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  • Ken Ilgunas

A new parking lot problem

My parking lot issue is resolved. I had a meeting with a Duke lawyer today.

Going into the meeting, I only wanted two things: 1.) I didn’t want to have to pay for a new parking permit, and 2) I wanted to have some say in the whereabouts of my new lot.

The lawyer told me up front that Duke would be happy to trade permits with me. In fact, he said since my new parking permit is cheaper, I’ll actually get a $100 refund, which is an unexpected surprise—and a timely surprise at that since I’m getting awfully low on cash.

I had a couple ideal parking lots in mind, but he had one in mind too. We walked over to it, I stood there for a moment, did a 360 taking in my surroundings, and then said, “This is fine.”

I don’t want to publicly advertise exactly where I am for the same reason I never disclosed my whereabouts at the Mill Lot. And that’s because—while I have a blog and have, in many regards, taken my experiment public—I wish to have as much privacy as I reasonably can.

Anyway, the lot seems more than sufficient to me. It’s closer to the hub of campus, it’s on a bus route, and it looks as if I’ll have a reasonable amount of privacy. I was also happy to see that it is surrounded by some interesting vegetation.

They also requested I sign a contract, which essentially said that I cannot sue them if something were to happen to me, that I cannot sleep in any other lot, and that I’d no longer live in my van at Duke after May 2011 (when I graduate). You can read it here by clicking the picture below.

I was reluctant to sign a contract, but upon reading it, I couldn’t find anything I objected to.

I certainly understand why large institutions are afraid of lawsuits. And of course if I were to get assaulted in my van, catch frostbit, or be subject to some “act of God”—which all makes vandwelling sound badass—I’d never think about suing Duke or anybody. I knew what risks I was taking, and I was more than willing to deal with whatever ugly issues I might confront on my own.

The only line in that contract that made me think twice was their request that I not live in the van after May 2011. But I didn’t think this was too big a deal since I plan on moving out of Durham after I graduate, and I highly, highly doubt I’ll be going for my PhD here or anywhere for a long, long while, if ever. In fact, this may very well be my last year of formalized education.

I give Duke credit for their classy handling of the situation. Everyone was respectful, and they’ve obviously taken pains to make me feel comfortable. I have nothing but positive things to say about everyone involved.

BUT….. And here’s the big news…. The lawyer told me that Duke, as soon as tonight, is going to rewrite the campus parking regulations, hereby prohibiting all students from living in their vehicles (excepting me of course).

While this new rule has no effect on me, this is something I am opposed to for a thousand reasons. He told me if I wanted to have any say in the matter then I must submit something by tonight. While I’m more than aware that a plea from me will be nothing more than a symbolic gesture, and that they will do whatever it is they want to do, I see it necessary to at least oppose such a law in the best way I can. So I better get writing!


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