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The sea of unavailable parking

By Staff | May 19, 2011

I love Shepherdstown. I really do.

I love Four Seasons Books. Every time I step in the discount section in the back and find something great that I never see at other bookstores (“Innocent Erendira and Other Stories” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez), I feel like I’ve stepped into something unique.

I love Betty’s and Tony’s restaurants, the first for its breakfast and the latter for its lunch.

The Sweet Shop Bakery has excellent donuts. And bagels. And pepperoni rolls and cakes and cupcakes and cookies. Basically, all of its baked goods are great. And the sandwiches, too.

Grapes and Grains Gourmet is a wonderful shop. I’ve bought a few presents there. Every Saturday between 1 and 7 p.m., they have wine tastings. Free wine tastings, which are the very best kind of wine tastings, I think.

Shepherdstown is essentially a second hometown for me. I went to school here for seven years: three in junior high and the four needed for my BA at Shepherd University.

Ah, Shepherd University. I love that school. I’m enormously proud of the education I received there, and I have nothing but respect and admiration for the professors I was lucky enough to be instructed by. I don’t think I was ever more excited, however, when I found out that I could still use the library after graduating. All of William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway are up there, and it’s all free! I realize this may read like a ’90s PSA about the pleasures of reading, but I’m not trying to throw that out to the reader.

Although I will say that reading opens up a magical world populated by your imagination in which anything is possible. Now you know, and knowing is 2/3 of the entire effort.

Now that my credentials are officially established, I would like to begin complaining.

Why is it nearly impossible to find a parking space close to where you want to go? At any time of day? There are parking spaces geographically close to wherever you want to go, but you will not get one. You’ll find one that’s technically in city limits, but be prepared to walk. I hope you charged your GPS.

Likely, you will find a nice, convenient space over at the train station. Those spaces are especially nice in the winter time because the sidewalks leading back to town are so well-maintained. Apparently, since Shepherdstown is a historic city, it would destroy the historic atmosphere to fix the cracks, caverns, ravines, and canyons in the sidewalks. Also, it would be horrible, just horrible, to replace the four-way stops with traffic lights. Now, the four-way stops would be fine, quaint little things if people actually knew how to deal with them. They don’t. Every driver that comes up to the stop signs follows the Carrie Underwood school of driving: roll up and start praying. I don’t think Jesus is taking the wheel for everybody. Some of my best driving stories (those really good ones where I almost die) take place at the four-way stop next to the Yellow Brick Bank.

In college, I’d see parking spaces occupied by the same car, all day. I figured out that these were lot campers, getting there extremely early and only leaving in emergencies. The best spaces I ever got were a direct result of me getting there an hour early for an 8:10 a.m. class. At about 7:30, the lot would fill, and then the hunt would begin. People driving slowly around the parking lot, eyes sharply attuned to any glimpse of back up lights. We called these people lot sharks, slowly circling around the lot for hours on end, just waiting for the chance to strike.

Now that I think about it, “Lot Sharks” sounds like it would be an excellent SyFy original movie: groups of cars transform into mechanical sharks to terrorize the population of a small town, and only David Hasselhoff and Debbie Gibson can stop them. Think of how awesome it would be to hear the Hoff say, “The thing about a lot shark, chief, is he’s got lifeless eyes, like a doll’s eyes. He don’t seem to be livin’, till those eyes roll over white and all you hear is that terrible high-pitched honkin’.”

If you do find a space (and good for you if you do!) near where you’re going, I hope you brought a lot of quarters because you’re going to be paying. A quarter will not get you an hour, either. Perhaps it’s a subtle suggestion from Shepherdstown to its visitors: “You can come in for a little while, I suppose, but I’ve got my eye on you, bucko. Also, this conversation has cost $1.50, payable upon completion.”

Even still, I love Shepherdstown. I’m going today, actually. In preparation, I’m bringing three rolls of quarters (the entire contents of my piggy bank) and hiking boots, just in case.