Ring Around the Parking Lot

Every morning when Cory leaves for work, I walk out onto our balcony to wave good-bye to him from the seventh floor.

It takes him a few minutes to get out the front door, so I have time to get a good look at the morning’s weather and observe other people walking through the area. But what usually catches my eye is the parking lot.

ukraine parking lot

Oh, the parking lot. 

It’s a funny thing, the parking lot.

Seems like it should be a straightforward thing: You drive a car in, and you park it in a parking spot. If there isn’t a place to park, you drive out of the lot and look for a space somewhere else.

car stickerThat’s not exactly how things work in Kyiv.

Our apartment complex’s parking lot has about 25 parking spots, and there is a parking garage just a short walk away, but that doesn’t stop upwards of 40 cars or more from squeezing into this space at any given time. People double and triple park, stopping cars behind others, often leaving just enough room so only a single vehicle can maneuver through the horseshoe-shaped lot.

As if that’s not nutty enough, Ukrainians are not good at parking. At all. There are clearly marked lines, but for some reason, drivers are unable to fit their cars between them. I have seen many people inch into these spots two or three times in an attempt properly park, but they eventually just give up.

Also, there is one parking spot in our lot that has planters placed in it for some reason, so no one can park there. But the one that’s blocked off so people can walk from the parking lot to the sidewalk near the playground seems to be fair game. Go figure.

Overnight, sometimes stickers are left on the cars, particularly those parked in the handicapped spots. These aren’t little pieces of paper tucked under a windshield wiper, mind you, but massive stickers that have been stuck on car windows. They can’t be easily removed or ignored.

parking lot ukraineDon’t worry, this doesn’t seem to concern drivers or deter them from parking in these apparently forbidden spots again. Instead, drivers carry spray bottles and rags in their cars, and they’ll take the time to scrape the stickers off and wipe the windows clean. I have seen this happen several times.

Aren’t these people going to be late for work? 

Great question. The answer to that lies in the fact that they’re double and triple parked and can’t move their cars, so they’ve got time.

I was wondering how this whole system works, and why people aren’t up in arms about their trapped cars, but a friend of mine who has lived in Kyiv for a couple years explained it to me. When you park your car in a parking lot, you put a little note on the dashboard with your cell phone number. If your car is in the way of someone else’s, that person will text you, asking you to please move your car so they can move theirs. Apparently, while they wait, this is the ideal time to scrape stickers off the windshield.

parking lot ukraineThe parking lot situation was one of the first things I noticed when we moved in, but I’m beginning to understand just how crazy the driving situation is in general in Kyiv. Lane lines are more suggestions than requirements, and it’s definitely in someone’s best interest to double-check and triple-check before venturing out into a crosswalk. I’ve been told that if you’re hit by a car, you’re supposed to lay in the road exactly as you landed until a cop shows up.

Unsurprisingly, seat belts are a luxury and not an expectation, and on the way to the airport a couple weeks ago, our cab driver hit 98 miles per hour (yes, miles per hour and not kilometers per hour).

Needless to say, I wouldn’t want to drive here. And, I’m more than content to take the subway whenever possible.

To get back to my original point, though, it’s funny how things like the parking situation stand out to me, yet they are just a part of the day-to-day life here. It’s observations like these that make me realize there is a big difference between learning about a society’s culture when we travel somewhere versus when we decide to put down roots for awhile.

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