So, Lizzie1 and I drove up to the restaurant in downtown Minneapolis and spotted the Valet Parking sign. I wanted to valet park because downtown, we’d have to park in a ramp2 anyway, so the cost would be the same or less, and much more convenient and comfortable on this slightly chilly winter night. Plus some kid would get a tip; Some kid saving for college or whatever.
And as we got closer, we saw that the Valet Parking sign had a big arrow on it pointing down the street. So we drove slowly down the busy downtown street, looking for somebody or something resembling a valet. Then, we saw a second sign, similar to the first. It said “Valet Parking” and it had a big arrow pointing up a drive heading into a parking ramp. So, we drove up the drive and saw another sign that said “Valet Parking: Drive through the doors into the parking ramp.”
So we drove through the doors, which opened automatically though slowly, into the parking ramp. There, we saw yet another sign that said “Public not allowed beyond this point.”
Which leads me to a digression. Several months ago, Amanda and Julia and I went downtown to meet the In-Laws for dinner, and parked in a randomly chosen parking ramp. It was, as it turns out, this very ramp where Lizzie and I perplexedly sought our valet, but that time, a few months ago, we drove into the ramp and did not manage to notice the sign that said “Public not allowed beyond this point.” We just drove in and parked. Later, when it came time to leave, we noticed as we headed for our car that all the other people in the lot were mainly driving at a very high rates of speed, and backwards as often as forwards. Valets. They were all valets, and we had driven, by accident, into the local valet-only parking lot. We had to talk our way out of that one. But, as I say, I digress.
Anyway, I stopped the car and Lizzie and I got out. I asked the man who came over how this worked.
“Take this,” he said, handing me a standard issue parking lot ticket. “Get it validated.”
Oh. So this is how the valet parking works: You drive your car to the parking lot, get a standard issue parking stub, get that validated at the restaurant in which you eat, and then later, walk back to the parking lot for your car. I was pretty sure that what were doing was mostly “parking the car” and not very much like “valet parking” but I was still satisfied: The price was cheap and the ramp was only a short block from the restaurant.
So we went to the restaurant, Thom Pham’s Wondrous Azian Kitchen, and had a lovely meal. This is the reincarnation of Azia, a restaurant I’ve written about before. You could see the old Azia in the new Wondrous Kitchen, in the layout, the decor, the menu, the staff, and to some extent, the wine list. I didn’t see Thom, but the way the place is broken into small rooms he may well have been there somewhere. Lizzie, who, sadly, really has given up eating meat (dashing my hopes for sushi this evening) had the Pad Thai, and I had the Monk Fish. Pinot Noir went well with both (monk is a rather beefy fish, for a fish). We had not seen each other in far, far too long so the conversation was a matter of catching up, but we were also celebrating Lizzie’s birthday and the bittersweet end of her job of the last couple of years, as she shifts her focus more towards her studies. Lizzie is a person whom if I don’t see for a while, I don’t feel good. And towards the end of the meal I was feeling nicely recharged. And good.
So off we went into the snow flurries, down the street with our validated parking ticket in hand. We entered the ramp and I handed the ticket to the man, with some currency. He gave me my change which I kept in my hand while he walked the 30 feet to my car, got in, and in the course of less than two seconds drove it all the way from the nearest possible parking spot to where we stood, while we gazed on in amazement. When he got out of the car, I handed him the change (still in my hand), we got in, and off we went, squeezing through the slowly opening door through which we had previously driven.
I really had no idea that there was such a fine line between valet parking and regular parking, that the two kinds of parking were not really distinct, that this gray area between the two existed. No idea. Well, now I know.
1Not her real name, but she is the real thing.
2“Ramp” is Twin Cities for elevated parking lot.