Monday, May 13, 2013

You Shall Not Park!

*Mundane update below!

This is only tangentially related to bus driving, but I'm a little tired and thought I'd post something a little more lighthearted than the thing that happened to me today. I'll try to post about that soon.

This sign is next to the entrance to a four-story parking structure near the Transient Center. During breaks, I park near it often for various reasons, the main one being that no one else seems to be interested in parking their bus further than a block from the TC. Another reason I like this spot is that bus people never seem to stray from the TC, even if it's a good hour or so until their bus arrives. Therefore, no one bugs me while I'm chillaxing. Coincidentally, there are sorority houses on two of the corners of the adjacent intersection, but that doesn't have anything to do with why I park there!

The upshot is that I get to see this sign a lot, and I've always been curious about it. As you can see, the information about spaces on levels 3 and 4 is painted on, so therefore it never changes. The window below the words sometimes lights up and says "FULL" in red LED letters. So I guess that means that if it says "full", that negates the permanent statement about levels 3 and 4. Seems a little confusing.

And how does the sign (or whoever controls it) know whether or not spaces are available? Do they have some sort of high tech sensing devices that light up the "full" sign when they spaces are indeed full? Does somebody check, and turn on the red letters manually? And if so, how often do they check? And what about levels 1 and 2? It's not like we can look all the way into even the first level and see if it's full, let alone level 2. Is the thinking that if I drive as far as the first two levels and find them all full, I won't be too put out about having to drive up another one or two levels? But if I were to drive all the way to the top only to find no spaces whatsoever, my subsequent disappointment and frustration would be too much to bear? Well, then, it's a good thing that sign is there to prevent sniping and/or suicide.

The mystery deepened when I walked up to the sign to take its picture for this post. The sign, as you can see, was not lighted. I could see that the red LEDs could only spell the word "full", but there was a second set of green LEDs that were in the (now) old-fashioned style wherein if all the LEDs in a single character were lit, it would look like a boxy numeral 8. This style allows the creation of all numerals, but not so many letters. I've never seen the green lights on, so I'm guessing maybe during times of expected high parking demand, the green lights can show exactly how many spaces are available on the rarefied top two levels. This is indeed wizardy of the highest order!

This is how my mind works (or doesn't, as the case may be).

* Update 5-26-2013: I probably should have mentioned that this is no ordinary parking structure, but a university parking structure. Turns out that the spaces on levels 3 and 4 are significant because the general public is allowed to park in them (provided they purchase a parking permit from the machine conveniently located in a corner of the first level - it's also not a drive-up kind of machine, just to add to the convenience). I gleaned this information by the simple expedient of talking to a university police officer who was standing in the structure (the university police office is also located in the structure). I'm now guessing that each time a parking permit is purchased, it reduces the number on the mysterious green LED characters by one. That's the boring truth I feel compelled to share. I liked it better when it was more unknown-ish.

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