A friend and I recently booked a hotel room in Washington, D.C., for one night. The room came to around $190 total, or a reasonable-for-D.C. $95 per person. And the parking? $48 plus tax.
That's right, folks: forty-eight bucks. In other words: I've purchased working microwaves that provided me with years of sustenance for the same amount of money that it costs to park an automobile in Washington, D.C., for one night.
Although this may seem ridiculous, I've seen worse. It happened when I was a wide-eyed young man, visiting New York City several years ago on a road trip with a girlfriend. Of course, being both wide-eyed and young, I insisted on driving in New York, and staying in New York, and doing everything a New Yorker might do, such as pretending to be asleep on a subway so I wouldn't have to give up my seat for a pregnant woman.
And then night came, and I had no choice: I needed to find a place to park my car. Now, this was before the days of all these websites, and forums, and parking apps, devoted solely to helping you find a place to park your car for less than the cost of major dental surgery. Back then, there was only one app, and it was called: Ask a New Yorker. What would happen is, you would Ask a New Yorker where to park. And they would spit on you.
So basically, I was on my own. And it wasn't looking good. After several minutes of serious driving around the city, looking for a cheap garage ("Why does this one-way street go the same direction as the last one?"), I did what I had to do. I gave my car to an attendant; the kind of guy who looked like he was only moonlighting as a parking attendant in between stints at his day job: stabbing people. And I paid the overnight parking fee: fifty bucks.
A couple of years later, I visited New York again on a road trip, and I vowed that this time would be different. This time I wouldn't pay so much. This time I wouldn't get ripped off. This time … I would get an oil change.
Yes, that's right, ladies and gentlemen: the key to cheap overnight parking in Manhattan is getting an oil change. And today, I'm going to explain exactly how it's done.
Here's what happened: I left Atlanta in my Volkswagen GTI on a Monday morning. Maybe it was a Tuesday. Who the hell knows. Anyway: as I was cruising down the highway, probably somewhere in North Carolina, I realized I was getting close to the next oil change interval. This isn't something you want to mess with, when you have a Volkswagen. You want to get your oil changes done by the book, right on time, because then – with a little luck, and a lot of careful monitoring – your original engine might make it to 60,000 miles.
Knowing this, I made a mental note: when this road trip is over, be sure to get an oil change. And then it hit me: Why wait until the trip is over? Why not get the oil change IN NEW YORK CITY? While I'm walking around the city? Seeing the sights? Visiting the museums? Sampling the restaurants? Smelling the urine? And then this wide, highly pleased smile came across my face; the kind of smile a used car dealer gets when a guy walks in holding his title; the kind of smile the Grinch gets right before Christmas, when he sneaks into Whoville and charges all the Whos fifty bucks for overnight parking.
So I called up the Volkswagen dealership in Manhattan, which is ironically called "Open Road," in the same humorous manner a furniture store up there might be called "Spare Bedrooms and Huge Kitchens," and I asked them to put me on the schedule for the next day. And the next day, I went in, and I dropped off my car, and I told them I needed an oil change. And then I spent the entire afternoon checking out New York, and visiting all the hotspots, and not worrying for a moment that some scary parking garage attendant guy might be stashing human feet in my glovebox.
Around 3:30 p.m., I got a call from Open Road.
"Mister DeMuro," said the Helpful Service Advisor, in that happy-go-lucky, eager-to-please tone that Volkswagen service advisors reserve for those rare moments when they're not informing a customer that his transmission is shot, and Volkswagen will only honor the warranty if the vehicle owner can drink ten Red Bulls in five minutes. "Your oil change is done, and your GTI is ready!"
"Oh, that's great!" I said. "But I'm in Westchester for the afternoon."
I was lying. I wasn't in Westchester. I don't even know where Westchester is. It's just one of those place names you always hear New Yorkers say, when they're on the phone, sipping Starbucks, wearing leggings. It might be made up, for all I know. Like Alphabet City. Come on, New York: the jig is up. We know there's no Alphabet City. This isn't Sesame Street.
"Do you mind if I come pick up the car tomorrow?" I asked.
And the Helpful Service Advisor's response? "Of COURSE, Mister DeMuro! That's NO PROBLEM AT ALL! We'd be GLAD to keep your car overnight!"
And with that, our conversation was over. I would spend the rest of the day walking around Manhattan, eating an excellent meat and potatoes dinner (Wendy's Baconator with a "Biggie Size" fries), and staying in an exquisite Midtown Manhattan hotel where my room was approximately the same size as a staple remover.
The next day, when it was time to leave Manhattan, I went to pick up my GTI. And there it was: oil change done, nicely washed, ready to continue along with the road trip. The total cost was something like $40, which means I still came out ahead on parking. And while some of you might say that this parking wasn't free, I must remind you that I needed the oil change anyway. In essence, I paid for the oil change and got the parking at no charge. If you're into expressions, you might say that I killed two birds with one stone. Or, if you're the scary parking attendant guy: two tourists with one knife.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.