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  • Ken Ilgunas

Uh-oh Pt. 4

I lost. I’m officially getting kicked out of the lot, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

I was ready to take a stand. I figured I’d remove the wheels, tie a chain around the tree in front of the van, and then I’d courageously sacrifice my body when they’d tried to cut the chain by blow-torch.

But–due to some new information–I determined that this is a battle that I cannot fight.

1) Duke does not own the lot that I’m parked in; rather, Duke is merely leasing it from the apartment owner. So the lot is privately owned.

2) As shitty as I think it is to kick me out of the lot after two years of harmlessly living in it, I acknowledge the owner’s right to do whatever she wants on the property she owns.

Before I decided to come to Duke, I took a couple precautionary measures. First, I read through the campus parking laws, and was happy to discover that there was nothing that explicitly barred someone from living in their vehicle. And just to make sure, I emailed the campus director of parking and asked him a few questions (of course taking pains not to reveal my true intentions). Here’s that email trade that–looking back–contains pertinent information that I overlooked.

Here’s my email:

Hi *****,

I have a few parking questions that I hope you can answer. I am an incoming graduate student for this upcoming spring semester and I planned on commuting. According to your website, new graduate students will be permitted to park in the proximate Mill lot. Is this correct? Will I be able to park elsewhere or only in this particular lot?

Also, if I wanted to leave my car in a lot overnight for whatever reason, is that permitted? Do I need an extra permit of some sort?

Thanks for answering my questions,


And his response:

Hi Ken,

Yes, we can place you in Mill parking. Permits, including Mill permits, are restricted to parking only in that specific zone weekdays 7am-4pm. After hours and weekends most other parking zones are available and accessible by swiping your Duke ID at the gate. Overnight parking is fine.

Hope this covers the questions –


When I read his email two years ago, all I saw was “Overnight parking is fine,” and I breezed over the rest of his email. But on second reading, it appears that I really have been breaking the rules all this time.

I won’t bore you with the legal details, but I have a meeting with a Duke lawyer and we’re going to discuss other on-campus parking lot alternatives. One of my professors has also offered her driveway, but it appears Duke is willing to grant me a new permit, which is the option I will most likely take.

A few words about my parking lot before I say adieu…

For the past two years, I’ve lived in the Mill Lot, which is within a stone’s throw of 9th Street—a bustling warren of bars, cafes, and new-age shops on which bums, students, yuppies and southern “old money” comingle.

At first, I hated my lot. It was a two mile walk to the center of campus. In fact, the lot wasn’t connected to or anywhere near campus—it was like and island separate from the mainland that first year grad students were exiled to. Plus, it was situated atop an incredibly steep hill. During my first night in the lot, I slept on a sharply graded space that made my blood rush from my head to my toes.

But over time, it grew on me. I started taking the bus to campus; I learned where to park at different times of the day to maximize shade and sunshine (depending on what I needed more of); and the once nettlesome slope issue was easily solved once I developed a knack for detecting the slightest change in gradient the same way a princess can feel the impression of a pea under forty mattresses.

My parking lot was far from problematic; it was ideal: I was right next to coffee shops and a laundromat; I bought fresh breads and vegetables at Whole Foods every day on my walk to campus; it was only a mile away from the elementary school I work at; and it provided more privacy and solitude than I could have ever wished for. (Hardly anyone ever parked up there with me.) In the fall, I could hear the cicadas groan, and in the spring, the dogwood trees were heavy with clusters of lustrous white flowers.

I’ve been changing homes for years, and I’ve put up my fair share of discomforts, so moving from one lot to another is no big deal. But I mean it when I say that I’m going to miss my dear, dear, Mill Lot.

I’ve put a little goodbye video together, featuring highlights from my stay in the Mill Lot these past couple years.


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