My Car Park

I would like to set up my own car park one day, to find a small plot of land in the city centre and cover it over with lovely black, flat tarmac painted with pristine white parking boxes. I would like to plant laurel bushes in foot tall wooden planter and have them grow to a height of eight foot, perfectly maintained, so that when the car park is empty at the end of each day there will be just the smooth tarmac, the bushes, and the sky, an oasis of calm in the mayhem of the city. I will have a yellow arm barrier at the entrance that I will control from my small but comfortable booth that I intend to work out of.

On a unit underneath the window overlooking the car park there will be two screens; one for the closed circuit television and one for my television with an inbuilt DVD player, not only for playing films but for CDs as well. The antennae will be fastened to the outside of the booth because the TV will also have Freeview. Above the unit will be a narrow shelf-cum-desk and, on casters, a tall chair. From here I will watch the entrance of the car park and have my till, roll of tickets, mobile card machine, barrier remote and cordless intercom receiver. I will have a small cloth pouch for change as I will collect the parking money personally when customers enter. They will have the option of buying a ticket, for one hour, two hours, three hours, and so on until the closing time of 7pm. The tickets will be colour-coded for ease of reference when I am patrolling. I may hire a member of staff to work evenings though they would need to demonstrate an understanding of the zen philosophy of the car park. Only then will I know they are trustworthy. In the booth there will be a comfortable sitting chair where I will spend most of my day reading, writing, drawing, watching television, listening to music or podcasts, or looking out the window across the main area of the car park at the top of the hedge and the sky beyond, the clouds knitting and fraying behind the skyscrapers. Next to the comfortable chair will be a small table for my drinks and snacks. A tall reading lamp will be behind the comfortable chair so that in the dark winter nights I may still read my book in good light. A framed map of the world will hang behind my chair. I will need a view of the CCTV screen so that I can see new customers arriving and leaving. The intercom terminals will be before and aft the yellow arm barrier so that drivers wishing enter and exit the car park can contact me if I am in my comfortable chair. The other end of the intercom, my end, will be remote, as will the console for the raising and lowering of the yellow arm barrier. When I am sitting in my chair I will store these devices either on my lap desk, or on the small occasional table to my side. The comfortable chair and small table must be portable so that I can take them outside the booth during summer. I will also need a sun umbrella (parasol) , possibly stored in an external, lockable ottoman where I can also keep a broom, a cordless hedge trimmer, a snow shovel with a stock of grit for those slippery winter mornings, and any other maintenance equipment.

Back in the booth a sideboard will run along the wall next to the hedge. Underneath I can keep files, books, a fridge, a printer, a blanket, a stationery box and an electric oil heater. On top there will be a kettle, a tree for mugs, a tea set and a pot for coffee. There should also be a foldaway chair for guests, though this must be comfortable enough to watch an entire film in. My car park should be a world away from the larger world, peeled off to make a little pocket of tranquility, much in the same way a tepui rock stack in the highlands of South America has no contact with the forest below. Perhaps I will cut recesses out of the hedgerow in places so that I can supply wooden benches for drivers who may wish to take a moment of contemplation between their busy jobs or shopping days and the stressful journey home. Who knows, perhaps somebody will one day pass on from this world and leave in their last will and testament an instruction to buy a new bench for the car park, with a small brass plaque nailed to it with their name, the year they were born and the year they died and a small inscription of how they liked coming to the car park. I will usher drivers to and from their spaces – some regulars may prefer a particular space they can call their own – and in so doing subconsciously learn the unseen algorithms, the counterintuitive flows that occur in any complex system, of how to get people in and out with maximum efficiency. Perhaps one day someone will be having a terrible day but then she can close her eyes and feel the wind on her face, and envision her car parked safely within the car park with its smooth tarmac and neat hedgerow. People will tell other people of the small oasis of calm that is my car park and perhaps in time its message can expand beyond the edges of its eight foot tall laurel bush extent and into the wider world, like the hedge-dwelling birds such as the humble linnet or the sing-song yellowhammer, the little wren or even, at Christmas, the robin red breast, who I hope will nest there and make the their home with me.