Megan Eckman’s documentary, The Parking Lot Movie, explores the working lives of ten or 12 parking lot attendants over a three year period at the Corner Parking Lot in Charlotsville, Virginia. The buzz about the film is that it’s the documentary version of Clerks, and it’s an apt description: Exchange convenience and video stores for parking lots and take out Kevin Smith’s half-hearted attempt at a plot and all the profanity, and you have something approximating The Parking Lot Movie.
Eckman sets it up perfectly, too. The first half hour introduces the various parking lot attendants who have worked at the lot over the last several years — they’re usually college or graduate students majoring in philosophy, anthropology, or a similar liberal arts field. The parking lot gig is a heavily sought after position, one that you can usually only procure via friends who are already lot attendants, and the attendants speak of it with reverie. The job, in a way, affords them the opportunity to work in their respective professions: They do nothing. They sit. They think. They interact with people. And they pick up on the behavioral habits of the many demographics that inhabit a college town like Charlottesville. They have too much time to think, and borne out of that is a heightened awareness of their positions in the cosmos. They are the gatekeepers, so they think — Gods of a parking lot, given the power to grant or deny access and to extract cash in exchange for the right to temporarily take up space. You kind of want to slap them — they’re slackers in every sense of the word. Gluttons of laziness. Proud of their do-nothing attitudes, and like Dante and Randall, they think they’re better than all the people that they’re forced to serve. Moreover, the way they panegyrize their positions make you want to tell them to shut the fuck up, and remind them that they’re fucking parking lot attendants, not arbiters of the human race. They’re smug elitists high on their own intellectual superiority, looking down their noses at the people who come in and out of the lot.
Then you meet the customers. And then it all makes sense. Of course, that’s the way the attendants are. That intellectual superiority can be the only means to defend against the debasement of their positions. The drunken frat boys who leave trails of vomit in their lot. The outraged middle-class fat-asses who don’t feel it’s right that they should have to pay $4.00 to take up their space. The entitled assholes who feel that, simply by virtue of owning the biggest gas-guzzling cars on their road, they should be afforded the right to take up multiple spaces. The smug drivers with bumper stickers extolling the virtues of hemp who never fail to remind the attendants that they drive a Prius, as though they should be fucking rewarded for it. They’re terrible people, and in a way, reflections of America. Eventually, it is those people, who break the gates, skip out on payment, and verbally abuse the attendants, who eventually burn most of the attendants out, sending them back to reality with a better understanding of humanity. And in watching The Parking Lot Movie, we, too, get a better sense of that humanity, and the take-home message may very well be: People suck.