week.
It helps if you were a once-upon-a-time expert in forging junior
high hall passes. Fortunately I was.
So that's the game. Roll
the dice and start your engines. But now that I've given it up,
I might as well give up myself. I'm the 2001 black BMW convertible,
bought on 17 hours notice, of course.