It has been my long-held belief that everyone in North America should work at least one minimum wage job in their life, for a minimum of six months. Not just to understand how impossible it is to live on minimum wage, but also to understand how we treat people who provide us with necessary services, which we generally view as demeaning, and therefore view those who provide us with that service as beneath us. The Parking Lot Movie examines the space and people of the Corner Parking Lot in Charlottesville, Virginia, a small college town. The owner of the lot has over the years managed to assemble a crew of parking lot attendants consisting of anthropology students, philosophy students, musicians, and others who in looking for a part-time job find a strange understanding of life and human nature through their seemingly mundane job. Director Meghan Eckman films the employees as they sit in their hutch and observe life, cars, and some of the rudest and most disrespectful customers I’ve ever seen. They make very astute points about car culture, and how people feel entitled not only to park for free just because they own a car (and this parking lot is not expensive,) but also behave like jerks from the protection of their car. And it seems the more expensive the car, the cheaper the owner is about parking. Somehow, the attendants manage to keep smiling and laugh off these occasional bouts of ill manners.
Being in a college town, the parking lot is often overrun with students whose access to higher education is only made possible through their parents’ money as oppose to actual intelligence, and so this money, and the cars that go with them, give them a sense of entitlement that likely will not go away even if they are humbled with the threat of arrest for breaking parking lot property. The film is incredibly entertaining, managing to turn a seemingly mundane job into a source of philosophical thought and social experiment. Eckman cuts together various scenes of the esoteric life on the lot with stories and homespun philosophy from past and current employees. Most of the employees finally give up on the job, having had enough of bad treatment, and most have moved on to either post graduate work or are musicians, so perhaps that kind of mind is attracted to the strange world of parking lot attending. And a strange world it is, especially at the Corner Parking Lot. This is not a fancy lot with a glass cage with heating, air conditioning and a television. These boys have a small wood hut only big enough for one person; but they have books, guitars, and a boss who knows that the customer is not always right; in fact the customer is often wrong, and while not being outright rude, the boys do not have to take abuse. Between chasing after fleeing non-paying cars and games of Flip Cone, the boys find ways of making a seemingly boring job into a strange way of life.