By Robert Beeland
A certain level of disgust with the availability and quality of parking seems to pervade the Sewanee student populous’ collective unconscious. As a student who drives a car on campus, I have become familiar with the eccentricities and, indeed, the horrors of parking on the Domain.
With the help of one of The Purple’s Junior Editors, Colton Williams, I developed a rubric for deciding an eternal question: What are the singular best and worst parking spots on campus? Colton agreed to serve as a judge alongside me and, during my photographic documentation of the judged spots, my model.
Williams and I decided that we would only consider spots for student parking. The “blue” spots—available for students to park in during certain hours (as delineated by the University parking policy) would also not be taken into consideration. Real, bona fide parking spots for the run-of-the-mill Sewanee student would be the subjects of our study.
We did not take a spot’s potential availability into account, nor did we consider a spot in every lot on campus. If your favorite/least favorite spot did make this list, fear not: You are simply incorrect.
When spots were available, we tested them with my own car: a 2012 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen. A medium-sized station wagon, it was able to maneuver into smaller spots with some dexterity while also having to handle some of the difficulties of larger cars.
We decided upon a 100-point scale which would measure, in five distinct categories appropriately weighted to their relative importance, the definitive value of a parking spot (higher scores meaning a better spot).
The most important metric was the distance to the residence hall, theme house, or fraternity/sorority a spot made. We referred to this measurement as our “distance” category. Whether it be lugging bags to or from your dorm room on move-in or move-out day, or braving the cold, dreary storm of a dismal February day, relative distance stood out as the most important factor. 45 points.
Our second metric, “hazards/spot conditions,” concerned the likelihood that a car would be free of run-ins with a pole, a ditch, or any other obstacle that might cause damage. It also took into account the actual state of the spot itself. Spots earning higher scored would be paved as opposed to gravel-filled, free of leaves or water, without dramatic slope, and with room to pull in and out. 30 points.
Our third metric, “fear of ticketing,” concerned the comfort a student would feel upon pulling into a spot that they would not receive a ticket. The seemingly-fickle Sewanee Police Department might indeed have some students questioning their lawful standing in more ambiguous gravel spots. 10 points.
Our fourth metric, “trees/shade,” concerned the delicate balance between the beneficial shade afforded by trees and the negative impact of falling leaves, sap, or acorns onto cars below. Ideally, shade would be provided by nearby buildings whereas, worst-case-scenario, trees would provide little shade and a smattering of leaves, sap, and/or acorn-droppage. 10 points.
Our final metric we called the “X factor.” I would venture to say that we can all describe the feeling of ecstasy a good parking spot can incite in us or, alternatively, the deep existential dread a bad one foists upon us. For this category, only the indeterminate whims of Williams or myself could decide. 5 points.
6. Hall Street/Courts final parallel spot
The last in a line of parallel parking spots along Hall Street closest to Courts Hall incurred an immediate feeling of dread in me and my collaborator Williams. It officially wins the title of “worst parking spot on campus.”
“You’ll get murdered out here. Abducted. Some Stranger Things-type stuff is bound to happen out here. No one would find you,” Williams declared with fright. No potential lodging is clearly in my sight. Abysmal.
Hazards/spot conditions: 0/30
A confusingly-deep hole immediately behind the spot, a telephone pole, an amorphous leaf pile, and an eerie pool of nearby standing water did nothing to mitigate the inexplicable odor that surrounded the spot. The spot is covered in leaves. I was afraid that my beloved station wagon would slide into the ditch behind the spot.
Fear of ticketing: 1/10
My collaborator Williams did not believe this was a spot at first. Residents of the Mississippi townhouses (within the designated zone of this spot) would almost certainly doubt that this spot was eligible to them.
Lots of trees nearby manage to provide leaves without much shade.
X factor: 0/5
This spot terrified both me and my collaborator. Do people use this spot for anything besides doing drugs in their cars?
Total score: 9 out of 100
5. Cannon “danger zone” spots
In a fit of unbridled frustration, Williams and I bent the rules of our rubric and graded these two spots as one. Their baffling idiosyncrasies drew our ire for multitudinous reasons.
We begrudgingly awarded high marks in this category to these spots for their superior proximity to Cannon and, to a lesser extent, Smith.
Hazards/spot conditions: -5/30
“Old cigarette butts, stagnant water, smoke coming out of those pipes—is that someone’s dorm room window?,” questioned my perplexed collaborator of the spot closest to Cannon. The other spot, spot, underneath a basketball goal, next to a dumpster, and flanked by a messy bike rack proposed hazardous conditions, brought me to the verge of tears.
Fear of ticketing: -5/10
“I don’t even think this is a parking spot,” asserted Williams. To be clear: we are not sure if these spots are even parking spots. We don’t recommend parking here.
Superb shade offered by Cannon at most points of the afternoon, but lots of leaves are bound to fall onto your car.
X factor: -5/5
I plan on visiting the School of Theology soon and asking someone to perform an exorcism on these spots.
Total score: 30 out of 100
4. Wick concrete clitoris spot
Parkers may be initially drawn to this spot’s wide-open margins, yet Williams and I quickly decided that the space’s overwhelming negatives outweighed this positive.
Its remarkable distance from the largest residence halls in its designated University parking zone earned it only 20 of the possible 45 “distance” points.
Hazards/spot conditions: 4/30
Concrete barriers, a telephone pole, and a steep grass/gravel incline did serious damage to this spot’s score in this category, in spite of the relative space afforded to it upon entry and exit. “It’s downhill, through grass and gravel, there are rocks all around it,” Williams explained.
Fear of ticketing: 5/10
The inexplicable status of the concrete barriers might lead some students to believe that it is not a spot at all.
No shade, but no trees to rain down leaves, sap, or acorns, either.
X factor: 2/5
Two points were awarded in this category because of several gold-painted clitorises emblazoned upon the concrete barriers lining the spot, apparently graffitied there following the “CLITERACY” exhibit in duPont library from 2015, a mixed media project by conceptual artist Sophia Wallace.
Total score: 36 out of 100
3. Strangely-indented Humphreys lot spot
I despised everything about this parking spot. No wonder it was empty when my dutiful Junior Editor and I pulled through this lot.
Close to Humphreys, and a quick jaunt through the woods away from Courts.
Hazards/spot conditions: 12/30
Pulling into this spot was a nightmare. Indeed, it looked to be a sizable amount smaller than nearby spots, and I was unable to pull in or out of this spot without several awkward reorientations.
Fear of ticketing: 10/10
This is undeniably a student spot. Whether or not a student will ever be parked here is a different story.
Sun in this part of the lot tends to shine against the line of trees bordering the spots. Very little shade afforded.
X factor: 2/5
It’s the closest spot to a set of chairs in the wooded area between Humphreys and Courts where people go to smoke cigarettes. Plus two for convenience, minus three for lung cancer.
Total score: 67 out of 100
2. St. Luke’s/Hoffman cul-de-sac spot
This spot, the first we considered in our study, immediately stood out as a contender for the best spot on campus. In the small, cul-de-sac-like parking lot immediately alongside St. Luke’s and Hoffman halls, the spot closest to the bike rack scored high marks in every category.
Closest spot to both St. Luke’s and Hoffman. This one is a no-brainer.
Hazards/spot conditions: 25/30
The spot is immaculately clean except for some pine straw. However, some concerns regarding the placement of a nearby fire hydrant raised suspicions in my collaborator Williams. “Let’s say [the Sewanee Volunteer Fire Department] has to park their truck here to deal with a fire. You’re going to be stuck in this spot, that’s a problem.”
Fear of ticketing: 10/10
A former “service” designation has been painted over, making this an obvious student spot.
Ample shade from St. Luke’s in the morning without potential damage from trees, but some direct sunlight in the afternoon prevented a perfect score.
X factor: 5/5
“This is a sexy parking spot,” Williams explained. It’s oft-coveted status was irresistible.
Total score: 92 out of 100
Honorable Mention: K-Mart spots
The farthest-reaching and notorious “K-Mart” lot spots, Williams and I decided, actually present a kind of privacy and seclusion to the potentially forlorn or damage-conscious student parker. Zoned as overflow space within the University’s parking policy, any student regardless of their designated parking area is able to park here for ding-free, spacious, and sequestered spots. For those of you ready to dispute me with claims of having been forced to park here before: you are certainly just terrible at finding an open parking spot.
1. South Carolina Avenue row final spot
The western-most spot in a row of spots along South Carolina Avenue across from Smith and Cannon halls presented unparalleled excellence across our five categories. It officially wins the title of “best parking spot on campus.”
Impeccable distance to its nearby residence halls. This spot would be a godsend on move-in day.
Hazards/spot conditions: 29/30
A thorough examination of the surrounding area revealed no hazards. Some leaves in the spot, though.
Fear of ticketing: 10/10
Obvious white-lined spot. This is the gold standard, as opposed to the most Eastern spot in the row, which is a dreaded blue spot.
My collaborator Williams, who frequents the row of spots containing this marvelous vehicular holding zone with his 2017 Hyundai Accent, explained, “I always have to spend a few minutes picking leaves out of my windshield.” Indeed, several of the cars in the row had been bestowed a bounteous plenty of leaves from the deeply wooded area just a few yards away.
X factor: 5/5
An idyllic view of the quad gave this spot some unbeatable moxie and five of the possible five “X factor” points.
Total score: 93 out of 100
As our investigation drew to a close, Williams and I both felt a certain level of relief upon having discovered a reliable means of determining a parking spot’s worth. Williams, who will likely have ample opportunity to park in the newly-crowned spot, explained that “it was enlightening, from my spot at Smith-Cannon, to see how the other half lives,” referring to the less-fortunate students without such top-notch parking options.
I will continue to lust after the still-exceptional St. Luke’s/Hoffman spot and its neighbors. And for all of my fellow students, rest assured: an objective means of measuring the excellence of a parking spot now exists and is at your disposal.